Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's on garden designers' minds?

I’ve just returned from Los Angeles where I moderated a panel of design experts at the Brown Jordan showroom during Fall Market at the Pacific Design Center. Selena Souders of Big Red Sun (the photo is from her Venice store), designer Kimberlee Keswick and Stephen Block of Inner Gardens took time out from their demanding schedules for what turned out to be a lively discussion about the “outdoor room.” 

Sure, we explored the outdoor room at length. But two issues arose that really got me thinking that these are the areas where designers really need to educate their clients as well as the architects and interior designers involved in the project.

BUDGET and FEES: The designer is tasked from the beginning to help the client understand the perceived value of transforming the exterior spaces into an extension of the indoors – often doubling the livable square footage of their homes. The next step then is creating an appropriate budget and bringing the client on board to see beyond the need for hardscaping and plants. A healthy percentage of the budget also needs to be allocated to line items such as lighting, furnishings, appropriate components of an outdoor kitchen and fire and/or water features.  Last but definitely not least, there is that other tricky area: getting paid — ideally, up front — for the actual design. That these fees are customarily paid up front for architectural drawings was not lost on anyone. Kimberlee stressed the importance of creating a master plan from which everything flows, from the budget to the workflow. Each panelist discussed how he or she approaches this issue with clients and how much time and work they are, or are not, willing to invest upfront.

TIMING TO ENTER A PROJECT: When I asked the designers at what stage they are typically brought into a project vs. when they should ideally enter it, they all agreed that it is too often too late. It became clear that there is a real need to educate homeowners and architects of the importance of establishing a design team up front to comprise not only an architect and possibly an interior designer, but also the landscape architect or garden designer.

            I thought it interesting that yesterday I spoke by telephone with Palm Beach, Florida designer Jorge Sanchez of Sanchez & Maddux who had this to say: “There have been clients who have come to us after they have chosen an architect and contractor, and have finished the pool and driveway. We tell them they just need a plant installer. It is extremely important for the landscape architect to work from the beginning with the whole group. Otherwise, there is nothing cohesive or creative about it.”  


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