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Open-Minded

Making a new home’s outdoor spaces welcoming took vision, hard work, and a sense of fun

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Kolacz's garage rooftop overlooking the pool-for lounging, cooking, and dining.
The garage rooftop overlooking the pool was transformed into an
entertaining area with zones for lounging, cooking, and dining.


SIZE 2,000 square feet
TYPE Rooftop decks, courtyards
LOCATION Bucktown

Chicago designer Erik Kolacz and his partner, David Kroeger, had just finished a luxurious build-out on their apartment in The Montgomery and were not in the market for a new home when they showed up at an open house for a handsome Bucktown abode a few years ago. “Our friend needed live bodies to fill her broker’s open house,” says Kolacz.

But when they saw the three-year-old single-family home’s 25-by-131-foot corner lot, regal limestone façade, gleaming glass curtain walls, and shimmering mosaic tile pool, “we knew we were going to buy it,” Kolacz says.

It conjured up all sorts of ideas, especially since parts of the interior and the grounds were still unfinished. “We knew we could do so much with it,” he recalls. “And we’d really missed having outside space, especially for entertaining.”

 

A small waterfall in the pool area adds soothing noise; a narrow koi pond, complete with gas-fed fire cubes, runs along the wall of the garage.
A small waterfall in the pool area adds soothing noise; a narrow koi pond,
complete with gas-fed fire cubes, runs along the wall of the garage.


The designer had an immediate and vivid vision of what the home’s empty rooftops and ground-level courtyards could be. He pictured a verdant deck over the garage with a well-dressed alfresco kitchen and dining area; a poolside patio with a rushing waterfall for visual and audio tranquillity; a sweet little retreat in the stark front courtyard; and, the pièce de résistance, a miniature golf course on the roof. “Every home should have something unexpected and different about it,” he says.

But despite appearances, the house was also “badly built and in terrible shape because it had sat empty and neglected for a year,” Kolacz says. “I wanted to confirm the structure of the house to make sure it could support the program we had in mind, and the pool was problematic. Mosaic tiles are the wrong material for this harsh climate.”

 

Photography: Andreas Larsson

 

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