The Do’s and Don’ts of Planning New Landscaping

There’s nothing like a warm spring day, a cold glass of something you love, and dirt under your fingernails as the smell of fresh mulch and grass fills the air. You’re probably dirty, sweating and sunburnt (and if you’re not, we need some tips from YOU!), but finishing a big day in the yard will never not be satisfying. 

Landscaping is an easy way to create instant curb appeal for your home. It brings life and color to your community, greets you and your guests every time you’re outside and adds value for potential buyers in the future – especially when that means they only have to keep up your good work! 

Everyone has their own idea of what perfect landscaping looks like – whether it’s a full flower and plant garden, a lawn full of lush green grass or an intricate mix of landscaping and hardscaping – and maintenance, too. But, there are a few things that all landscaping projects will need to consider no matter what. 

  1. Get Some Spacial Awareness

The first thing to consider with landscaping is the amount of space in your yard. You have to think short and long term too – not only how plants fit now, but how they will fit 20 years from now as they continue to grow.  If you are putting plants around a balcony, you might not want a plant that will shoot up eight feet in a season and overtake any other plants. Likewise, you don’t want to plant a tree right next to a house that could grow in a few years to cast a shadow over your natural light, or whose roots will grow into the foundation causing water and structural damage. When you’re thinking about multiple plants at a time, you’ll want to layer the sizes so that once they grow in, everything is cohesive and visible. You’ll also want to think about the community where you’re planting. Is one of your patches of grass the ideal bathroom spot for neighborhood dogs? Do deer frequently have breakfast in front yard gardens? Will the neighborhood kids trample the area closest to the sidewalk? You’ll want to think smart about where you place high-value plants and flowers to keep them protected and beautiful all year long. 

  1. Take Sunlight, Water and Soil into Account

When you’re selecting plants for one or multiple parts of your yard, you’ll want to think about access to sunlight and water, in addition to the type of soil where you’re planting. We have a fairly shaded area with poor drainage off the side of our backyard, so we needed plants that could tolerate standing water after a lot of rain and only required a few hours of direct sunlight per day. Meanwhile, our front yard has a high spot that stays mostly dry and receives almost full sunlight. It’s important to get to know your yard a bit before you make landscaping plans so you can understand what will grow and thrive best. Watch how the sun moves across the house during the day and how your current yard reacts after some rain. If you want to better understand your soil quality too, home improvement stores have DIY tests that help you test the acidity and nutrient level and better understand how you’ll need to fertilize the soil in the long run. Once you’ve gathered some preliminary information, we highly recommend stopping in to your local nursery and sharing details about your yard with their staff so they can help you select some options that best fit your needs. 

  1. Build a Yard for All Seasons

Depending on your climate, you’ll also want to consider seasonality when you’re selecting new plants. If you want to see something new in your garden all year long (including the winter!), select a mix of plants that peak at different times of the year. Some plants will flower early in the year while others will be later; leaves may come in one color in spring and change in the fall; and during the winter, some may expose colorful branches and stems while others will still provide greenery. If you have the space, try to create a mix where one of the species hits peak color every two months. One thing to look out for – make sure that the plants you select aren’t invasive, aka won’t take over your entire garden in a few years. We’d also like to slide in a quick plug for our pollinator friends, make sure to throw in some native and pollinator friendly plants as well!

  1. Maintenance 

A critical consideration for any project – landscaping or otherwise – is how much maintenance it will take. A large lush garden sounds great in theory, but if you can’t put in the work, it will start to look a lot less great. From pruning with trimmers, hand snipping branches or seed pods, raking leaves, or cleaning up fallen fruit, every plant will require some maintenance whether it is once a year or weekly. Likewise, you’ll want to consider your ground cover. Mulch will need to be touched up once a year and weeded, grass cut and fertilized regularly, gravel cleaned out occasionally – even the lowest maintenance options need some care. If you are looking for plants that are well acclimated to your current climate and need less checking up on, you can source native plants from your local nursery or line. They don’t need fertilizer, they take less water and they restore natural habitats. We’d also recommend looking with any homeowners association requirements about how to maintain your landscaping. The last thing you want after all your hard work is a fine or a warming to remove something that doesn’t meet their guidelines. 

All of these considerations will play into your approach with landscaping design and hopefully meet some of your expectations for form and function. It may seem like a lot of work for little pay off, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time outside in your front yard or only have a small patch of land to work with, but it’s an added benefit to the exterior of your home that you can take pride in.

What are you planting this year? Any other tips that you would add to ours? We’d love to hear from you!

Designing a Space Before a Renovation

When we start thinking about how to plan a new space or project in our home, there are plenty of nights where Andy will wake up with a new idea or source of inspiration. It sounds ridiculous (and sometimes it is!), but renovations projects tend to be all consuming when you’re excited and ready to break ground. 

There’s several preparatory steps to take when you’re planning a new project and some of them are actually the more fun part of the whole thing – aside from the finished product. It’s the time where you lay out all your ideas and bring them together, building one cohesive idea. You’ll pick up new things along the way too, whether you’re watching a home renovation show or find a new brand whose home pieces you love. Updating and adding is always a part of the fun! 

You can begin the design process in any number of ways. For us, we always brought a tape measure when we walked new potential properties and came up with ideas as we went to see if there was a way to improve the space, usually focusing around the owner’s suite and kitchen. If you’re newer to home renovating, it may be that you’re starting with a space that you already have and you want to make functional changes to one or a few rooms. 

Our kitchen mid-demo – the vision was coming together, but a lot of space planning took place before this!

Wherever you’re starting, here’s a few preliminary steps that everyone will need to take before beginning a new home project: 

  1. Assess What You Have & What You Want

It’s always important to start your project with what you already have and a vision for what you want. You might have a living room couch that needs to orient a certain way in the room or a owner’s bathroom that doesn’t quite fit your vision. Make a list within each room of what you want to keep and change, using potential renovation as a solution for getting both. By looking at your must-have’s alongside your current options, you’ll be able to understand what’s feasible and temper expectations if you’re not able to check everything off your list. It’s a good time to consider the form of your design v. the function of the room. Do you want to move the TV to a different wall but are concerned about light coming in from the windows? Does your dream couch not fit with the coffee table that you already have? These are the questions to ask yourself as you assess what you have and what you want and get yourself as close to your vision as possible, but still liveable. 

  1. Find a Source of Inspiration

Whether you’re working with a contractor, designer or just on your own, you’ll want to seek out sources of inspiration to guide your renovation projects. They help you keep an end goal in mind and with any designing or decorating in the future. Start a Pinterest board or follow home design accounts on Instagram to see what brands and styles they like. Walk around Target or Home Depot to see what fixtures or decor items are within your price point. looking at light fixtures. Visit your local antique store or salvage shop for parts and pieces to use throughout the space. If you’re a visual person, it can also help to draw out a couple of different ideas of how you might want the room to look, even if it’s not to scale. You’ll use this inspiration to guide the next steps and that’s critical, even if it comes out looking completely different. 

  1. Determine What You Can Feasibly Execute 

Unless you’re an experienced contractor, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to execute a big renovation project on your own. You may need to call in a plumber or electrician to handle some of the areas that require more trade experience, or you may need assistance on like 80 percent of the project. Outline what these needs are early so you can start gathering estimates and gain a better understanding of your budget and material needs for the process. From there, start researching how to accomplish the tasks that you’ll be taking on yourself and understand the steps and tools you’ll need to complete it. 

  1. Create a Tentative Timeline

Once you have an outline of what you’ll be accomplishing and how, you can start putting together a rough timeline for the project. It’s important to go from beginning to end, understanding what needs to be accomplished in order to take the next step. You will likely need to empty and demolish an entire room before your electrician and/or plumber come to expose everything, slotting in your other tasks alongside their work or to follow. The biggest tip we have is to account for more time than you originally estimate. It’s hard to know what issues could pop up in the middle of the renovation, so temper expectations on how long something could take at the start. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised with finishing early or on time than late. 

And today – our kitchen all beautiful and finished!

These steps were crucial for us recently when we laid out our plans for renovating our living room. We wanted a space that felt cozy and homey after a long day, while still inviting for friends and family when they come over on the weekends. The room is spacious, but vertically long and, to make our vision possible, we essentially turned how we live in the room 45 degrees to create a beautiful, custom built-in entertainment center with shelves on either side of the TV. At the same time, we had to make sure that our new seating orientation didn’t block the one entrance to the room, which is on the opposite side of the room to the entertainment center. 

It may sound like silly little details – and sometimes they are – but every decision you make in the room alters potential options for other parts in the room. Don’t expect your first project or room to draw itself the  first time. Refine your vision over and over again and you’ll eventually get to the space that you want. We found it helpful to anchor around a few key things – built-in shelves / entertainment center and a brand new custom couch. Now that we’ve made those two decisions, everything else can fall into place around them. 

What are some of the must-have’s that you’re looking for in your house right now? We’d love to hear from you!