Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

To fence, or not to fence? That is the question.

When I visited Chicago as a child I remember being struck by the fact that EVERY house had its own fence. It seemed a luxury to me at the time (our sprawling suburban house in Shaker Heights didn’t have a fence).  Instead of making the neighborhoods seem unwelcome, it felt cozy to me.  I have no idea how the tradition started but it really is an amazing and effective way to create a defined space in a dense urban environment. And of course, the ornamental wrought iron only adds character.

Honestly, since most houses already have fences, it would look a little silly NOT to fence, a case of “one of these things is not like the other”. That was a Sesame Street reference in case you missed it. But what KIND of fence is another question entirely.  There are the purely ornamental, short fences that one could step over if necessary and the all the way to the full height, over your head fences, and those silly fences that people put up around the parkways, ostensibly to keep the grass and landscaping pristine. The most popular seems to be the medium,  shoulder height fencing.  Wrought iron painted black–although some go white, or even festive–is the most common and creates an almost uniform look as you walk down a street. For back yards you’ll see wood but most of our street facing fences are open and that’s what creates the defined space while still being welcoming.  Unless of course there is a dog whose parents haven’t taught it not  to go berserk living there–then, not so welcoming.

But occasionally, I run into a house that is well and truly enclosed.  Not just fenced–cloistered even.  There is a house like this around the corner from me and I LOVE it.  I walk by it with my dog almost every day and I can’t stop myself from coming up with fantastical stories about what is going on behind those high, solid walls.  It’s so exciting. Sort of like reading a mystery novel except you can make it up every day.  I am dying to get inside and see how it feels on the inside- totally visually cut off from the outside. I just so happen to have gotten a peak at the courtyard from the roof deck of a home across the way. It’s beautifully landscaped complete with accent lighting but I got no glimpse of the inhabitants so my imagination is free to run wild.

I can appreciate both sides of the fence on this one (pun intended).  I certainly do enjoy the daily intrigue this unusually fortified fence provides me and I can imagine that it provides significantly more privacy than one usually gets in a Chicago city home. Somehow though, it just doesn’t represent the welcoming feeling I associate with our lovely open fenced fronts that I remember from childhood. For me, I think I’ll stick with the traditional wrought iron–it’s more fun to decorate at the holidays anyway.

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