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    Lake Forest, IL Residential Landscape Architects & Contractors

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    For nearly 40 years, we’ve assisted homeowners in Lake Forest and across the North Shore in developing innovative ideas to solve common landscape challenges, as well as creating and installing beautiful yet practical landscape designs that will serve your family and your lifestyle for years to come.

    The condition of your lawn, plantings, trees and flowers—and even your driveways and walkways—can ultimately complement and add value to your home or can reduce its curb appeal and detract from your largest investment. So if your Lake Forest landscape is feeling a bit tired, outdated or simply in need of a refresh, get in touch with the expert landscape architects and designers at Van Zelst.

    Here’s a sampling of some of the work we’ve done for clients in Lake Forest.

    Transforming a Campus into an Inviting Experience in Lake Forest

    One Van Zelst client—an educational institution in Lake Forest, IL—wanted to provide a more inviting experience for both its students and visitors alike, simultaneously addressing drainage issues before they became problematic. They tapped Van Zelst’s landscape architects to help design a landscape and hardscape plan that would make the campus feel more welcoming and warm.

    Designing for a commercial space offers different challenges than designing for a residential space, one of which is the volume of foot traffic that will be in any particular area. With this in mind, Van Zelst’s landscape architects created wide, inviting walking paths for students and visitors alike. By creating clearly-defined, wide walking areas and edging at least one border with decorative plants, the team not only created a beautiful walking space but also a space that encourages people to stick to the intended walking path rather than cutting through areas and potentially ruining landscaping in the process. Crushed bluestone will hold up to heavy foot traffic over time and still look and perform beautifully.

    For spaces where students and visitors were to congregate, it was important to use landscape elements in a way that framed the space and made it feel more intimate. While a nearby power bank provided some privacy, it wasn’t the feel the client was looking for—Van Zelst camouflaged the power bank with evergreen fir trees to provide year-round coverage, then added grasses and perennials of different types and heights to create additional visual interest and keep the outdoor area’s clean lines from feeling too stark.

    The commercial client was especially interested in potential alternatives to traditional paved sidewalks, to prevent potential drainage issues before they became problematic. This was one of the other main reasons why Van Zelst recommended bluestone gravel as the preferred material for pathways; not only does it hold up well to foot traffic, but it also allows water to travel through it, permeating into the soil. Unlike concrete or asphalt sidewalks that would cause issues with stormwater retention, this natural approach gives the client an attractive, more environmentally-friendly way to deal with flooding or standing water issues.

    The client felt it was important that students and visitors had both prescribed gathering places like the student patio, as well as more informal areas to simply sit and relax. Van Zelst added a handful of casual seating areas into their overall plan where students can catch a breath on the way to class, use as a place to meet up with other students or simply stop to quickly organize their backpacks before heading home. Brightly-colored coneflowers and delicate white perennials bring a touch of whimsy to the area, while the stacked stone wall offers extra seats if the wooden bench is full.

    Tall grasses mask the transition between the exterior wall and the window, softening the stark straight lines of the building and making it feel less sterile. Bright pink coneflowers surrounded by annuals and perennials in an organic-shaped flower bed work to create another sense of welcome relief against the stark lines of the building. The level of detail in the flower bed, however, is not such that it requires a visitor or student to need to take a closer look—there are no elements intended to draw the eye in such a way as to encourage visitors to examine the garden in depth.

    This student patio looks out onto the beautifully manicured, rolling lawn on one side. Plants of varying textures and heights are planted right up to the edge of the patio on each side are not thick enough as to completely block the view, which was intentional on Van Zelst’s part; this was intended to subconsciously guide students and visitors from the patio toward the only preferred entry and exit, which is past the tumbled concrete pavers and down the stone pathway.

    lake forest landscaping project by van zelst featuring gravel pathway.
    seating area

    What’s Cooking in Lake Forest

    On another smaller Lake Forest project, the homeowners approached Van Zelst with a simple request: create an outdoor kitchen that matched the home’s exterior and existing patio. Never one to turn down a challenge, the Van Zelst team dug right in, working with the homeowners to select outdoor kitchen items, determine optimal placement and quickly finish the project so the homeowners could start enjoying their outdoor kitchen right away.

    The end result of the collaboration is an outdoor chef’s kitchen that looks like it has always been part of the home. The full outdoor kitchen, featuring a stainless steel grill and other preferred cooking elements, in addition to storage and preparation space, fits perfectly into the homeowner’s existing patio. Van Zelst was able to find the same exact red brick used in the outdoor patio to build the grill and kitchen enclosures, creating a sense of cohesiveness throughout the entire project. The raw edges left on the concrete countertops mirror the raw edges on the concrete throughout the patio, providing continuity.


    Lake Forest Landscape Architects are Ready for Your Call

    If you’re ready to get started, one of Van Zelst’s landscape architects is ready to talk about your Lake Forest landscape project today. Get in touch with us today to tell us more about what you’re looking for in your Lake Forest landscape and we’ll determine the best way that we can help support your project.

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