It is hard to believe that, until recently, the lush landscape surrounding this 90-year-old Glencoe house consisted of little more than broad swaths of grass and towering oak trees. Yet that was precisely the scene when the new owners of the Tudor-style residence brought in David Migdal, the president of Highland Park–based Garden Consultants, to help them realize their dream yard.

The active couple with three school-aged children envisioned a swimming pool, an outdoor kitchen, multiple spaces for lounging and entertaining, and abundant grassy play areas. The challenge was how to rein in their one-and-a-half-acre lot abutting a golf course and turn it into an inviting, cohesive series of outdoor living spaces.

As he often does, Migdal (along with landscape architect Deb Samyn) started the project with the biggest item on the must-have list: the pool. “Most projects have a central space, whether a pool, patio, or gazebo,” he says. “Those signature structures set the tone for the rest of the design.” With low stone walls, comfy lounge furniture, and urns bursting with tropical plants, this family’s pool area sets an elegant yet casual vibe for the rest of the yard.

The outdoor living room, pool area, and surrounding flowers and grasses
1. This shaded seating area, complete with fireplace, adjoins the living room. 2. Situating the pool two feet lower than the house preserved the view. When you gaze out the windows, you can still see the golf course in the distance. 3. Joe Pye weed and purple moor grass bring drama to this border.

Of course where there is a swimming pool, there must, by law, be a fence. In this case, it was also needed to keep roving golfers and errant balls at bay. In order to preserve the sweeping views of the turf and trees, Migdal and his team opted for an equestrian-style welded-wire mesh and cedar fence “designed to blend in and disappear,” he says. Sculpted boxwood hedges, creeping thyme, and lady’s mantle—all short in stature—contribute to the clear sight lines in this area.

Hardscaped spaces include a dining area with a table, chairs, and a grill, a sitting area near an inviting brick hearth, and an entry courtyard. The areas are delineated mainly by squares and rectangles made of bluestone. “Sticking with simple geometric shapes for garden rooms can be a powerful unifying force,” Migdal says.

He also tied the grounds together with vegetation that has similar forms, colors, and textures, while not necessarily repeating the same varieties. Plants with purple foliage, such as Bloodgood Japanese maples, Coppertina ninebark, and Velvet Cloak smoke bush, lend a subtle color motif that weaves throughout the landscape. Bluestar, dwarf arctic willow, and Hakuro Nishiki willow all have feathery leaves, creating their own wispy pattern.

“Ultimately, our challenge with this property was to unite a series of spaces in a way that frames views of the golf course beyond,” Migdal says. “This garden offers a variety of experiences, whether you are entertaining or just want to read a book in peace.”

You might say that Migdal and his team hit a hole in one.


Buy Guide

Landscape designers: David Migdal and Deborah Samyn, The Garden Consultants, 484 Central Ct., Highland Park,