Wasted Outdoor Space Given New Life

Expecting to start a project working on a staircase, landscape designer James Bertrand saw an outdoor space he just had to rescue.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Bertrand

From: James Bertrand

After spotting this under-utilized outdoor space, designer James Bertrand knew he had to give it a second chance. New plants, stones and great outdoor seating made all the difference and improved the view from every room in the house.

Describe the homeowner's wish list.

She wanted usable dining/entertaining space, plantings, lighting and a water feature. Before, there were old plantings and broken concrete.

What was the biggest issue the design addressed?

The client called about a different project (a staircase into the house) but when I saw this space, the rooms looked out toward it as an interior corner, yet it had nothing. We switched gears and remodeled this space, because it is truly the heart of the home.

Lifeless Courtyard Gets a Fresh Start

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Dreary Before

New and Improved View

Courtyard for Entertaining

Walking on Water

Day and Night

Describe an obstacle in the space.

The biggest obstacle was drainage, because the room is surrounded on all four sides with walls. We needed to get drainage to the outside with the new bluestone patio we constructed. We excavated and put in an elaborate PVC pipe system to drain water underneath the home to the outside. We tied it into an existing drainage system.

How did the end result match your original vision?

The only unexpected thing that changed was that we needed to put in the drainage.

What lessons did you learn from this project?

Always have a provision in your agreement/contract, so that underground obstructions aren’t included. You can’t account for something you don’t see, and when you find something, you should stop, talk to the client, and find out how much it will cost. Here, it cost $5,000.

What are the hidden gems that make a big difference?

Hidden gems include the floating bluestone step stones for the water, which give a picture of walking on water, though they’re held up underneath. They offer a big “wow” factor. Now, every room looks into this central courtyard. It changed how the house lives, because it’s now connected to the outdoors in the center of room. She wasn’t using the space before. It just had a grill, but now it has changed every room.

James Bertrand


Bertrand Landscape Design

www.bertrandlandscape.com 24028 S Home Ave Chicago, IL 60449 708-235-2000