The First Meeting
Many people reach out right here and email us about their project. Others prefer to chat first and give us a call at 250.891.1608. After we have connected we set up a time to meet and tour your property.
The first meeting is a great opportunity to for Merle and Katie to listen to a new client’s ideas, answer questions and get familiar with your property. If we are meeting with a couple, both spouses need to be there. (For more on why this really matters, click here.)
When we meet with a new client , it is in its essence, an interview: we are have to prove ourselves experienced, trustworthy and creative.
Landscape design is such a personal expression of the clients tastes, aesthetics and values, that in order to get it right, we need to build a creative relationship with our clients. We listen, we tell stories, ask questions about their family and social lives. We talk about our experience and design ideas and influences and explain how our creative process works and what our clients can expect from us during the design and installation.
At that time, it becomes clear whether a landscape design is required (usually) or if an installation estimate will suffice. At the conclusion of the first meeting our clients will ask us to move forward with a landscape design or an estimate.
Designs & Estimates
The majority of our clients are looking for a complete transformation of their existing landscape and lots of design input. This is when a landscape design is important. There are usually logistics to consider and specific problems to solve and extensive changes to the property. A landscape design gives everyone a shared vision of the final product. Our designs are done in a CAD based software. They are to scale, with all hardscape and softscape details noted, plants labeled and reference photos are included with the plan.
A landscape design also serves a very practical purpose in pricing. It lets us get very specific in our estimating and pricing. It takes the guess work out of the pricing when, for example, we know exactly how much flagstone is needed for a patio, or how many yards of soil and gravel are need for a particular area. We aren’t charging our clients for ‘just in case’ scenarios. When we price from a landscape design we are able to give an actual hard quote for installation versus an estimate that may change as the details unfold.
In some instances, our clients know precisely what they would like and it is clear that their ideas are well thought out, doable and our design services aren’t needed. This is when we offer an estimate. The estimate is our educated best guess. It is based on approximate measurements, quantities and material pricing and the labour involved. It is usually pretty accurate, but without the amount of detail that comprise our final contract price.
Once the landscape design is completed, we present it to the clients. We discuss any revisions, staging options and pricing. This is a collaborative process. Some clients prefer to do the installation all at once as it is more cost effective than breaking it up, but others choose to complete it in stages as their schedule allows. Either way is great!
With the final scope and budget decisions made, we sign a fixed price contract and then officially put that project on our calendar!
As a homeowner ourselves, we understand that it’s hard to know all the factors involved in home improvements, renovations and landscaping. It can be easy to think that if you tell a contractor your budget that they will see dollar signs and inflate their prices accordingly. Alternatively, some people think that a budget will limit the creativity of the design.
Please let me dispel those myths. As designers, we dream big and usually those dreams have big price tags. Most of the time, we have to scale back our ideas to fit the client’s budget. However if we know the client’s budget in advance, we can talk what would offer the most value, the best bang for their buck. For example, this might mean focussing only on an outdoor living/dining area, maybe including a fire instead of redoing the entire yard. That way, the enjoyment and usability of the property are addressed, and replacing an ugly fence get deferred to a later date.
We always offer the option to create a design to fit a budget. That way we can design a landscape that our client knows in advance, that they can afford. Rarely, do clients ever take us up on that offer. Usually they prefer to see the potential and possibilities that their property holds and then find out what it would cost to do it.
Sometimes the process of scaling back can be quite difficult. For example, we have presented clients with a design that they loved, that ticked all the boxes, an instant “YES!” only to discover that they had had a budget number in mind all along that would only cover a third of the project. It was heartbreaking to watch this couple realize that their dream was out of reach.
We are always happy to tweak and revise a landscape design to better fit a client’s budget, but there are limits to how much a design can be scaled back and still retain any sense of intent or planning.
Logistically, certain aspects need to be done at certain times as the realities of using heavy equipment, material quantities and accessibility dictate where tasks fall in the installation order. It doesn’t make sense to put a new lawn in one year and then a retaining wall the next because the equipment needed to build the wall would destroy the lawn. In reality, these installation stages don’t always line up with a staged budget.
So, the bottom line (heh heh) is that we have no desire to run away with your budget. We want to create a landscape you love, and that is attainable. We want you to be thrilled with your new landscape, we want you to spend more time outside with friends and family, relaxing and enjoying your outdoor space, not missing what you can’t have.