Growing Your Own Herbs at Optima Verdana®

The stellar Rooftop Sky Deck and communal courtyard at Optima Verdana® abound with gorgeous greenspace and reflective hardscape surfaces to reduce heat. Our residents can delight in the outdoors year-round for both recreation and relaxation. And for those with green thumbs, dedicated planters atop the Sky Deck will be home to a seasonal herb garden.

Check your kitchen cabinets, your cupboards, your drawers! If you spend any time cooking, you probably have dried thyme, basil, and even a bit of parsley or oregano. These earthly delights known as herbs are easily accessible from most grocery stores, but imagine what it would be like if you grew them yourself?

In spite of their simplicity, herb gardens are magical places and offer many gifts — from cooking, to medicine, to unique fragrances. Growing your own herbs also serves as an exercise in gratification, and so much more:

Great for All Skill Levels

First, herb gardens are great for beginner gardeners because they require minimal effort and are easier to grow than vegetables. They don’t require large plots of land, and grow well in pots, planters and other containers. Herbs don’t need much fertilizing, which is a huge plus for beginners, and they can handle a wide range of temperatures that’s ideal for Chicago’s seasons. 

Basil, parsely, thyme, and rosemary

Redefining the Word “Fresh”

When your recipes call for fresh herbs, what could be more delightful — and satisfying — than heading to your herb garden with a pair of kitchen shears and picking or cutting what you need? And because you can harvest your herbs while you’re cooking, they will always be fresh and fragrant.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Knowing that you have easy access to what you’re growing, you may find yourself with an appetite for expanding your repertoire with dishes that specifically call for fresh herbs. This is a real treat, since the flavors are so much more robust and the option to have full leaves, stems and flowers in your preparations is a real bonus. 

The herb garden also offers the opportunity to experiment with new flavor combinations. Take advantage of your herbs and try out a new recipe or two. Try growing herbs that are uncharted territory for you, this will likely lead to taking new risks in your cooking. Which in turn will enrich your life with new and flavorful experiences.

As you head into the fall and winter months, you can harvest your herbs and dry them indoors. This will tide you over until spring arrives and it’s time to plant again.

Creating A Healthy, Budding Community

The herb garden at Optima Verdana® is part of the powerful community experience of connecting with others around a shared purpose. All it takes is one seed to sow a relationship and build a budding new friendship with a neighbor. This convenience of access offers residents physical exercise, fresh air and the meditative qualities of connecting to the earth. 

If you’re looking for ideas for dishes that will put your fresh herbs in the spotlight at your next dinner or event, The Food Network offers quite a few!

Best Plants for Small Urban Gardens

As the weather warms up, you might be inspired to add some greenery to your home or apartment. For those living in multi-family residences — such as our own Optima residents — that means finding the right plants to accommodate your space. Whether you want to cultivate an indoor forest or try planting outdoors, here are the best plants for small urban gardens.

Indoor Options

For indoor gardening, you should check out your light exposure before you buy any plants. Working with south-facing windows is drastically different than north-facing windows, and knowing how much light your home gets is crucial to cultivating happy plants. At Optima, our units always feature floor-to-ceiling windows – perfect for all exposures and for creating the ideal indoor growing environment.

Snake plants, bamboo plants, types of pothos and spider plants can all thrive in indirect light. For sunnier spots, try options like aloe vera, jade plants, succulents and types of cacti. Many of these plants are also low-maintenance when it comes to watering. 

Outdoor Options

Stoops, balconies, patios, decks and rooftops all have the potential to be a home for a small garden, if you can master container gardening. Year-round foliage will depend on your environment, but for seasonal summer greenery, many herbs and vegetables double as decor and a source of fresh food. Peppers, salad greens, tomatoes and green onions are easy to grow in containers or pots, as are most herbs.  

Plants are a huge part of our design process at Optima, through our vertical landscaping systems, green space and sustainability initiatives. Bringing the outdoors in can help make any space more vibrant, more joyful and more green; we hope you feel inspired to add some plants to your own urban garden this spring!

The Evolution of Amenities

Location, location, location” has always been the sage advice in real estate, but experts think in the coming years, that may shift to “amenities, amenities, amenities.” In the industry arms race, amenities have skyrocketed to the forefront of renters ⁠— and buyers ⁠— minds in recent years. And with any trend, amenities is one that’s constantly evolving, growing and incorporating new ideas that ultimately lead to greater longevity. 

Navigating Recovery and a New Generation

After the housing market crash of 2007-2008, many people opted to rent rather than buy, whether it was out of preference or for financial security reasons. That change in preference, combined with the rise of millennials in the home buyer/renter market, placed new emphasis on the multifamily market. Millennials began to eschew the suburbs in favor of multifamily buildings in urban cores, and prioritized access to local amenities and public transportation. 

With the transition to multifamily properties, residents became more and more open to sacrificing a ‘traditional’ home in exchange for more shared amenity spaces. With amenity offerings spanning from the recreational (gyms, pools, sport courts) to the everyday-practical (libraries, coworking space) to health and wellness focused (spas, outdoor space), the trade-off is well worth-it to most. Amenities offer access to a lifestyle and a community focus that may be well beyond a given resident’s price range, creating increased opportunity within their own home while still remaining in budget.

The Sky Deck at 7140 Optima Kierland
The Sky Deck at 7140 Optima Kierland

Amenities at Optima

In our pursuit of designing impactful spaces, amenities at Optima have similarly evolved to meet the needs and expectations of our residents. As Optima Signature was underway, we saw that an increasing number of people were working from home, so we incorporated spaces to stay focused and inspired. Our amenity spaces at Signature are numerous, and they include a conference room, library, powered and connected seating areas (indoor and outdoor as well as business suites. A productive at-home office space is well balanced with 1.5 acres of amenities, creating the perfect balance of work and play for Signature residents. 

At our latest project, Optima Kierland Center, the amenities were designed to take advantage of the great outdoors and surrounding desert, both in common spaces and individual residences. Party rooms, fitness spaces, yoga and wellness spaces were designed to be indoor-outdoor, oftentimes using retracting glass walls to join the two. Though wellness amenities are common now, amenities at Kierland include spa-calibur steam rooms and saunas, a rooftop running track, pickleball and basketball courts, full-service fitness centers, and stunning panoramic mountain views to get residents excited to enjoy the outdoors. 

Ultimately, we love creating spaces that don’t just respond to trends, but truly meet the needs of the people who will interact with them daily. Amenities are just one of the ways we create a lasting impact and a fantastic living experience for our residents.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Wilmette

The serene Chicago-suburbs neighbor of Evanston, Wilmette offers proximity to the hustle and bustle of the city while also serving as an oasis of coffee shops, local boutiques and expansive parkscapes. Wilmette is home to three of our communities, Lake Courts, 1618 Sheridan Road and Optima Center Wilmette, and today we’re spotlighting why we, our residents and our commercial tenants love this Chicago suburb.

Outdoor Leisure 

Bordered by Lake Michigan on the east and sprawling golf courses on the west, Wilmette is the perfect suburban hub for those that love leisurely outdoor activities. For lakefront fanatics, Gillson Park is an expansive reserve with beach access, perfect for swimming, sailing, picnicking, tennis, hiking and more. For casual and competitive golf hobbyists alike, Wilmette Golf Club is the best public golf course challenge in the area.

Baháʼí House of Worship
Baháʼí House of Worship

Cultural Institutions

No Chicago suburb is complete without the inclusion of a wide-ranging and diverse array of cultural institutions. Wilmette is the proud home to the Baháʼí House of Worship, one of only eight of its kind. The continental temple is an architectural marvel, worth the visit just to explore its gardens and interior and learn more about the faith. The Wilmette Historical Museum is also a fantastic local resource for learning more about the city’s story and roots.

Shopping and Dining

Wilmette’s central business district, conveniently located near public transportation, is a distinctively different shopping experience that includes an abundance of restaurants and specialty stores. Explore the Wilmette French Market, an outdoor shopping experience with produce, jewelry and more. Restaurants in the area include everyone’s favorite, Walker Bros. Original Pancake House, Convito Cafe and Market, Pescadero and countless more. 

Stay tuned for more neighborhood spotlights on our other Optima communities.

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Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL

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