The designer advantage


A Pinterest-worthy yard, made possible with the help of a landscape architect

NEST Editor Alex Klein talks shop with Landscape Architect Jeff Allen

“Pin, pin, pin, pin, pin.”

The comedian Iliza Shlesinger has a bit in her latest comedy special, Feezing Hot, about falling down the rabbit hole on Pinterest and her subsequent descent into madness that is over-the-top and hilarious — but like all good comedy, there more than a smidge of truth at its core.

Often while on Pinterest looking at ideas to spruce up the weed-infested concrete wasteland that is my backyard, I’ve pinned excessive amounts of landscape and garden ideas that in some blurry-edged dreamland I’m planning on carrying out with just my bare hands and creative genius.GateWeb

The outdoor day bed crafted from recycled pallets and remnant fabric; a vertical herb garden with green and lavender tendrils cascading down the sides (again, made from pallets!); paths of colored stone with bright moss peeking through the cracks; a garden fence made of salvaged doors… these DIY masterpieces taunt me from the Pinterest board I’ve created, called, “Outdoor DIY Idea Space,” and I happily keep pinning, waiting for the fantastic and impossible day I turn these ideas into my yard’s reality.

Of course, when I leave my vision board and walk onto my back deck to survey the scene, I have to admit that the current view is an eyesore, and I have neither the time nor the resources to make anything positive happen back there on my own.

When I was working on NEST’s 2016 Style Guide, I came across Jeff Allen, of Jeff Allen Landscape Architecture or JALA. He had great advice and while looking over his portfolio, I had a major case of yard envy. So I approached Jeff this month to talk to him about my own yard dreams and find out more about the benefits of hiring a landscape architect.

Professional help

Jeff didn’t laugh at my DIY fantasies, but he did suggest I focus my vision on creating value in my landscape. A well-designed yard can increase a home’s worth by up to 15 percent. Plants, stone and other design elements are relatively fixed to the current market price, but Jeff states that a good landscape designer “should be able to obtain the best materials at the best price effectively and efficiently.” As a budget-conscious consumer, that sounded pretty sweet.CourtyardWeb

According to Jeff a landscape architect should bring several items to the table, including “expertise, professional accreditation, liability insurance, and dedication to their craft.” Jeff feels that communication is a biggie as well. A designer should listen closely to the functional and aesthetic desires of a client, as well as their budgetary needs, in order to design a space that takes both into consideration. My upcycled pallet dreams may not be the best way to add long-term value to my yard, but quite a few of my Pinterest fantasies are, including an herb garden and the stone pathway with moss tufts growing through the cracks. Having a professional like Jeff walk me through the entire process from concept to construction negates the stress that would otherwise be involved if I were going it alone.

Keep the dream alive

Jeff also talks about post-construction, which he feels is equally as important as design, since landscape is a “living system that requires care and is changing as it develops.”WigodskyWeb

“I enjoy this phase as I revisit many gardens I have designed to see how they have grown in,” he says.

Jeff wants to ensure his clients are enjoying their new outdoor kitchens, terraces and herb gardens. He loves to ask, “Have we created a positive impact on your life?” The affirmative response to that question is the proof of a job well done.

Jeff credits the “quality of a well-managed landscape and garden,” with the overall value of an investment. A poorly maintained yard will eventually cost more money in repairs and possibly reconstruction, which is something that no homeowner wants to deal with. I have visions of my fantastical and pitifully executed DIY attempts crumbling in my backyard; all those imagined labor-hours and resources gone to waste.

I give my “pinning” finger a rest. I’m ready to accept professional help.

To contact or for more information:

1000 West 5th Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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Editor in chief. Also, I drive the truck to go get the papers.