Local Residential Planners, Installers & Maintenance Contractors
Whether you’re looking to design an entertainment-friendly landscape plan for your brand new home or want to redo the existing landscape at your current home, the landscape architects at Van Zelst can help. Our award-winning team of designers, installers and maintenance technicians have worked with clients in Winnetka and throughout Illinois to create outdoor spaces that work for real life. From hardscape plans including sustainable materials to garden and landscaping that adds beauty, value and even efficiency to your home, you can count on us to deliver a solution that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations.
Van Zelst’s landscape designs can be seen throughout the Winnetka area, viewable at some of the areas finest homes as well as at several business and commercial properties. Far from just a “mow and blow” lawn maintenance service, Van Zelst provides comprehensive planning, installation and maintenance services, working extensively with hardscape and landscape materials to create a finished product that is as unique as you, our client.
Regardless of if your taste runs toward the soft lines of natural stone and quaint beauty of Humello lamb’s ear or you prefer the cleaner edges of crushed stone alongside the stark contrast of manicured boxwood hedges, Van Zelst’s design consultants will create a design plan that fits your style and your property.
Get in touch with us today to set up a time to chat about your landscape needs.
Proper Planning Creates a Lush Landscape Year Round
Of course, to the naked eye, the spectacular plantings are what really stand out. Plant beds feature lavish swaths of colorful perennials suited to their sunny or shady surroundings. An inviting carpet of green grass adds a fresh, open feel. And generously filled containers extend the natural beauty to the patio areas, in color schemes that change depending upon the season and how the family entertains. For example, in its first full summer the landscape featured a primarily white palette, creating a romantic setting for an intimate backyard wedding. As the plantings have evolved and matured, the colors have included a range of bold crimson, gold, purple, white and green, provided by long-blooming flowers and foliage that thrives through Winnetka’s warmer months.
A Landscape Designed for Backyard Entertaining
After fully renovating their new home’s interior, these Winnetka homeowners turned to Van Zelst's architects for outdoor help. It had been some time since attention had been paid to the landscape—the concrete pool deck was cracked, pavers were broken, plantings were overgrown and rainwater had been running down toward the house for decades.
During the home renovation, the foundation needed to be repaired and even rebuilt in places. So the first order of business for Van Zelst was to address drainage issues. Because the house sits at a low point on the property, and regrading the relatively large space was not in the cards, a subsurface drainage system was recommended. Virtually everything except the trees were removed from behind the house, so the drainage system could be installed to divert water to the back corner of the property.
Pool, Spa and Patio Upgrades Are Part of the Overall Plan
Next, repairs were made to the pool, and a new poured-concrete spa was designed and installed under the supervision of the Van Zelst team. The spa was part of an overarching landscape plan which included a stepped patio and walkways of tumbled concrete pavers, and giant stone slabs that create a rustic pathway through the gardens.
Key to the success of the hardscape plan is a seatwall that winds gently through the space. The owners knew that their primary objective was creating a landscape for spontaneous, casual entertaining. But because the patio and entertaining areas are fairly compact, extra tables and chairs would quickly make the space uncomfortably crowded. Instead, a seatwall faced with Lannon stone and capped with bluestone does double duty—providing a place for guests to gather and perch as well as adding structure and flow to the overall design. In addition, the seatwall helps add a measure of privacy for people as they enjoy relaxing in the spa.
Entertaining Guests with a Custom Stone Firepit
Firepits are consistently one of the most often-requested outdoor amenities that homeowners request—and for good reason especially here in Winnetka, as they allow you to enjoy the outdoors for more months of the year. As summer turns into fall, you and the family can gather around the firepit and roast a few marshmallows, making great memories in the process. And as the days begin to grow longer when winter transforms into spring, you can take advantage of the extended evening light by sharing a relaxing glass of wine with friends around a roaring fire.
Unlike a portable firepit that would look out of place in a large backyard area, a Van Zelst-designed custom stone firepit will fit the scale of your space as well as the style of your landscape and your home. Whether you envision a generous paved patio surrounding a firepit constructed of a combination of Lannon stone walls topped with Bluestone slabs, or you prefer a flagstone firepit to coordinate with the flagstone in your existing hardscape, our design consultants will work with you to explore your options and create a custom stone firepit that fits your lifestyle and your tastes.
Keeping the Color in Your Winnetka Backyard Garden
Many Winnetka clients ask us for tips on keeping some color in their backyard gardens, especially during the fall and winter when the bright blooms of spring and summer are dormant. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to add a bit of flair and cheer to your outdoor space.
Fall Color Tips
In the fall, you may automatically think of pansies and mums—these “go to” plants are fantastic staples of the early autumn season, and are great for bringing a bright spot of color to a patio area or porch. But don’t limit yourself to these tried-and-true fall staples.
- Ornamental peppers are also a beautiful, festive-looking plant that can add a huge pop of color. (But don’t bother eating them—they won’t hurt you, they simply won’t be very tasty.)
- Ornamental kale and ornamental cabbage are also worth adding to your fall must-plant list. Both are available in a variety of colors and textures, and both grow more intense in color the cooler the weather gets. However, similar to ornamental peppers, these plants are also pretty to look at, but not considered tasty enough for consumption.
Winter Color Tips
In the winter, turn to evergreens for your most reliable source of color, and don’t be afraid to choose a bold-colored container to make an even stronger statement. Consider pairing your evergreens with other natural elements (think pine cones, branches and berries) and even a few holiday touches (ribbon, lights, tinsel) for an extra punch of pizazz!
Need assistance adding color to your backyard this winter? Let us help.
Upgrading the Landscape to Match the Renovation
The owner of this home—a highly-respected home building company—had completely renovated both the interior and exterior of this Winnetka property, and turned to Van Zelst to help revamp the landscape and hardscape elements to properly frame the home. With a desire to maintain focus on the home itself rather than distract from its beauty—as well as to resolve drainage and pooling issues at the rear of the lot—the Van Zelst team worked to design a plan that captured the new feel of the home, reflecting the updated exterior with thoughtfully chosen hardscape pieces and tasteful plantings that form punches of color, creating a visual frame for the house.
The team’s first move was to remove an asphalt drive that was well past its prime. Van Zelst’s own in-house masonry team installed clay pavers in its place, immediately adding a sense of refined style and polish to the yard. Then, the team carefully laid bluestone slabs in place of the existing flagstone walkway, providing an upgrade that not only complements the red brick exterior home and the clay paver driveway. All of the hardscape upgrades in the front of the house reflect the high-end feeling and fixtures with which the home was renovated.
In the rear of the home, Van Zelst replaced a cracked, aging concrete pool deck with bluestone, creating a refined yet welcoming feeling. A brick wall helps delineate front and rear living areas, and a Lannon stone wall provides a visual transition to the extensive back yard. The use of varying types of stone not only keeps things visually interesting and unique, but also helps the flow of the environment.
Why Hire a Professional Contractor
- A Wealth of Ideas: The landscape designers at Van Zelst have years of experience creating unique solutions for landscape challenges, and have a plethora of past projects and industry experience on which we can build new ideas. We take brainstorming to the next level.
- Relax and Enjoy: Hiring Van Zelst to handle your landscape design, installation and maintenance needs means you get to relax and enjoy your beautiful family and home, rather than spending your weekends stressing over growing weeds, broken lawnmowers and stained decking.
- The End Result You Want: Tell us about your tastes, your vision and your lifestyle, and we’ll bring it to life. You don’t have to rush around to different vendors or worry about dealing with multiple points of contact. We handle everything from start to finish, from underground irrigation to lawn maintenance to accent lighting.
- A Trusted Partner: Since 1979, we’ve helped clients like you to enhance the natural beauty of the outdoors by creating thoughtful landscape design, superior planting and hardscape construction and meticulous maintenance of outdoor environments.
- The Full Realm of Expertise: Unlike “mow and blow” maintenance contractors, landscape architect / build-design firms like Van Zelst offer an end-to-end experience. We’re considering things like maintenance, plant hardiness and long-term viability while we’re in the design process, before the first hole has been dug.