Summer Indoor Outdoor Living: Good Design Breaks Down Barriers


Here at Moss HQ we love to enjoy the out-of-doors space just outside our doors.

We roll the overhead door facing the sidewalk up a few feet to bring in a cool breeze – and a view of greenery and the feet and dogs of passersby. There is a humorous moment every morning when a class of preschool children pass by on their daily walk and chorus a cheery “hello” through the opening. The row of high windows at the second story level are propped open nearly all summer long, venting out heat that rises to the ceiling level and letting in birdsong, the rustle of leaves and the regular noise of passing Metra trains.  And, at lunch, or for meetings, we spill out into the side yard patio enjoying dappled shade and full access to the air.

Since we all appreciate these indoor outdoor moments ourselves, it would be crazy not to create opportunities for them in the buildings we design.  Here’s how your business can bring the inside out this summer:

Living Life on the Sidewalk

A big component of summer dining in Chicago is eating out – literally outside – on a patio, in a side yard, or just on a reclaimed patch of sidewalk in front of the building (something the city allows with proper planning permission under the right circumstances).  We include sidewalk dining areas and operable front windows wherever possible to maximize those indoor outdoor opportunities.

At Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods, we chose to preserve the existing storefront, with window and door openings intact, but the window sashes are large and can let in a fair amount of air.  They have colonized the space in front of their shop with cheerful awnings as well as cafe tables and chairs and a flower-bedecked railing to further “enclose” their little segment of outdoor space.

jolly posh sidwalk cafe

Dissolving the Walls between Indoor Outdoor Spaces

For any kind of sidewalk business, but especially for a restaurant, we love to see maximum operability in the storefront windows.  Below are a trio of design sketches from a past project – the facade update for Crew Bar + Grill in Uptown.  Each explores a different method of opening the storefront to the street – with pairs of french coors, with a stackable series of sliders, or with fold away doors that could collapse back to one side. We used a similar type of fold away windows at Bar Pastoral, on Broadway, which allow the front window booths to open right out on to the sidewalk in nice weather.

operable restaurant storefront


Throwing Open the Doors

Of course, not every business has a sidewalk or parking strip that they can colonize – the one in front of Begyle Brewing Company, here in Ravenswood, is just a simpler residential 4 feet wide with a slim strip of grass between it and the street.  They can still open up to the outdoors, though, by rolling up their overhead door.  And, especially in light of their new taproom extension, where beer lovers are invited to linger and drink, they plan to open their overhead door and invite a friendly food truck to roll right up to the entrance for refreshments during the evenings.  We can’t wait to while away the evening there.

begyle front wall

Reclaiming the Street for Indoor Outdoor Space

One of our favorite, and more radical, moves for reclaiming outdoor space is the trend of Parklets that has been growing through Chicago.  For businesses that don’t have access to enough sidewalk but do have street parking, they can make an arrangement with the city to colonize several parking spaces in front of their building to turn into summer seating areas.  Parklets, or People Spots, like the one moss created for Andersonville temporarily transform a portion of the street into an urban oasis, extending the sidewalk, improving the street and boosting foot traffic for local businesses.

people spot

What’s your favorite way to be outside in the summer?