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ADVICE | Finding a Designer

I was interviewed recently by the ABC for my thoughts on finding the right landscape designer for your project. An interesting read from several industry perspectives as how to help you commission the right person!

Sometimes it takes more than a quick trip to the nursery to build a garden. Knowing how to create alluring outdoor living spaces is stock in trade for a landscape designer. Michael McCoy, host of Dream Gardens on ABC TV, shares five steps to ensure a smooth road to your personal Eden.

1. Define Before you turn a single spade of earth, sit down and make a wish list of all the delights and practicalities your new garden will deliver. Is it an entertainer’s space, personal retreat, productive garden or a pet-friendly haven? Whatever your dream, it’s worth remembering our lives are ever-changing.

“I always ask clients to imagine how they might use their space in five and 10 years,” says Steve Warner, landscape designer and owner of Outhouse Design.

The swing set and sandpit may be a priority if you have younger family members, but soon enough it will be a trampoline, ‘hang out’ spaces, and a pool for teenagers. Finally, don’t ignore the practicalities – a garden shed for bikes or the lawn mower, and a washing line. 2. Create Reconnect with your inner child and spend time cutting and pasting either online in the form of ideabooks, or the old-fashioned way, to create a mood board. Don’t restrict yourself to garden images. “I suggest clients include colours they like, textures and tones they are inspired by, even materials like pavers or wood that have caught their eye. It’s about how they want to feel in the space,” says Warner.

This is invaluable information for a designer. Your preference – be it contemporary industrial or traditional cottage garden – will be revealed by the images you favour, and a designer will instantly be able to discern a design direction.

3. Test drive Compile a shortlist of designers whose work appeals to you and matches the images on your mood board. Most designers have a distinctive design style of their own and it’s important your tastes mesh, so contact them for a chat.

Organise (and be prepared to pay for, if necessary) an initial consultation for an hour or two, in order to establish whether there’s a natural client/designer rapport. Pick their brains while you’re with them. Even if you don’t end up hiring them, you’ll likely get some useful ideas. Referrals from friends, family and neighbours can also be useful.

For Peta Donaldson, creative director at BLAC Design, the critical element is your creative connection. “You would only ever commission an architect whose work resonates with you,” she says. “The same goes for your landscape designer.Their work must pull on your heartstrings. If their work doesn’t stir something emotive in you, then keep looking.” 4. Dollars and sense If the first question your designer asks is ‘What’s your budget?’ you should be cautious. “It’s really unfair for a designer to ask that question. I prefer to advise my clients on the cost of things,” says Warner. “A good designer is a designer who talks to you constantly about cost from day one, so you have all the information you need to make decisions.” Even though you might have an idea of price, it’s important to keep an open mind.

“Budget can sometimes hamper creativity,” says Donaldson. “Perhaps let the designer create a blueprint for you based on your ‘agreed upon’ brief, which you can implement all at once if the budget allows, or stage the build if funds are tight, or even cut out elements if necessary.” As a guide, real estate agents recommend 10 percent of the value of the property be spent on landscaping. In Australia that could mean just over $60,000.

Ultimately, a quality garden design will add a substantial amount to the value of your home. Even basic additions such as a beautifully maintained lawn can boost your home’s value by more than 20 percent, and a broad-leafed tree planted in front of your home may increase the median property price by 3.3 percent.

There are three different professions involved in creating gardens and you’ll likely meet all three as you design your dream outdoor space. Landscape architects have a university degree and usually work on commercial and large domestic projects, while landscape designers have further education qualifications from a technical college or simply loads of practical experience

According to Ruth Czermak from the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers, it’s important to ask a designer for their qualifications. “Anyone can call themselves a designer, however some formal training in both design and horticulture is a must,” she says.

In addition, membership with a professional organisation means a designer has been reviewed by his or her peers, meets basic qualification requirements, and adheres to the organisation’s code of ethics.

Finally, a landscape contractor is the person who will dig the ground, build the deck, lay paving and put the plants in the ground. In Victoria, if the project is worth over $10,000, your contractor must be registered with the Victorian Building Authority. In NSW, they must hold a licence or certificate in structural landscaping if the work is valued at more than $5,000. Every state and territory varies, so it’s important to check with your local council or state/territory authority.

5. Just a little or the whole hog According to your needs, a landscape designer can simply supply a concept plan, or can take the job right through to full specifications, including construction drawings and detailed plant lists. It’s essential to be clear about exactly how much detail you want and are prepared to pay for.

Once the design is complete, it’s up to you how the relationship evolves. You may feel confident enough to project manage the construction yourself, hire a separate landscape contractor, or you might like to break it down into smaller achievable stages.

“It’s really important to consider what parts of the design you can complete,” says Warner. “We have relationships with clients who have been building their garden for the past five to 10 years.”

The wonderful thing about constructing a garden is that it’s a living, growing work of art that changes and develops over the years. With the ‘good bones’ that a professional designer will provide, your garden will only get better with time.

Article taken from Houzz.

#dreamgardens #michaelmccoy #petadonaldson #blacdesign #blac #landscapedesigner


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