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The Great Outdoors

Hello, sunshine! When the clouds break, city dwellers devote themselves to dining alfresco on the deck, taking in fresh air from the terrace and recounting the terrible winter weather on the rooftop. The design of these beloved exterior spaces is often overlooked, so we’ve decided to give props to those people, places and products that makes us dig outdoor living—no matter the duration.

Materials master. Mold magician. Faux-finish expert. Call outdoor furniture designer Zachary A. Bitner what you will, but he’s indisputably talented. After earning a degree in furniture from Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia, he cut his teeth at a fiberglass manufacturer and decided he “just wanted to put something new out there.” So he began molding fiberglass furnishings with a concrete finish made to give the illusion of girth—but are actually much lighter. He has since amassed a cult following around the country (most of his clients are in warmer weather locales) who are drawn to his pieces’ durability and sleek design. “I think every furniture designer wants their pieces to be viewed as some kind of sculpture, and when I see these in backyards and on rooftops, they take on that presence,” Bitner says. And the object illusionist has more tricks up his sleeve come fall; keep an eye out for his incredible outdoor furniture collaboration on the rooftop of the Mag Mile’s Virgin Hotel! Van Dyke chair, $1,000, and King Me stool, $475

This Streeterville stunner is the perfect rooftop escape, thanks to the minds at Mariani Landscaping. For the Lake Shore Drive three-story historic single-family home, the clients requested a contemporary space for entertaining and relaxing, so principle design director John Mariani and team devised a design scheme that protects the family’s privacy from neighboring high-rises and allows the 1,300 square feet of space to feel intimate and tranquil. “You can still enjoy all of the sights without feeling like you’re in a fishbowl,” Mariani says. With the help of Eifler & Associates Architects, a luxurious hardscape surface of tropical hardwood was chosen to warm things up, while glass rails maximize views of both the lake and the city. Foliage was carefully selected from mountainous environments around the world to withstand high winds and cold temperatures, like the cornelian cherry dogwoods and birchleaf spirea shrubs. The wild rye grass groundcover adds a lush pop of color and textural interest as well.

Architectural designer Katja Linnig’s own childhood in Germany served as inspiration for her Lincoln Park home’s landscape scheme, which boasts four beautiful spaces. “As a child, I spent a lot of time outdoors,” she says. “The feeling of stepping barefoot on the grass, the smell of roses; I wanted to recreate those memories for my girls.” A shade garden with boxed, pruned hedges sits near the front stairs; a courtyard between the house and garage provides an alfresco play pad; a walled roof garden with dining and lounge areas perches atop the garage; and another small deck space rests on the kitchen roof. Each area is easily accessible, thanks to the floating granite bridge, metal staircases and sets of sizeable French doors that open up the main house for interior-exterior flow. The array of botanicals, including white hydrangeas, light pink climbing roses and hornbeam hedges make for many spruced up outdoor “rooms” sprinkled about.

When urban landscape architect Stephen Prassas was asked to design the roof terrace of this “ultimate bachelor pad” in the West Loop, he wasted no time or precious man-space. The home’s interior mimics the lifestyle of a high roller, but the client asked for the deck to be simple and clean. With the help of Wolbrink Architects, he transformed the 1,250-square-foot space from an uninspired natural wood aesthetic to a modern oasis, complete with a stainless steel mini kitchen and a spa enclosed by composite decking. The east and west ends are blocked by corrugated aluminum privacy panels, while white and blue translucent resin fencing shields the north. The backlighting of the blue fence radiates a Vegas ambience when the sun sets, while metal mesh screens allow flowering clematis vines to grow up the white sections for a lush touch of green. Prassas kept the landscape minimal, with basic box hedges, a berry tree and durable ground cover—ultimately crafting the perfect outdoor living space for his client’s elevated taste.

Talk about versatile. From small urban spaces to large suburban residential plats and public, commercial and institutional installations, landscape architects Culliton Quinn have been designing eco-friendly sanctuaries for 20 years. Partners Tony Quinn and Brian Culliton, both U of I graduates and former roommates, researched the setting of this Wicker Park Victorian home before devising the outdoor scheme, which includes reclaimed century-old limestone for the steps, clay pavers from Chicago alleys for the drive, raised brick planter boxes for a vegetable garden, hives for beekeeping and a variety of plant species for both structure and seasonal change of color and texture. According to Quinn, the team was “big on diversity” and resiliency; the weeping beech tree, flowering crabapple, linden, elm, peony and boxwood all made it out alive. “After a hard winter, we’ve seen a lot of gardens really struggling—but our client’s looks amazing,” says Culliton. “She said, ‘You can thank the bees… and you guys too!’”

Streamlined style on the go is retro chic with this 1979 classic sling design by Henry P. Glass tweaked for today—a fold-up brass-and-leather chair to take you anywhere! In outdoor-safe mesh with matching powder-coated aluminum frame in black or white. $1,265, Brown Jordan, Merchandise Mart, Suite 1510, 312.321.0144

Rock the patio with rustic elegance and Liaigre’s signature minimal design in shapely, textured noir lava stone—a versatile side table. $3,450, David Sutherland, Merchandise Mart, Suite 1400, 312.205.7700

Light up your summer nights with the hottest indoor look brought outside—this linear fire pit in industrial-chic corten steel with an earthy, weathered look comes with a cover to convert it to a modern coffee table. From $5,400,

An all-weather resin chaise woven in two chocolaty shades of truffle, Tidewater hugs like a cozy chair with vintage references but sturdy, modern comfort—and especially fetching pink cushions. $3,750, Century Furniture, Merchandise Mart, Suite 1464, 312.787.9488

Shine brightly on the deck or at the beach with the hexagonal light by Tristan Auer; the portable battery-powered lamp with plaited black leather handle comes in black or white pearl. From $986, Lightology, 215 W. Superior St., 312.944.1000