What a Landscape Designer Loves to Hear from Clients

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I finished my master’s degree 19 years ago, and have practiced as a landscape designer in various capacities ever since- that’s well over a third of my life in this field. I’ve run this business, worked for other companies, moonlighted while I taught school full-time, and fit in projects while I kept two babies alive. But only in the last five years have I realized I am a small business owner, and this has been a pivotal shift in my mindset. I run an operation that affects my family, my community, and my peers in the industry. When I got serious about my landscape design work as a business, I hired a brand designer and poured through her blog.

One of the first things I read was a post titled “the worst thing you can say to your designer”. It was enlightening to me as her client, and I wanted to think through what I could share with my own clients to open up communication.  Irene’s post is pretty much exactly what I would say, and I can’t just copy it – but basically, be honest and let me know if you want something different!  Don’t be afraid to ask for changes, new ideas, clarification, or help.

With all that honesty and open communication taken care of, I’d like to encourage you a bit more.  Here are two completely different statements that I hear all the time from clients, and I want to explain why I love them both.

“I saw this on Pinterest/Fixer Upper/my neighbor’s yard…”I LOVE that! Go ahead and get inspired- find ideas and pin away. Check out other people’s patios and seating walls. Envy your neighbor’s blooming shrub that you’re not sure the name of.  People are often so sheepish about their secret Pinterest garden boards!  It is my job to cull through #allthethings and distill out what you really want.  Just recently a client requested (among other things) a rose garden.  We talked through what aspects of the rose garden appealed to them, what it felt like to be in a space like that, and finally determined that it wasn’t the roses particularly – it was the order in the space and the cacophony of color that they wanted.  Didn’t have to be roses particularly.  Sometimes clients hand over a file folder stuffed with magazine pages or share Houzz boards with hundreds of images, apologetic that they have so many possibilities.  I can talk you down from the analysis paralysis that often follows all those ideas, and come up with exactly the outdoor spaces that are right for YOU.

“I have no idea what I want.” This is gold, too. Seriously.  After a zillion conversations about how many people come over for a bonfire, or what views really matter from the back of the house, I know how to ask the right questions to draw out what’s going to work for you – even if you don’t.  I have this four-page questionnaire that covers everything from inspiration to irrigation, so that we all know where we’re headed even before we get started.  This is why I create an inspiration board to communicate the style and feeling that your landscape will have. Design is all about solutions – it’s not just loveliness for the sake of loveliness.  We have a full toolbox of design fundamentals at our disposal: texture and focal point and rhythm and many more.  We’ll take the particular details of your site and create plan that fits your needs beautifully.  I’m a relentless over-explainer and an educator to my core, so you’ll end up knowing why we made the decisions we did, even if you weren’t able to articulate what you wanted in the beginning.

Landscape design is all about creating outdoor living spaces.  It’s this beautiful intersection between communication, art, and science, all with the goal of getting people to bring the party outside.  Design provides solutions based on clear communication.  Whether you are overwhelmed with all kinds of ideas or frustrated because you have none, my job is to listen and arrange all the pieces to fit perfectly together.

Where do you fall?  Are you overwhelmed with ideas or stuck in a rut?  I’d love to hear about it either way!


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