Garden Design Inc. developed this landscape plan for a swimming pool project in the Allentown area. We were one of several landscape companies invited to develop a plan and a proposal for a swimming pool that had been built last season. When we are competing with other companies for a project, our first step is to develop a conceptual landscape plan. This plan does not take the full amount of time required to specify the exact trees, shrubs and perennials in a landscaping plan. It does allow us to present our general ideas and develop a budget to build the landscape project. If the client chooses to work with Garden Design Inc., then we will invest the time to specify the exact plants in the landscape planting plan.
The forms of each plant symbol do represent a general type of plant in the landscape design idea, even thought eh specific plant is not yet determined. The larger green shrub symbols represent both deciduous and evergreen shrubs. A combination of these two shrub types create the most pleasing aesthetic affect. The design principle is to create contrasting and complimentary colors and textures with both the leaves and the flowers. The evergreens will be placed in areas where we intend to screen a view year round. Species may include laurel, holly, viburnum, euonymus and taxus. Deciduous shrubs are generally more prolific with flowers and seasonal interest. They are often less expensive and they tend to grow faster. Hydrangea paniculata are one of our favorites with long bloom cycles, durability and dependability. These include the Hydragnea limelight, pinky winky, fire light and other new hybrids. The flowering viburnum such as Korean Spice are a strong depending border shrub.
The plan includes both evergreen and deciduous trees. The evergreens trees are placed to screen views of the closest house next door. Thuja ‘Green Giant’ and ‘Emerald Green’, Norway Spruce, Serbian Spruce, and Fastigiate Spruce are all good options for this landscape location. Three deciduous flowering trees are placed center of the plan to create a veil and sense of space within the pool garden landscape.
Simple dependable smaller shrubs such as spirea and hypericum will provide a landscape layering element with a series of flowering cycles. Ornamental grasses will offer an alternating texture and a screening for narrow spaces. Perennials such as daylily, coreopsis, and salvia provide the front of planting layer with additional color and texture interests.
The landscape plantings are designed with ample space to ensure this does not become a crowded planting. The intent is to always maintain some space between every plant grouping so that the landscaping doe not mush together. This will keep a clean, organized landscape aesthetic.
Are you thinking about hiring a swimming pool company? If so, there are a number of interrelated factors that need to be considered in order to have the most successful end product at a budget that fits your needs. Though we like to dream big and by nature can have expensive desires, it is critical that budget be the first decision in the swimming pool design process. There is no point designing a pool you can’t afford. The second choice is which professional to help guide you in the process. A pool builder can build pools, but a landscape architect or designer knows how to properly layout the pool on the property and how to integrate it with the home and the remainder of the landscape and the right one can help make sure all the costs are being considered. Pool builders are notorious for leaving out costs and then coming back with them after a contract is signed. For example, does the pool price include the water to fill the pool, the pool cover, the pool fence, the permits, or the restoration of the site after construction? We suggest the landscape designer manage the whole design and pricing process as the key point person with the homeowner. A pool builder should be picked early to clarify details and the costs of those details.
What is a realistic swimming pool construction project cost? At the least expensive cost range, homeowners can build a 400 square foot liner pool with a simple concrete apron for around $30,000. That would include a simple fence around the immediate perimeter. A landscape architect is not needed for such projects since a pool builder can handle all that. The high end of the range is more difficult to pin down. An 800 square foot custom concrete pool with high end plaster finishes, natural stone coping, built in benches and wet ledges, a spa and spillways, fencing, paver or natural stone paving areas large enough to accommodate plenty of lounging and outdoor living area, a salt water treatment system, heater and safety cover easily gets into a $150,000 project or more. This type of extensive swimming pool and outdoor living project requires an experienced landscape architect or designer. Determine your budget early and be rigorous about sticking to it. That will guide the landscape and pool design and keep honest and open communication between all parties. Many designers and pool builders have a very hard time listening to clients specify budgets and there is a tendency for them to think the client will spend more than they say. Sometimes the contractor thinks the clients can spend much more. Don’t let this happen to you. Pick someone you trust completely and talk about the budgets often. Be strict and clear about that.
Pool builders like to sell themselves as full service designers who can address all of the design needs relating to the project. Most of them are not qualified for this and have no training or quality experience in the broader range of landscape design. They make their money building pools and at the end of the day that is all they really want to do. Sure, they will give a nod to some surrounding amenities to appease the client. But their goal is to dig a hole and build a pool. They seldom take a truly holistic approach to the design and end result as it relates to the entire landscape or home. They push clients to build the pool where it is easiest for them to build it. They don’t want clients needing to spend money on extra grading or design elements to site a pool in a truly ideal spot if it means those extra items are constructed by someone else and thus it isn’t money in their pockets.
A landscape architect or designer who is experienced in pool design and construction projects can manage the pool builder and utilize their valuable sources of information, while offering a much broader set of insights and project management abilities. They can also help keep the pool builder honest and focused. What types of paving materials are best around the pool and for what reasons? Are concrete pavers ideal, poured in place concrete or natural stone. How will the lounging and outdoor living patios fit into the overall design? Will there be landscape lighting, what type and how will it be laid out? How will the planting design accentuate the pool design and the patio areas? How does the pool connect to the home and other outdoor living areas? These are all questions handled best by an experienced landscape architect or landscape designer.
I have worked on numbers of swimming pool company projects. Without exception, when the client calls me after the pool builder has done their thing and built a pool, there are a number of things I immediately see that could and should have been done differently. I have never seen a pool builder site a pool on the property well on their own. It is always placed in the ‘easiest’ location and I always see a better placement for it. The pool fencing is seldom thought through well in these situations and the hardscape designs are mediocre at best. The pool equipment is usually in again the easiest place and most of the time a place that will be visually and audibly distracting. It is always disheartening to be called to doing a planting project around a pool that has already been built. I always see ways that the project could have been designed better and usually ways the client could have saved money. I always wish they had called before they ever got started because I know the end product would have been far more successful for them.
So pick a budget and be rigorous with everyone involved that the budget is not to be surpassed by your swimming pool company. Decide what type of pool and amenities will fit your budget with some basic research on your own. Then call some professional landscape architects or designers. Interview them extensively about their pool design knowledge and experience, and then pick one to work with. They should charge for their design work because they are design professionals. You will save more than the cost of the design work with a well-designed and planned project. Once you have a preliminary design, then the architect should manage the process of getting a few preliminary prices from pool builders. Once you have those prices, interview the pool builders with the landscape architect together. Then it is time to choose a pool builder to work with as part of the collaborative team.
Landscape design theory is a process of building ideas in a visual format. The material creation of a design relies on the tangible tools of art and drafting – pens, pencils, paints, computers etc. The methodology of design relies on the less tangible tools of knowledge gathered through education and experience. Those tools of design theory and principles guide the creation and will determine the quality of the meaning, form and ideas expressed in the visual representation.
Design ideas start as intangible firings of neurons in the designer’s brains, creating vague mental images and emotions. They are inspired by the inception of a design program and a site (real or imaginary). The program is the ‘what to create’, ‘what is the purpose’, ‘who is the user’ and the ‘how will it operate or be experienced’. The site is usually a specific geographically defined area in the case of landscape design. Conceptual or transitory design projects can be based on an imaginary site or meant to travel various sites. Once the program and the site are established, then designer is ready to apply the tools of design to the process of creation.
The ‘concept’ is the first landscape design theory tool required once the program and site are established. Concepts are macro level design tools that guide the entire process. This was discussed in a previous blog and won’t be readdressed here (see Landscape Design Concepts – Principles of Landscape Architecture May 22, 2014). Once the macro tool of a concept is defined, designers can begin the process of resolving the program, the site and the concept into a cohesive and successful design. That process of design resolution relies on the ever expanding set of design theory and design principle tools. We add more tools to the tool box if we continue to grow as designers.
One of my favorite landscape design theory tools is ‘the gesture’. A design gesture is a sweeping movement directing the experience toward a note of significance. Gestures can be subtle in approach and create a surprising discover. Such is the case with the long arch of a gravel path, elegantly defined with a simple border planting, sweeping around to an unseen groove of mystery. That would be an intimate and even personal type of gesture in the landscape. At the other end of the spectrum, an allee in the garden design creates a very formal and directed experience. Gestures can be playful, majestic, axiomatic, or illusional just to specify a few of the possible ways to use the gesture tool in design. A gesture is an implication that does not spell out the exact nature of the intent. It is one of my favorite tools used in choreographing landscape design.
This article is the first another entry in an ongoing exploration of landscape design theory. I am a designer and a builder. I find joy, satisfaction and a place to contribute to the world in the practice of design and construction. I will continue to write about design tools such as ‘the gesture’. It is a process of sharing ideas and working through my own thinking. If you enjoy this journey and would like to interact on an individual level, please send me an email through the company website contact information form or at info@GardenDesignInc.com.
An outdoor kitchen is a well used addition to any outdoor living spaces. After all, families spend most of their time in the kitchen, so why not get that gathering outside. The outdoor kitchen design can range from a simple grill station to a complex design with all the elements of an indoor kitchen. The biggest factor in the design is the budget so let’s look at the basic elements and costs.
The first element of an outdoor kitchen is the base which will hold the appliances and countertop. The most economical kitchen bases are built on concrete slabs with steel or wood frames and exterior grade sheathing. A higher quality base is built with concrete block on a concrete frost footer. The exterior of either structure can be covered with wood, stucco, tile or stone with natural stone being the most expensive. Expect to spend anywhere from five thousand to fifteen thousand or more on your outdoor kitchen base.
The range of potential outdoor kitchen appliances is vast, so we will stick to the basics. The outdoor kitchen starts with the grill. If you are going through the expense of building a kitchen, you are going to want a professional quality grill, built with high quality stainless steel, very high cooking heat potential and excellent long term durability. A medium size high quality grill will cost around three to four thousand dollars. The next requirements are stainless steel cabinetry for utility drawers, trash drawers, and storage space which will add another thousand or so to the project. Beyond those basics, you can add refrigerators, sinks, beverage centers, side burners, griddles, smokers and more spending upwards of fifteen thousand or more on outdoor kitchen appliances.
The last elements of the outdoor kitchen are the countertop and the utilities. Granite countertops are by far the most popular and will cost anywhere from twenty five hundred to sixty five hundred or more depending on the kitchen size. When you add the costs for a licensed electrician and plumber, an outdoor kitchen will cost anywhere from fifteen to forty thousand or more depending on the size and the elements included.
If you are considering a swimming pool, start by calling a qualified landscape architect or designer who has experience with custom swimming pool designs. If you call a pool construction company first, they will encourage you to install one of the standard pool shapes that are easiest and cheapest to build. The pool company will also encourage you to put the pool in the easiest place to build it. Sometimes those are the right answers, but most of the time some more thorough and professional landscape design attention could be applied to the project. If you are looking for a custom swimming pool that is fully incorporated into your total outdoor living design, then a landscape architect is the right person to work with. However, it is important that you review the designer’s previous work and make sure they have experience with outdoor living projects and custom swimming pools. Not all landscape designers are created equal and many landscape architects have little if any skill with residential outdoor living projects. The most skilled landscape and custom swimming pool designers tend to be associated with landscape design companies who also manage landscape construction projects. The designers and project managers have learned from firsthand experience the elements of design that are most successful in a built project and result in the greatest quality outdoor living spaces.
Once you have hired a qualified landscape designer for your swimming pool project, then it is time to review the elements, character and locations of the swimming pool in relation to the other elements of a landscape master plan. Will an outdoor kitchen be integrated into the project? If so, will the outdoor kitchen be in the swimming pool area of associated with another outdoor living space at the back patio of the house? Will there be a pool house or pool side cabana either now or in the future? Is the pool meant for lots of family activity and play? If so, then there needs to be plenty of pool decking in various areas around the pool to accommodate outdoor dining areas, outdoor furniture arrangements, chaise lounges, umbrellas and kids toys. Or maybe the pool is a classic design surrounded by lawn and meant as an architectural feature in the garden. Such a swimming pool may be ideal for a swimming pool that is more often viewed than actually used. Will there be fire features around the pool? How does the overall landscape lighting plan fit into the swimming pool lighting plan?
The above questions and concerns are part of the approach a professional landscape designer or landscape architect will take when designing a swimming pool with a client. This approach tends to dig far deeper into the entire range of design considerations required to design the most successful swimming pool project. Then once the pool is designed, the client is open to interview multiple swimming pool companies in order to get the best product at the best price. Garden Design Inc. has the professional design experience to guide you in this process. Call Frederick and ask to review his portfolio of swimming pool designs and installations.
There is nothing more refreshing than a cool swim on a hot summer day. If you are thinking about building a custom pool, the first step is to pick a landscape architect or a professional landscape designer. Do not start with a pool contractor. Very few pool contractors employ landscape design professionals who are trained to look at the big picture of the entire project in the context of the existing landscape, the house and the overall site. A professional landscape designer will work with you to answer a series of questions about the location, size, style and elements of the pool you desire and then incorporate that into a master plan for the project. Once the plans are complete, then it is time to get estimates from pool contractors, hardscape contractors for the decking around the pool, fencing contractors and landscape contractors. You may want to work with a designer from a professional landscape design & construction company since they will pull together all of the pricing into one contract then manage the entire project saving you time and money while ensuring the best result.
One of the first major decisions is where to locate the pool. Consider the opportunities and constraints of the property and how you see the pool being used. When will you be using the pool and where will the sun and shade will be during those times. Will the pool be an extension of the house where friends and family gather to play? Or is the pool its own outdoor room and a private destination? Often people are inclined to place the pool right out the back of the house. This can work well for families with children since the pool remains visible from inside. It may also fit your families entertaining style being closer to the house. Keep in mind thought that in colder climates the pool will be covered for many months and is not particularly attractive from the inside views. For this reason, you may choose to site your pool in a less central location and make the pool area a destination.
The form and the style of a pool should be based on your own personal preferences. Some people love the natural character of free form pools with boulder waterfalls, while others prefer the elegant sophistication of a rectilinear or formal pool. If the pool is going to be located in a direct relationship to the house, consider carrying the style of the homes architecture into the style of the pool design. If you have a home with a strong architectural character, a formal pool will generally be the most aesthetically appropriate. How the pool will be used may also influence the form. Free form pools work well when the pool is actively used by children because they tend to be more playful in character and provide dynamic interests when inside.
What elements do you want to incorporate into your pool? A spa is a popular element to include, but in colder climates the spa won’t be usable in the off season and for many people that is when a spa is most appealing. One option is to place the pool and spa in close proximity, but to separate the water and mechanical systems in order to use the spa year round. Sun ledges have grown in popularity. These are area of the pool that is 12” underwater, and big enough to place a lounge chair and umbrella. A beach entry eliminates the steps and creates a smooth transition into the pool that is especially nice for younger children. Waterfalls, spillways and water spouts can create visual and auditory interest. Playful options include slides, diving boards and dive rocks. Maybe you want to include a pool house or cabana providing some luxuries and amenities at the pool area.
If you are considering a swimming pool and want to enjoy it this year, then hire a design professional in the winter or early spring and get started. It can take two or three months to get the plans done, get the estimates together, hire contractors, and get the required permits to begin the actual construction.
Successful landscape projects require quality designs. This is true whether you are building a simple patio and walkway or an extravagant porch addition, pool, outdoor kitchen, fireplace project. Design is the process of unifying a range of factors including a family’s needs and desires, their budgets, natural elements of the property, and municipal building/zoning regulations. Plans are the designer’s tool for expressing everything from the concepts of the designs to the layout and the construction details. A skilled, professional designer and a quality set of plans will make a project smoother from the permit process though to the finishing details.
The first step is to choose a designer. That choice revolves around a potential candidate’s education, experience, creativity and chemistry. Does the designer have an accredited degree in landscape architecture or a related degree? How many projects has he designed and seen built? Does he have hands on experience with construction materials and techniques? Do examples of his work express a unique creativity in each project? Chemistry is the most important factor in choosing a designer, once you have determined a candidate is generally qualified. Design is a process of working together as a team from start to finish. Look for a designer who really listens to you, respects you, makes you feel comfortable and communicates well with you. Projects can be long and stressful at points, but the right designer will help the whole project go smoothly.
Design is a team effort. It starts with a conversation between client and designer. What are the family’s needs, what are their desires, what design ideas do they have, how do they currently use the spaces. During that initial conversation a designer may throw out some ideas, but the best ideas and true quality design requires a more reflective design process. The designer needs to survey the property and generate a base map of existing conditions, accurate and to scale. With an accurate base map, the design team can work out ideas with a series of trace paper overlays exploring a variety of possible design solutions in order to resolve a successful conceptual design. Once a concept design is complete, the design team can present the ideas to the clients. The clients will provide critical feedback that guides the process of revising designs. And so that cyclical process goes until a final design is resolved.
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