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How to Choose and Hire a Landscape Designer / Architect

All great landscapes begin with a great plan. Regardless of whether you are looking for landscaping on a new build, or a renovation / extension to an existing landscape, it’s extremely important to get all the details of the work on paper. Having a properly drawn and scaled landscape plan will lay out all the elements of your project, and will serve to eliminate any confusion that could arise between you and your landscape contractor. The contractor will know exactly what is expected, and the homeowner will know exactly what is included in the plan.

A well designed landscape design plan leads to spectacular results.
A well designed landscape design plan leads to spectacular results.

Ask Around

The first step in hiring a designer or landscape architect is to do some research. A great place to start is by asking friends and neighbors who they used in the process, and what their experience was like. A substantial amount of our clients are referred to us by other clients. If a company has taken good care of a customer, it’s a great sign you can expect the same.

Do Your Homework

An outdoor kitchen design for a residence in Black Forest, Colorado.
An outdoor kitchen design for a residence in Black Forest, Colorado.

The next step, or maybe the first if you are relocating, is to get online and start researching. A quick Google search for landscape design will bring up a number of businesses. Start by checking out their reviews, looking both at the quality and quantity of them. Visit the website of any business that caught your interest after looking at reviews. Check out their portfolios to see what you think. If you know you want something special, different, or custom, it’s not so important to see if the company has designed something like that before, but rather to see if there are a number of unique elements presented within their portfolio. If they are doing one of a kind features, they’ll probably be happy to take on any other custom element. Have a look at how long they’ve been in business, and if they are a Better Business Bureau accredited business. If they are, it’s a good idea to visit their page on the BBB’s website, where you might find additional reviews, and if they have any customer complaints.

A pergola design for a residence in Colorado Springs.
A pergola design for a residence in Colorado Springs.

As you’re reviewing a prospective designer, pay attention to whether you are looking at a freelance designer, or a design and build company. An independent designer will be able to put together a wonderful design for you, but they are probably not going to be able to provide you with any kind of pricing. What they should be able to do for you is provide you with a few landscape contractors they have worked with before that they believe are able to bring their vision to life. During the construction, the independent designer is typically not involved. A design and build company servers as both landscape design firm and a landscape contractor. When working with a design/build firm, a designer will be able to prepare your landscape design as well. They will also be able to provide pricing for the installation of the work laid out on their plan. When working with a design and build company, your designer typically helps with the project management to ensure the plan is implemented as intended.

Set Up a Consultation

A complete landscape design for a residence in Monument, Colorado.
A complete landscape design for a residence in Monument, Colorado.

Once you’ve done your research, set up a consultation with the firm you feel most comfortable with. This is a chance for you and the designer to walk your site together and discuss the project. You can let the designer know about your needs and desires for your outdoor living area. The designer should also be able to give you some general suggestions based on the site and their knowledge and experience. This is also your opportunity to get to know the designer, and get a feel if they are a good fit for you and your project. If they seem comfortable with the elements you are looking for, that’s a great sign. Also try to get a feel for the designer’s personality to make sure this is someone you’d like to work with. You can also ask for neighborhood references to see some of their other work in your area. By the end of this consolation, the designer should be able to provide you with an estimate for the cost of your design.

The aerial photo of this Broadmoor residence shows a plan brought to life.
The aerial photo of this Broadmoor residence shows a plan brought to life.

At this point, you should have clear idea if the designer you’ve met with is someone you feel comfortable working with. Between personal referrals and online reviews, you will have a clear idea what their previous clients think of the service and care provided. The online portfolio and neighborhood references will show you what their designs look like in the real world. If you have a good feeling about the designer, then all that’s left is to sign their design agreement and move forward with your landscape design. If you’re interested in a landscape design, have a look at our Design Process to learn more.