I was visiting friends in L.A., former Chicagoans, one February and stepped out into their yard on a sunny day to find no furniture—not a chair, chaise, table, or bench. I wanted to soak up as much sun and warmth as possible, so I plopped down on the grass.
It made no sense to me to be indoors. My obsession—which maybe only similarly obsessed types can appreciate—prompted my friends’ eight-year-old daughter (who was born in L.A.) to say, “Man, it’s like she’s never seen the sun before.”
Which is how it feels right about now, as we close this issue with gray winter skies visible out our windows. We Chicagoans like to see the sun (preferably coupled with warmth) a lot. We want our homes to open up to the outside, to have decks and patios and terraces that allow us to enjoy fair weather, however fleeting. We want indoor/outdoor rooms that let us seamlessly go from one space to another, and decks with views of the city and sky. We don’t want to go inside even to cook, or to shower. A friend here in the city sometimes screens movies on a sheet hung from a tree in her backyard—who wants to be in a theatre or inside watching TV on a nice summer night?
Officially, there are only three months of summer in Chicago, but I don’t go by the calendar (or by the school year, which proclaims nice weather to end with Labor Day, when, in fact, we’ve had extremely pleasant weather well into late October in recent years). However you define the seasons, there are plenty of reasons to establish some outdoor living space of your own. Sliding glass door panels, skylights, outdoor firepits, or just a rug and a chair on a back landing can make you feel connected to the great outdoors.
And so I’m looking forward to rebuilding the deck at my home this spring. It will have storage space for cushions and built-in benches and a sound system and lights and all the things that make an outdoor space more inviting. The back door leading from the kitchen to the deck will stay open all summer and into fall. Man, I can hardly wait.