Landscaper helps create a modern Zen garden oasis in suburban Chicago

Landscaper helps create a modern Zen garden oasis in suburban Chicago

Homer Glen, Illinois, probably isn’t the first Chicago-area town you think of to find modern landscape design.

After all, the far south suburb is home to street after street of traditional landscapes adorning a mix of older homes and plentiful new construction.

That hasn’t stopped Chicago-area architect and Angie's List member John Ballack and his wife, Heather, from creating a stunning modern Japanese garden at their tri-level home.

Modern inside and out 

The home’s landscape is a direct reflection of its modern interior.


 (Photo by )
The modern minimalist interior of the Ballack's home was designed by husband, John, a Chicago-area architect who recently started his own firm. (Photo courtesy of the Ballacks) (Photo by )

“We have always preferred modern design,” John Ballack says. “I, being a practicing architect, took on the interiors of our home as well, by gutting the 40-year-old outdated interiors and transforming them into a minimalist modern aesthetic over a 12-month period. The modern interiors flow out/in to the modern landscape quite seamlessly.”

Inspired by the Japanese garden style, the Ballacks' landscape design is crafted with clean lines and a mix of natural stone, evergreens and perennials, creating a tranquil outdoor living space.

“We use the outdoor space quite often, mostly for entertaining guests and family,” Ballack says. “We’re also ‘newbie’ gardeners and like to tend to our vegetables and ornamentals while experimenting with different plant varieties.”

Hiring the right company

When it came to finding a local landscaping company to complete their job, the Ballacks turned to Angie’s List for recommendations.


 (Photo by )
The landscape designer mixed plants and stones to create the modern Japanese garden. (Photo courtesy of the Ballacks) (Photo by )

Though many landscaping firms in the area might not have extensive experience with modern design, Ballack says his professional experience helped him make the right choice in highly rated Emerald Bloom Landscaping in New Lenox.

“Having had a lot of experience working with reputable landscape architects and installers, I found it easy to weed out the contractors that wouldn’t be up to the task,” Ballack says. “After interviewing four to five contractors at our house, we ended up hiring the right contractor who was willing to take on a unique project.”

Emerald Bloom owner Frank Gonzalez designed the Ballacks’ landscaping and helped choose the plants. He’s been working with the couple for a year to make their vision for the yard a reality.

“We started last year with clearing out some of the beds and digging out some clay and planting some evergreens,” Gonzalez says. “This year we came back added some perennials.”

Ideal clients

It’s no secret that architects have a reputation for exacting standards and attention to detail. While that may seem like a nightmare scenario for some contractors, Gonzalez says working with the Ballacks on their $11,000 landscaping project was a breeze. 

“They have been wonderful,” Gonzalez says. “They even installed a sprinkler system in their plant beds, so you know that’s a customer who cares. That’s great for us. Honestly, it’s been one of the easiest jobs I’ve had.”

And it’s not over yet: The Ballacks have more plans for their modern outdoor oasis.

“We talked about possibly adding a modern water feature somewhere near the patio to add soothing sound and serenity to the scene,” John Ballack says. “We may add a small area adjacent to the patio as a small dedicated outdoor dining area for two. Also, we want to continue experimenting with low-maintenance perennials and shrubs to fill-in our young planting beds; namely in the backyard.  That will be a work in progress over the next several years.” 

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