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Itasca Retreat

ILCA 2020 Gold Award Winter: Entertainment Retreat

Mature trees, water issues and outdated landscaping, were the issues that started this project. Our master planning took several different directions which started with us confronting a front yard that had no structure, extremely small entertainment spaces, and standing water around the entire 2.5 acre property that were causing issue around, and inside, the house.

Design work started by solving the water issues while keeping in mind the hundreds of mature oaks, hickories and maples on the property.  We worked closely with our civil engineer to come up with a plan of various rain gardens, berms, drain inlets and discharge piping, which in some cases were 18” in diameter, to move water across the property. Extreme care was taken to protect the trees which included such measures as protection fencing, heavy construction mulching, root pruning, air spading directional boring, hand digging, when needed, and other means to insure that trees would not be harmed.  Directing, moving, and storing water across 2.5 acres while avoiding mature trees took the understanding of the entire team about the sensitivity of the work they were performing.

In tangent with the drainage the hardscape plans took shape. The rear yard entertainment spaces had to allow not only for smaller gatherings, but also had to be substantial enough to host large parties. The views to the sprawling rear yard could also not be obstructed. Multiple rooms were created which were outlined by a continuous stone bench. The bench, opposed to a solid wall, allowed an open feel around the patios while still providing plenty of overflow seating. A custom stone fireplace was requested that needed to be, in the words of the customer “Unique, different and charming” No less than fifty variants of this fireplace were drawn.

Construction of the rear yard patios were difficult due to the tight spaces to get machinery and supplies into the rear yard, again, tree care was of the upmost concern. Precision was given to the seamless detailing between the concrete patios with the stone inlays. This went as far as planning the location and positioned of all of the control joints. This was all made possible by working side by side with our concrete sub to help insure the patios turned out as envisioned.

The front yard had to take on the same mantra, small feel but large spaces. A horseshoe driveway was installed along with a stone accent wall to provide a courtyard feel. In several cases this wall was only several feet away from mature hickory trees. Metal grade beams along with strategically placed concrete support foundations were used throughout to help insure the safety of the trees. Granite curbing, paver inlays and refreshed plantings finished the look.

With the water issues solved, woodland plantings finally were able to thrive. Care was given to smoothly transition between the ornamental and rain garden plantings to prevent any visual gaps.  The last touch, a putting green that the homeowner had been dreaming about for years.

The patio spaces are split into four distinct rooms. Each one having its own size, charm and intended use. The largest space, and the heart of the patios, is the dinning and fireplace patio. During this process various conceived additions to the house were executed by a long term subcontractor that we have always been able to work with flawlessly.

The quaint sunning patio was intended to be a place to take in the sun and relax.  Smaller in size than the main patio this patio can easily be cozy enough for two or also become overflow space during larger parties. The entire team worked tirelessly to insure that the concrete borders would work flawlessly with the intended natural bluestone inlays.

 

Morning Coffee is perfect in the breakfast nook. Intended for the two clients to spend time together without the feel of floating within a much larger space. The pergola and the climbing vines gives the space a very intimate feel and also allows a gracious transition from the house to the main patio space during larger gatherings.

The firepit and BBQ patio was the answer to the issue of how to address the “drop in” of one of the neighbors. Dinner for two or drinks for four is its intended use. Although difficult, given the age of the house, care was taken to insure the BBQ stone, as with all the vertical stone elements, matched the existing house stone impeccably.

The fireplace was a “must have” on the wish list from the client. Hard lines, from the angular stone, had to be broken up and softened by round boulders to provide the required look. The specific boulders that were used were carefully chosen, at the quarry, to provide the exact scale, shape and color needed.

The stone benches not only give a visual separation between the patios and the surrounding plantings, but also provide overflow sitting for parties. A solid seat wall would have given too much visual mass around the edges of the patio where the stone benches offer a much needed open feel.

The new horseshoe driveway provided the needed room for guest parking. Drainage was added to help relieve the issue of pooling water and icing. To provide structure a curved stone wall, granite curbing and paver inlays were added. Those elements are complemented by formal foundation plantings and loose woodland plantings under the mature trees.

Great caution was exhibited to protect the trees during wall construction. To span tree roots, metal beams on concrete post foundations took the place of traditional construction methods. A 12” thick mulch matting “pathway” was used along the wall as the stone was being installed to help insure ground compaction was kept to a minimum.

Many measures were used during construction, especially the drainage portion, to help insure long-term tree health. After construction, tree care continued. Systemic insecticides were used to help with two-lined chestnut borers, fertilizers with humates were applied in the roots zones and plat growth regulators were used to help stimulate new root growth.

Rain gardens were accented with appropriate natives and then were surrounded with more “traditional” plantings. What occurred were these wonderful pockets of colorful, lush plantings that could be seen and enjoyed from almost anywhere around the property.

The putting green was added to the rear part of the property and was positioned close to the refurbished tennis court. As with most elements around the property, several revisions of the shape, layout and positioning of the green were considered before the final layout was approved.

For more on this extensive ILCA award winning renovation, check out the video on our you tube page!

 

Before and After

Plantings can make a huge difference for the feel of a front of a house.

Plantings make it feel warm

Plantings make it feel inviting

Plantings make it feel like home.

 This planting did all of that and more. This was the next phase for a wonderful customer we have worked with for a few years now. We love being part of slowly transforming people’s dreams into realities. It is one of the things we love most about this profession.

stone bridge

Bridge Beauty in Lake Geneva Wisconsin

We have a small saying around here.

 If you can’t make it to Augusta then bring Augusta to you.

 We designed and built this bridge to connect two sides of a dry creek bed that gets inundated with water during every heavy rain.

stone bridge

 

endless summer

Inspiration Everywhere

A mix of various shades if pinks and purples can produce a striking arrangement. Even more so when you consider what texture can bring to the table.

 So simple. So elegant.  #MackinawIsland

endless summer

Front Gate Goals

For those that want a bold alternative to their front entrance, add some drama.  This climbing vine makes this peek a boo entrance sing!

What’s the deal with Dirt

My guess is that many people don’t find dirt very interesting.  But the truth is that people study it intensely.  We actually employ someone who is a soils expert, Mike Curry!

So what exactly Is pulverized topsoil?  Topsoil is the upper layer of the Earth’s crust,  usually the top 2 to 8 inches. It has the highest concentration of microrganisms and organic matter and is where most of the soil’s biological activity occurs. Plants generally sink their roots into and obtain most of their nutrients from this rich layer.

This high concentration of organic matter is actually what turns soil black.  So the darker it is, the more nutrients in the soil, the better your plants and turf will do.  Ever notice “grey” colored dirt.  It often occurs in areas where a lot of salt is applied during snow removal services.  That’s  because those microorganisms have been killed and the organic matter is leached out.

This is why it is so important to install mulch and compost in planting beds.  It helps provide a protective layer and breaks down over time, reintroducing those beneficial nutrients back into that top layer of soil.

It’s also equally as important that you topdress your lawn with some kind of compost when core aerating and overseeding for the same reason.

Most people probably don’t know how topsoil is created.  It’s a fairly simple process.  Most often topsoil is taken from construction sites where there are large open spaces that need to be excavated anyway.  That soil is then “pulverized” through a machine to remove any debris as well as giving it a more consistent texture that makes it easier to spread and fine grade.

Happy 50th Birthday ILT Vignocchi!!

Turning 50 is such a milestone for any business.  Dips in the economy, increasing regulations, labor issues and shortages.  There are so many ways a company can get off track.  As I contemplate where we have been, of course I think of our unwavering reputation for integrity, artistry and quality.  You consider the massive golf courses, Chicago Botanic Garden installations, as well as corporate and municipal work.  I regard those residential projects that not only won awards but gave our employees such satisfaction and our customers heartfelt joy.

But to me it is more than that.

I don’t know if I have a memory when ILT didn’t exist.  You see, as ILT turns 50, I will be turning 47.  The memories of our company are like fabric woven into my life.

When I watch the countless trucks and trailers roll out of the yard at sunrise each and every morning I indulge the nostalgia of our company’s youth.

I remember Sorney Leahy who let me sit inside his desk drawer when I was very small and let me play with his phone.  Or going to a job site with my dad on a Saturday.  He’d hoist me up on his shoulders and then put me down so I could hug my Nono who was working with our men.  A favorite is my mother who would spend hours picking up sticks before the maintenance crew came to our house so they would not have to bother.

50 years ago there were no computers.  Dad used to spend countless nights drawing plans, scrunching up vellum with discarded ideas and yes, taking calls from his customers on his home phone.

I think life is different when you are in a family business.  Of course it is hard and there are arguments, lots.  But there is a short cut with family that makes it easier, because you know in the end, you will always love one another.

  • Donna Vignocchi Zych

Owner ILT Vignocchi