City dwellers lucky enough to have a patch of Chicago to call their own: Now is the time to increase your usable square footage. “Channel the warming aesthetics of a ski chalet for your cold weather retreat by surrounding yourself with layers of cozy and natural materials,” encourages Celeste Robbins, founder and principal of Winnetka-based Robbins Architecture. From fire pits to fuzzy blankets, here are some tricks to turn that neglected deck into a magical escape.
“Add layers of lights to balance harsh contrasts,” Robbins suggests. “A soft uplight along with dappled candle flames brightens a dark winter night.” Stake some LEDs to shine toward branches: Disk pathway lights ($20 for a pack of four; Gordon’s Ace Hardware, 725 S. State St., South Loop) don’t struggle in cold or wet weather. Meanwhile, drape trees or bushes with Edison bulb string lights ($50; Lakeview Ace Hardware, 3911 N. Lincoln Ave., North Center), and sprinkle some wood lanterns (from $70; Crate & Barrel, Old Orchard Center, Skokie) in the corners. Need more bling? Ignite a few Juniper Berry & Fir three-wick candles ($30; Bright Endeavors, 4015 W. Carroll Ave., West Garfield Park).
The retro ceramic Big Green Egg cooker (from $399; Armitage Hardware, 925 W. Armitage Ave., Lincoln Park) combines a grill, oven, and smoker in one ridiculously cute package. Or relive your scouting days with a minimalist Breeo smokeless fire pit (from $339; Backyard Barbecue Store, 535 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette), over which you can char your dogs. “The warmth and movement of the flames inherently bring a sense of intimacy and shared connection,” says Robbins.
Stay a While
“In addition to large seating pieces, add ottomans, end tables, and blankets to provide comfort and scale,” says Robbins. Wicker doesn’t feel right in winter, which is why we love the teak love seat designed by Fred Segal ($1,600; cb2.com). Drape it in durable Pendleton wool blankets (from $269; Alcala’s Western Wear, 1733 W. Chicago Ave., West Town).
Keep the Heat
Many of the usual stores are sold out of those tall, slender heating units you see at restaurants. But an unlikely source is well stocked: Castle Party Rentals is selling new-in-the-box heaters like the ones it rents for events ($399 to buy, from $99 to rent; 602 Sidwell Ct., St. Charles). If you’re ready to invest as much in winterizing your patio as you would in an indoor room reno, treat yo’ self to a Tuuci canopy (from $14,800; Design Within Reach, 755 W. North Ave., Near North Side). With built-in infrared heaters, it keeps all that toastiness from escaping into the night.
Photography: (disc lights and Edison bulbs) Courtesy of Ace Hardware; (lanterns and love seat ) Courtesy of Crate & Barrel; (candles) Courtesy of Mattea linae; (Big Green Egg) Courtesy of Big Green Egg; (blanket) Courtesy of Pendleton; (heater) Courtesy of Castle Party Rentals; (canopy) Courtesy of Design Within Reach