Everywhere you turn — whether it is your favorite do-it-yourself TV channel, social media pinboards, your email or various print magazines — you may have seen the term “Outdoor Living.” So, what is it?
Outdoor Living is an extension of your home; it is where you work and play. It is your curb appeal, your “staycation,” your place to enjoy and unwind with family and friends. In 2020, it has also become your ‘work-from-home’ office. Outdoor living areas (or rooms) are an outward, welcoming expression for you to enjoy and become inspired and can be enhanced with landscaping.
Whether you have built a new home or have purchased someone else’s home, there are so many ways to customize it. What do you see when you pull up to your home? How does it make it you feel? More importantly, what would you like to see and feel?
Whether you decide to enlist the help of a landscape architect, landscape designer, landscape installation crew, handyman or do it all yourself — you first need to start with a plan and understand the elements. So, what are the primary components used in outdoor living? Hardscape and softscape are the two major categories in any landscape design. Hardscape is defined as any non-living material, such as paving and wall materials, boulders and stones, deck, fence, and structure materials. Most hardscape materials are classified as natural, manufactured or composite.
Softscape contains all the living materials used — namely plants and turfgrass. Hardscape and softscape elements can either be aesthetic or functional. The best elements will combine both as they are blended throughout your outdoor living spaces. One thing to always keep in mind when it comes to plants, they may start small but detailed designs will consider their growth rates and maturity sizes for the long term.
If you decide that you would like assistance with creating a space that is uniquely yours, then the first step is choosing a landscape architect or designer. A landscape architect has a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture and is licensed by the state(s) in which they work. They have experience and/or training working with challenging issues, such as grading and outdoor structures, on a larger scale.
Landscape designers may have certification from select college programs or have been self-taught through experience on smaller-scale projects. Primarily, they specialize in plants; some may even offer hardscaping ideas. These professionals will work together with you to visually build your ideas to tailor them further to your expectations. Not all landscape architects and designers operate within landscape installation companies. However, they may be able to refer a few companies to contact. Others may work within an installation company and be hands-on from design throughout the finished and installed stages.
Landscape architects and designers are trained to consider multiple factors that may influence your property. Not all architects and designers are created equal. Be on the lookout for those that focus on building a working relationship with you.
With this in mind, be prepared to answer or consider some possibly challenging questions. Be ready to discuss your budget honestly. Landscape architects and designers understand that you may not exactly know what to expect price-wise. However, they are there to help guide you through the process and can help direct you to the most important areas to focus on first. They can help you turn your dreams into reality through clear and realistic expectations. Keep in mind that their recommendations have you and your home in mind. Services such as drainage most likely will be focused on first (along with any potential safety issues). It is essential to protect your home’s foundation surfaces (walls, driveways, sidewalks, etc.).
So, what are the other items to consider?
How visual are you? Are you good at reading blueprints, or would you rather have a visual rendering (like you see on those design television shows)? How willing are you to listen and brainstorm with an expert in the field? What materials are you interested in most? Knowledgeable architects and designers will discuss the pros and cons of various mediums.
When you are choosing which company or firm to go forward with for your design, be sure to understand what your personal expectations are. Are you interested in being involved throughout the process, or are you just interested in their expertise? Do you want to keep any existing landscape plants or need to start with tree trimming? Landscape architects and designers may be experts in their fields; however, they are not experts on your individual needs and dreams. Look for companies that are willing to communicate with you through multiple platforms and offer a “personal touch” as well.
Another item to consider is your timeline expectations. A good rule of thumb would be to begin the process at least a season before you hope to have your outdoor living designs installed. Most companies have existing customers already on a design and/or installation schedule but want to work with you to make your dreams come true.
While there are many landscape companies to choose from your timeline may be better met by a company that offers both design and installation services. Select the company you feel offers excellent customer service, material and installation warranties, and long-term maintenance plans to help you enjoy your new outdoor living area.
If you are looking for a team of experts to support you in creating your own outdoor living space, Ryan Lawn & Tree is here to partner with you. RYAN offers a multitude of services, such as design, plant health, turf care, tree service, lawn irrigation, landscape beds, drainage, hardscape, water features, outdoor lighting, & pest control. Call 913.381.1505 today and find your nearest Midwest location for an estimate on your next landscaping project, we look forward to working with you and your unique outdoor spaces.