Whether your idea of bliss is relaxing alone with a good book or having friends over for an afternoon gathering, a beautiful backyard gives you the perfect setting. But how do you transform that plain vanilla suburban lawn into a versatile outdoor living environment that makes you want to spend more time outdoors?
Start With a Daydream and a Notebook
Imagine how you would like to spend time outdoors at different times of the day. What does your perfect outdoor space look like?
Are you having a Zen moment gazing at fish rippling the surface of a pond, or enjoying some early morning outdoor yoga? Maybe you would love to fill a favorite vase with fresh cut flowers from the garden or have instant access to fragrant herbs just outside the kitchen door.
Write down your ideas, then do a little research to build on those initial thoughts. Take advantage of online resources like Houzz.com and Pinterest to collect and organize more ideas. Keep notes about what you like, but also why you like it. This will help when it comes time to communicate your ideas to the landscape design professionals who will bring them to life.
Ask Yourself Why
Beautiful landscapes are for living–not just for show. You can tell a landscape designer that you want a swimming pool, a covered patio, koi pond or waterfall–but what really matters are the experiences you imagine you and your family will have in these special outdoor places. That magnificent outdoor fireplace is impressive to behold. But it’s purpose is to provide a place where you can cuddle up under a blanket in the late summer and fall evenings, play guitar and sing, or just settle into a good conversation that meanders on into the evening.
Think about what inspired you in the first place to invest in landscaping: It is that feeling you are hoping to capture.
Give Yourself Time to Explore
If there’s one mistake people make all too often when planning a landscaping project, it’s not taking enough time in the inspiration phase to explore what they really want.
If you’ve done a landscape project before, you can move more quickly, but if you aren’t experienced, you’ve got to be patient. Taking your time during the inspiration stage will help you understand what is really important to you so when it comes time for planning you know your priorities.
Share Your Thoughts With a Landscape Design Professional
You don’t go directly from inspiration to design. You have to find someone that can help you refine your ideas and take them further. Once you’ve had time to do some research on your own and gain some inspiration, begin a conversation with a landscape architect or landscape designer.
Bounce your ideas off them and see how they react. They can advise you on the feasibility of certain design elements, guide you through the various stages of concept development, and prepare you to shape broad ideas into the very specific and detailed decisions that you will need to make later.
You should feel comfortable with their knowledge, their ability to hear you, to help you articulate your vision, and to prioritize and organize these ideas into a coherent plan that makes sense to you and meets your budget.
How to Choose a Landscape Architect
Exchanging ideas with landscape design professionals early in your exploratory process, is your best guarantee of success. Once you’ve identified the right professional you will continue the discussion back and forth throughout the project. But how do you know if a landscape architect is a good fit for you? In the end it is your judgment based on the quality and specificity of the discussion you’ve had with them. In addition, here are a few steps to take to help you arrive at that important decision:
Connection and trust. You want to know that your landscape architect will be able to convert your inspiration into reality. Do they listen, ask good questions, and give feedback on your ideas?
Landscape Projects Portfolio. Look carefully at the architect’s work. Ask how they developed the ideas used in the project. Ask how they will work with you to develop your ideas.
Visit some projects. Even though the portfolio images look fantastic, they cannot tell you what it feels like to experience that outdoor space. Does it feel as good as it looked in the photos, something like the inspiration you have for your own yard?
Talk to the homeowner. Assuming the completed project looks great it can’t tell you the backstage story of how the process went for the homeowner. How successfully did the landscaper take their ideas and transform them into reality?
Getting From Dream to Design Fulfillment
You want a backyard landscape that will be part of your daily lifestyle. To get there, take your time, dream a little, and collect inspirations. Then share your ideas with a landscape design professional and get their feedback. See how they react and how the dialogue develops.
Choose the professional landscape architect who can show you how to take those initial creative impulses you had and–step by step–weave them into a practical plan that becomes the outdoor environment you’ve been dreaming of.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.