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Cedar lattice fencing and a pergola create shade and privacy on this West Town garage rooftop deck.
The marine-varnished dining table (sold as a worktable by Design Within Reach), café chairs, and sheer cotton curtains provide a south-of-France feel.
When inspiration arrives, you don’t question it, except maybe when it comes in the form of . . . artificial grass? That was the dilemma for West Towner John Vazquez, who realized that designing his dream outdoor space was also an exercise in trusting his instincts.
The space in question was his garage roof deck, the final frontier in a ten-year-long redo of his single-family home. He had already accomplished the goal of filling his house with meaningful possessions and eclectic art to create a modern and luxurious yet relaxed interior. A lush ground-level space outside his back door was complete with dramatic landscaping, lighting, and a koi pond. But the roof deck remained a conundrum.
About a year after he had moved in, Vazquez and his father put up fencing and built utilitarian plywood benches that were, by his own admission, poorly thought-out and lackluster. “On hot summer days, that southwest exposure would burn a hole right through you,” he recalls. “It was dry and parched and uninviting and, obviously, hardly ever used.”
It wasn’t until eight years later that he found his muse. At the “Garden in a City” special exhibit in Grant Park’s Butler Field in 2006, he saw a display that involved artificial grass. His thoughts went immediately to childhood memories.
“I just kept thinking how it felt to lie in the grass and look up at the sky. I knew intuitively I wanted that again,” he says. He also knew he wanted something completely maintenance free; his increasingly busy life (he is an anesthesiologist) demanded it. But when he shopped his daring ideas around for feedback, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
“Everyone thought [artificial] grass would be tacky. They couldn’t see the possibilities I was seeing in my head,” Vazquez says. “I’d relied for so long on input from others about the house, whether it was friends or designers, and this time I was ready to take the risk to get exactly what I wanted.”
Photography: Andreas Larsson
Styling: Diane Ewing
2 days ago