Five basic, but seriously important, questions to ask yourself when designing your outdoor space

So i know we are going into the winter months now, but it is never too late, or too early to be preparing for your outdoor design. Thought maybe it might be helpful to back up and offer something so basic but so important this week.

Here are the five most basic but critical questions you need to ask yourself when designing your own outdoor space:

ONE: How well do I know my site?

Like choosing a husband or wife, the more you actually know about the existing physical nature of your site beforehand, the better off you will be.  Is it sunny maybe its partially shady? Are you in a dry climate or maybe its very wet? Maybe you have pain in the ass neighbors that require some major screening? Or maybe even a giant puddle of water in your backyard when it rains because there is a lowpoint and so you’ll need to re-grade. The more you know at the outset, the more it will help inform your design process.


TWO: What’s my Budget?

Alright, so I know this is not everyone’s favorite aspect of a project, but having a budget at the beginning is in fact a good idea.  Lots of people will whine and say, “ Well I don’t know what things cost. So how can I have a budget?”  What you need to do is prioritize. Price the critical things first, then if the cost seems overwhelming, either scale back, or phase the project over time.  As a quick note to self, materials like natural woods and stone cost more, but they also look better and last way longer.


THREE: How am I ACTUALLY going to be using my garden?

Ok so most people get very excited thinking about all of the outdoor parties, floppy hats, sundresses and Sancerre, and the fresh veggies on the table which is all quite fabulous, but you need to ask yourself: what does is my life, really? Do I have kids? Do I have dogs? Do I have kids that act like dogs? Thinking about how messy your life actually is can make for a cleaner and more efficient design because you are considering the reality of your ways up front and designing to accommodate that messy reality.


FOUR: What style should my garden be? 

As much as you possibly can, your garden should be thought of an extension of your home. Not literally an extension—but stylistically. So if you have a home that is built in a certain architectural style, maybe modern or maybe it’s more traditional, it can actually serve to inform the style of the garden. You can bring materials, like stone or wood from the inside out into your garden for a blurred transition between inside to the outside.


FIVE: is just plain old Editing.  

So maybe a tree is in the wrong spot and it needs to go. Or maybe it’s a fence or even a driveway? Figuring out what existing elements are getting in the way of your intent or aesthetic can be tricky, but if you have a clear idea of what your design goals are it makes for an easier process and more successful design in the end.