Making Summer Last: Enhancing Outdoor Living

With the polar vortex still fresh in our collective memories, we’re creating beautiful outdoor spaces that will help us hang on to the fleeting days of summer as the fall chill sets in.

“We love sitting outside on cool nights with our blankets and enjoying the fire on our patio,” says Highland Park resident Julie Baum, who last year installed a patio and fire pit in her backyard. “It takes us away from the inside of the house with the television and connects us more to nature.”

Rest assured, builders and landscapers have taken notice and are well equipped to make your outdoor dreams a reality with decks, pergolas, gazebos, fire and water elements, and outdoor kitchens that would make even the most seasoned chef swoon.

“As outdoor living space is at the top of homeowners’ agendas, the majority of our designs now include either fireplaces or fire pits,” said John-Paul Popiolek, owner of Ruffolo Landscaping Inc. in Indian Creek.

Retailers are also betting on the market with plenty of merchandise designed to help us cozy up to the fire and stay warm outdoors through Thanksgiving. Colorful outdoor area rugs, lanterns, dishware, portable fireplaces and furniture worthy of a luxury resort are just some of the items to help us dress up our outdoor space.

Interior designers suggest that the outdoors presents a perfect space to explore one’s more whimsical design aesthetic.

“You can do a fun vibe on the outside with pops of color that you might shy away from on the inside of the house,” said Kate Marker, Principal of Kate Marker Interiors in Barrington.

Here are some of our favorite wares to wrest every last minute of summer from the great outdoors:

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Loft Portable Indoor/Outdoor Fireplace, Grandin Road, $299

Modern home decor meets caveman sensibilities with this stunning, sleek fireplace that goes everywhere, indoors and out. Two floating glass panels provide an unobstructed view of the gel-fueled flames and the brushed-nickel finished base.

 

 

 

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Ultradown Plush Throw, LL Bean, $79

It doesn’t get cozier than this blanket, which comes in many serene colors. Perfect for snuggling when there’s a little nip in the air.

 

Williams Ski & Patio, Highland Park

With Williams Ski & Patio’s low-maintenance and gorgeous faux-leather, wipeable cushioned seating, gone are the days of running outside in a rainstorm to bring in pillows and cushions. Prices available upon request.

 

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Pasadena Fire Table, Frontgate, $1,276

This fixtures doubles as a fire pit and a table, providing enough space around the center flames to include both your wine bottles and S’Mores fixings.

 

 

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Maison Firepit, Crate and Barrel, $399

Don’t let a small patio or deck limit you. This smaller-scale fire pit has a vertical orientation, providing all the warmth and glow of a traditional style, but requiring less space.

 

 

 

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The Big Green Egg, The Backyard Barbecue, starting at $560

The Big Green Egg, based on a cooking concept 3,000 years old, is a ceramic smoker and barbecue grill that cooks meats, fish, veggies and pizza to perfection. Fire it up on a football Sunday, smoke a brisket all day, and whether the Bears win or lose, you’ll have a happy family!

 

 

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Mercury Glass Globe String Lights, Pottery Barn, starting at $39.50

What better way to create a warm and festive outdoor atmosphere than with these mercury glass lights strung between trees? Layer them for a more dazzling effect!

 

 

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Milano Gazebo by Visscher, The Great Escape, price available upon request

Create a free-standing backyard escape from the sun and insects with this beautiful California-inspired gazebo. Full-length screens keep out pesky bugs, and drapes allow you to vary your level of privacy.

 

 

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Fire Sense Hammer Tone Bronze Commercial Patio Heater, amazon.com, $130

Just like the ones seen on hotel and restaurant patios, this heater does a great job at warming a large patio space on a chilly night, and comes in a variety of finishes. Assembly is required, but not prohibitively difficult.