We were thrilled to sit down with Herlife Magazine and give them the low-down on planning for your dream outdoor space. You can see Geff’s answers below, or view the story over at HerLife by clicking here.

Photo Credit: HerLife Magazine

Q: What should I do if I am considering a project?
A: The impetus for a project is usually to correct a problem, modernize or simply to create that dream space you have wanted for years. We suggest that our clients assess their lifestyle and think hard about how they will use the space. Will it be for recreation, entertaining, cooking, quiet meditation or a place for kids and teens? How many people do you normally have at a gathering? Do you have young children, grandchildren or pets? Answers to these questions will dictate features, size, location, material choices and many other aspects.

It’s also important to be honest with yourself and with your design professional about the budget and timeline. If you begin planning a season in advance, these factors can be properly accounted for and planned out. Figuring out all the details up front will save you time and money when it comes to construction.

Q: What is the average timeline to design and build a project?
A: It really depends upon the scope of work and the complexity of the design and build. If you are building a new custom home, you should start the planning and design process one year in advance of construction. This allows time to collaborate with your architect and landscape architect, and enables them to give you a complete picture of the design and a cost estimate.

If you’re planning an addition or a remodeling project to your existing home, then you should anticipate a six-month design process. If you’re making site improvements, such as a patio or deck, pool, outdoor kitchen, new driveway, retaining walls, athletic courts or landscaping, plan for up to three months to complete the design. If the project requires a permit or a variance from the local planning board, that will require additional time.

Once the design process is complete, the construction process can begin. The timeline for the build is dependent on another host of variables: scope of work, site conditions, weather, project management skills, custom materials lead times, labor availability and more. What this all means is that your project will take longer than you think. If you’re thinking of undertaking a project next spring or summer you should begin contacting people now.

 Q: What is the difference between a landscaper and a landscape architect?
A: There are many functional differences, but primarily it boils down to education and license. A landscape architect is required to have a four-year landscape architecture degree or a master’s degree along with several years working under an already-licensed landscape architect before they can sit for the series of exams required. Once they successfully attain licensure, they must maintain that license by attending continuing education programs. This level of education and experience ensures that a state-registered landscape architect is better prepared to handle difficult site situations, as well as exterior design, stormwater management, site grading and drainage, construction material choices and plant material choices.

A lawn care professional who comes to mow the lawn, apply herbicides or do snow removal in the winter months will most likely not be a landscape architect.

 Q: How do I select the right company to design and build my project?
A: Most people start with a referral from friends, neighbors or builders. Look for a smaller firm that specializes in residential design, as many bigger firms focus on commercial or municipal clients and won’t have the creative flair that a personal residence deserves.

You should call and meet with several designers or landscape architects. Ask questions to see if you are comfortable and compatible. This will help to ensure a productive and enjoyable relationship. Any construction project is a stressful undertaking, so it helps if you like the person! Make sure the designer you choose is actually listening to you and understands your lifestyle and your vision for the project. During your interviews you should also assess the experience and skill set of your designer/builder. The landscaper that mows your lawn may not be the right person to design and build your patio or outdoor kitchen.