Making city yards work
Small spaces tweaked for optimal fun
10/03/2012 10:00 PM
While the suburban yard tempts parents and children alike as they seek places to relax and play, families who wish to stay in their city dwellings must make do with spotty patches of grass or small patios. But whether it is on a rooftop or a garage deck or even a small backyard, there are many creative ways to keep kids occupied and outside during the short months of summer. Just look at these creative city backyards.
Deree Kobets of Wicker Park has a 200 square-foot back yard primed for her girls Mayle, 8 and Skye, 6. After years of trying to keep real grass watered, she found it just turned to mud.
“We put down commercial-grade faux grass in the area between our house and the garage,” Kobets said. “Our girls now love it because they can do cartwheels free of surprises and no itching!”
Kobets also made an adult area in her backyard by putting a lounge and eating area on top of the garage. This way, the kids can play and Deree and her husband can enjoy their own space.
Sara Lenet Rosenberg of West Town and Ukrainian Village has a combined space in her backyard for both her kids and adult entertaining. The purchase of a small swing set from a garage sale for $25 added endless ways to keep the kids occupied outdoors.
“On really hot days, we’ve filled a kiddie pool and put it at the bottom of the slide of the swingset,” Rosenberg says. “This little patch of earth is absolutely our summertime living, dining and play room.”
Lot sizes for single-family homes in Chicago range anywhere from 22 by 50 feet to 25 by 125 feet for a standard lot. Add a three-story house to it and a backyard is virtually nonexistent. For condo-dwellers, backyards are not even an option. But at times, a rooftop deck provides more play space than the average city backyard.
Eva Ho has a 400 square-foot roof deck on top of her Lincoln Park duplex. The previous owner to the condo left a variety of potted plants and furniture upon the sale. With the addition of their son, Edison three years ago, they’ve adapted the deck to be more kid-friendly.
“Last winter we pushed all the furniture and plants to the side to the side so my son could make a snowman,” Ho says. “This summer we got an inflatable pool which was a life saver during the heat wave. We were getting cabin fever staying home, but the pool allowed us to go outside and stay ‘cool.’”
For parents of older children who may want to shoot a basket here and there, the Sitrins of Roscoe Village put a sport court on their rooftop garage deck.
“The sport court on the roof deck gives the kids their space to play and we have the patio below for the adults,” Suzanne Sitrin says. “The kids are out there all afternoon.”
Interestingly, there are some families who prefer the smaller spaces of the city versus the expanse of the suburbs. The Lamperts, who moved back to the city from Northbrook, quite enjoy their city deck on their Bucktown house versus their suburban yard.
“We had a deck off of our suburban house and there were so many bugs I had to hose it down every time we had to use it — there were bugs on everything!” Lampert says. “Our deck in the city is so nice to entertain and play with kids. We use it so much more than we ever used our yard.”