A Vienna, Virginia, project by Surrounds, Inc.

Design Inspiration

Planning the perfect outdoor-living space

Whether your idea of bliss is relaxing with a good book or enjoying an afternoon with friends, a beautiful backyard is the perfect setting. But how do you transform that plain-vanilla suburban lawn into a versatile outdoor-living environment?

Start with a Daydream and a Notebook

  • Imagine how you’d like to spend time outdoors at different times of the day. Would you prefer a Zen moment gazing at the rippling surface of a pond, or some early morning yoga? Maybe you’d love a cutting garden or fragrant herbs just outside the kitchen door.
  • Write down your preferences, then do a little research. Take advantage of online resources like Houzz and Pinterest. Keep notes about what you like and why. This preparation will help you communicate your ideas to the landscape-design professionals who will bring them to life.

Ask Yourself Why
Beautiful landscapes are for living–not just for show. You may want a swimming pool, covered patio, koi pond or waterfall–but what really matters are the experiences you envision in these special outdoor places.

Give Yourself Time to Explore
Take your time figuring out what you want during the inspiration stage to ensure that you’ll know your priorities when it comes time for planning.

Share Your Thoughts with a Professional
You’ll need to find a landscape architect or designer to help refine your ideas. They’ll advise you on the feasibility of design elements, guide you through concept development and shape broad ideas into the specific and detailed decisions you’ll need to make later. They should be able to organize your ideas into a coherent plan that meets your budget.

Choose a Landscape Architect
Exchanging ideas with a professional early in the exploratory process is your best guarantee of success. But how do you know if a landscape architect is a good fit for you? Below are keys to making that important decision:

  • Connection and trust: Will your landscape architect be able to convert your inspiration into reality? Does he or she listen, ask questions and give feedback?
  • Portfolio: Look carefully at their work. How were the ideas in each project developed? How will the designer work with you to develop your ideas?
  • Visit projects: Images cannot tell you what it feels like to experience an outdoor space.
  • Talk to previous clients: Ask how the process went. Did the landscaper transform their ideas into reality?

From Dream to Design Fulfillment
You want your backyard landscape to be part of your daily lifestyle. To get there, take your time and get inspired. Choose a professional who can weave your creative impulses into a practical plan. It will become the outdoor environment you’ve been dreaming of.

Barry Schneider is a partner at Surrounds, Inc.