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2 Questions to Ask Yourself before a Landscape Design Project

How do I design an outdoor space that is both beautiful and functional?

If you’re looking to create an outdoor space suitable for entertaining and relaxation, you should start by asking yourself two important questions. While these two questions may seem simple at first and easy to answer, often the real answers lie a little deeper and require some amount of reflection and effort.

  1. What am I happiest doing outside?

For most people, there is a difference between what they think makes them happiest and what truly does make them happy. There are many examples of “perception vs. reality” – some people might respond immediately, saying something like “I’d LOVE an outdoor firepit.” But in reality, they’ve never built a fire and aren’t all that interested in the mechanics of fire-building: gathering and storing firewood and kindling, learning how to properly build and safely maintain a fire, ensuring that children and pets can interact safely around a fire. What they really love is the idea of a social gathering around a firepit, not the actual firepit itself nor the process of building and maintaining a fire.

2 Questions to Ask Yourself before a Landscape Design Project

In this case, what that person might really like, after thinking about it a little more carefully, is sitting around with family and friends, enjoying their company and sharing stories. Something that can just as easily be done, say, in a comfortable circular outdoor sitting area with candle lanterns as it can be around a firepit. Or if a family vote still favors a firepit, opting for a gas version for easier, more convenient use. 

  1. What outdoor elements make me happiest and give me the most pleasure?

Determining the answer to this second question requires some careful observation and a little activity on your part. Looking to create the outdoor sitting area we just mentioned? Take a chair and go sit in various spots around your property. Even if your property’s not that big, remember, you have four distinct areas around your house: front, back, and two sides. Each has different characteristics than the others, including how much sunlight it receives and at what time of day. Where would you be most comfortable sitting for a period of time? Do you prefer a sunny spot or something shaded? What areas offer a little more privacy or protection from the wind or rain? Do you require close, convenient access to your house or would you prefer an area farther away and “closer to nature”?

Taking the concept of outdoor elements one step further, think about other features you find in nature. Do you like to be near water? If you don’t have a natural water feature on your property, such as a stream or pond, you might consider constructing one, or even just adding a small water feature to create the soothing sound of gently splashing water. Do you enjoy the wind whispering through pine trees or prefer sitting under a shade tree? The answer to this question will help you consider the plants around your outdoor space.

If you’re thinking of a more garden-like space, you can “test drive” a variety of garden environments at local garden centers, public parks, and botanical gardens, paying close attention to the visual impact of the various plants, their smells, and even their sounds (buzzing honeybees love many different flowering plants). 

By taking the time to scout your outdoor space you’ll be able to better align your landscape project goals with reality and your true preferences, not what you think you might like, or what current trends or fads suggest you should like. In the end this can save you considerable time and money, helping you avoid constructing a complete outdoor living environment, only to discover you don’t use it very much because it turned out not to be what you really wanted.

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The Insider's Guide to Landscape Design 

Topics: Outdoor Living Hardscape Solutions