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Chicago, IL Residential Landscape Architects & Contractors

Landscapes with Big Impact in a Small Footprint

If you’re a Chicago homeowner who wants a landscape design/build firm with experience making the most of small city landscapes, get in touch with Van Zelst. For nearly 40 years, we’ve worked with clients in Chicago and across the North Shore to create extraordinary outdoor spaces that are as beautiful as they are livable. 

Transforming your landscape is an exciting endeavor, and our experienced architects and designers are ready to guide you through the entire process. Do you already have an image in your mind of what your perfect landscape looks like, or do you simply know you want to upgrade your outdoor space but aren’t sure the best way to go about it? We’ll work with you to create a landscape plan that suits your preferences and the way you want to use the space. Then, we’ll execute your landscape plan, keeping in mind future maintenance and growth. Using plants grown in our own nurseries, we’ll provide you with a healthy, beautiful landscape that you and your family will enjoy for years to come, in all seasons.

bench seating in intimate garden

Chicago City Landscape with Bonus Rooftop Terrace

For this project in the heart of Chicago, Van Zelst transformed the hardscape and plantings of this residence, adding visual interest and creating stunning curb appeal. To start, Van Zelst cleared all of the existing grass and foliage from the residence’s front area, creating a blank slate for executing their landscape design.

prepping the parkway for plantings
empty planting bed ready for plants

To create a natural pathway to the home, Van Zelst led the removal of parts of the existing concrete public sidewalk and replaced it with reclaimed clay pavers placed in a framed herringbone pattern. Large bushes fram either side of the doorway and planters allow the homeowners to easily update entryway plants with whatever is best for the season.

concerte pavers being installed on Chicago parkway
front entry landsacpe by vanzelst

Van Zelst fabricated and installed new custom fencing and railings around the parkway, echoing other wrought iron accents seen elsewhere on the residence and in the neighborhood. Additionally, they added shade loving perennials such as boxwood, hosta, pachysandra, and astilbe to create a lush feel without requiring the constant maintenance that grass would require.

installing wrought iron railings on sidewalk
parkway plantings include shade loving perennials

Within the parkways, Van Zelst planted large shade trees, providing the residents and passers-by with some relief from Chicago’s hot summers. Uplighting on the trees creates a dramatic look in the evening and at night while providing additional light by which to navigate the city’s sidewalks. Irrigation within the parkway areas ensures that trees and other greenery get ample water as they become established and can make it through sweltering summer months.

van zelst team planting trees in chicago parkway
view of exterior of city lot expertly landscaped

In addition to the improvements made at the street level of the residence, Van Zelst also provided new urns and plantings for the homeowners’ rooftop terrace, boosting its beauty and enhancing their enjoyment. Containers allow the homeowners to enjoy the best plants of each season, while the fountain adds a soothing water feature that also serves as a visual focal point.

zinc planter boxes and fountain on rooftop terrace
downtown chicago rooftop terrace patio garden

Transforming a Lincoln Park Landscape

plain yard with tiny boxwood hedge

Like many properties in the city, the lot for this Lincoln Park home was very small, so making the most of its 25-square feet was imperative. The homeowners started out with a rectangular patch of grass surrounded by a few low shrubs and perennials, which emphasized the garden’s iron fencing.

lush landscaping in front of chicago home

Van Zelst transformed this Lincoln Park front entry courtyard from ordinary to extraordinary by adding a variety of lush plantings. Stone pavers create a walkway among the overflowing foliage, and the varying plant heights help maximize the small space by allowing more plants to coexist in a single area.

front entry landing and steps before

The front entry pavers were tired and the plantings were out of scale. We reconfigured the entry to allow for larger urns and we upgraded the curb appeal using stone set inside of the new brick pavers.

red brick wayway with stone inset in linoln park chicago home

The brick pavers create beauty and drama in front of the home while complementing the seating area in the corner of the garden. Overflowing urns provide a colorful, welcoming entry view that can (and does) change with the seasons.

Overflowing pink petunia and bright green sweet potato vine

By installing mid-wall containers, Van Zelst was able to expand the planting space and enlarge the overall footprint of the garden. Potted annuals add more color to the landscape.

city of chicago garden patio

A thoughtfully designed seating area gives the homeowners a place to enjoy a glass of wine on a spring evening or entertain guests on a warm summer night. Making the most of the space, Van Zelst built the benches to hold cushions, keeping them ready for use while preserving them from the elements.

formal fountain in linoln park chicago garden

The homeowners opted to create an oasis in their space with the addition of a garden fountain. The sound of running water helps block out some of the sounds of the city, creating a greater feeling of privacy. Additionally, the fountain offers the homeowners’ children a safe place to splash around during warm summer months and attracts birds and butterflies year round.

Chicago’s Preferred Landscape Designers and Architects

Designing for small city spaces can be challenging, but Van Zelst knows how to maximize every inch of space. Get in touch with us today to tell us more about your landscape concerns and vision and learn more about how we can help you turn your landscape dream into a reality.

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