Design Process Part 1: Client Connection & Creative Design

Fireside seating inside transitional cabana

When we set out to design a landscape, we know we are designing a lived experience that is perfectly unique to your lifestyle and your passions – In short, the landscape of your dreams.  On a daily basis we mix dreams with reality, in order to visualize a world that doesn’t exist yet, and then we make that world real in every way.  Sounds magical, right?  We think so.  This three-part series explains our entire process – The magical and the practical moments along this journey from dream to life.  So sit down and stay a while.  We’d love to have you along for the journey. 

Real-World Connection

Shade garden with one dead shrub

Wknow that even dream landscapes exist in the real world, on an existing site, and within some kind of budget.  Most importantly, they exist for real people.  That’s why our design process always starts with getting to know our clients.  Basically, we want to get to know you really well!  Our client setup and questionnaire are designed for us to get to know you, your dream landscape, and your ideal investment in your property. 

timber stairs and stone walls in natural landscape

Next, property research on your site informs us of the existing conditions where the landscape will go.  There’s the practical aspects such as existing structures and grades, as well as the legal aspects of codes, regulations, HOA CC&Rs, setbacks, and permitting requirements.  If that sounds intense, don’t worry!  We do all this research and generate a site plan for every landscape we design, so while we may need some documents from you, we’ll take care of the rest. 

Based on getting to know your dreams and your site, we sit down with you in person or virtually for what we like to call the ‘Game Plan Meeting.’  Just like that little huddle before the big game, but maybe without the huddle.  Here we talk big picture:  We make sure we’re all on the same page, let you know of anything that may affect your desired landscape, and give you a sense of what we think the landscape is likely to approach in cost.  Now that we’ve taken care of that, we can move on to the fun! 

Creative CLP

Tranquil mountain lake in high Sierras

The moment we first meet our clients and visit the site either in person or virtually, the design process begins From information gathered we start to see possibilities.  Whether we are at our desks or at the gym, your landscape is being formed as we visualize what your space can become.   

Inspiration can strike in many different ways.  Nature is forever our favorite designer, and many a J.Montgomery landscape has been inspired by a trip to the High Sierras, or a quiet walk along one of Danville’s trails.  Of course, we also have our favorite Artists and Landscape Architects who spark creative ideas.  In this stage of design, anything is possible!  While all details are not yet determined, big priorities are the flow of space and how the landscape will function and feel. 

Conceptual design showing idea for patio

This all culminates in what we call around here a CLP, or Conceptual Landscape Plan.  Above is a cropped image of a CLP showing the initial phase of a patio design.  You can see that some of our thinking process is included here – The importance of a single-level patio and the ability to bring entertaining outdoors were priorities in this part of the landscape.  We also include a Vision Board in this step – Photos that demonstrate what the landscape will look like, since it can be hard to decode these plans.  

After a few weeks of design time, we are ready to present these ideas and plans to you in our Design Meeting.  Often our clients need a little time to envision and understand the design.  If needed following this meeting, we offer hand-rendered drawings as well as Virtual Reality experiences to clarify important areas if needed.  Finally, we expect for every design to need refinements at least once!  So anything that you don’t absolutely love in your design we will edit until you absolutely love it, of course.   

Next week we will explore the second phase of design:  Construction Documents and Details.  Thank you as always for reading and have a great week! 

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