By oakridge
March 8th 2022

One, two, or three. How many do I need? These are questions we often get asked when hearing wishes from a future client looking to get a new garden designed. It’s our job to ask the right questions, listen carefully to what our clients are looking for, and sometimes read between the lines. There isn’t always a huge significance in the quantities of products for our designs and the outdoor living environments we are so lucky to be involved in creating. Ultimately the answers to some of these questions can determine the final cost of what we are building, but not necessarily the success of the finished product. 

What determines or defines success in outdoor living environments? There is a sales element in providing outdoor living environments to clients. Does it matter how much they spend or what they spend it on? In the end, the only thing that matters is how much time they spend in the garden. We also measure our success with the feedback we receive and the amount of joy and memories each family makes in our designed spaces.

How many trees do I need? How many shrubs, grasses, and perennials do I need? How many square feet of pavers do I need? How much lawn will we have? How many fire pits do we want?  Do we want an outdoor kitchen, or do we NEED an outdoor kitchen? Do we want natural stone or concrete pavers? All great questions, but most of them are best left to the designer. 

After you answer the questions that help us create your perfect outdoor living environment, we will then give you options to choose from. These questions include… How many people will use the space? What are some hobbies you have that can be included? How many people are in your immediate family? Family pets? Outdoor activities or sports that are top on your list? Do you like to garden, or do you like to just enjoy your garden? And for some of us, gardening is enjoying your garden. Do you like the sun or prefer the shade? Or maybe a little of both. Are there any grading issues that you know of? What kind of access do you need to your new garden? Around the house or through the house? All of these are very important questions that need to be addressed through the different phases of the design process. These help to narrow down the what, the who, and the how of any new outdoor living environment.  

This process should have all hands on deck from the start. We typically kick off by meeting with the family, depending on who you wish to be included. This meeting can also take place following an initial consultation with a designer who can walk the site with you. They will also offer up some big picture ideas, giving you some options to narrow down before the family meeting. Walking through your space, the designers will get a better idea of how you might want to be welcomed outside. The options are endless and answering a few of these questions upfront will help save time and money in the development and construction phases.  

There are so many different bells and whistles that can really enhance the comfort of an outdoor living environment but don’t typically affect the functionality. We want to focus on the short-term goals of the outdoor living space, while also planning for long-term growth. Some of the decor, or better yet a lot of it, won’t be the same size five years later as it was in the first. To this day I haven’t heard of a sofa growing by an inch or six every year during its lifespan.  

After the family meeting and initial consultation, you will meet with your designer to discuss your hopes and dreams for your new outdoor living environment. Your designer will listen carefully in order to prioritize and develop a plan that takes into consideration what you want and what the site will allow. In the concept phase, the designer will take your list and decide how your space might come together, what different elements off your wish list will fit, and how they might be arranged. We still haven’t even gotten to what and how many you need…

Once the designer has the spaces arranged, the next step is to fine-tune each space to accommodate the different elements mentioned and create a harmony between those elements and spaces. This will set the tone of how they compliment each other and how you and your guests will interact in the different spaces. Depending on the project, not just the size, another consultation might be necessary before the final dimensions of the spaces are decided, in order to make more detailed decisions. After this meeting, the designer will be able to really narrow down the dimensions and functions of each space. 

At this point, the elements, features, and materials can be included and arranged according to the different functions of each space. Next, the designer will start to add the decorations to the space to polish the final touches to your outdoor living room(s). This is where a lot of those early quantity questions will be answered, along with the costs. Another consultation with your designer will be included before applying the final few brush strokes to your new outdoor living environment.

These final touches will showcase the beauty of your newly created and functional outdoor living environment. For us, this is some of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of creating these rooms for families to grow in. Your only worry should be which family, friends and neighbors will be begging for an invite into your new garden. It might even include some new invitations for friends you didn’t even know you had. It can be a fun adventure for you and yours to count the different birds, bees, and butterflies you might find.

Creating a new outdoor living room for you and your family will provide a space that invites you outside and connects you to nature and maybe, just maybe, will leave you yearning to come home to start the fire, invite your peeps outside and share the stars. Imagine… 

One last thought. If you want to join the green movement. Plant a tree. It is one of the greenest things you can do. 

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