Designing during a pandemic

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Working at home, playing at home.

Last March there were a few weeks of panic for me when I wasn't sure how this coronavirus would affect my job. I extended my low season pricing until June to 'help people out' who might be worried about spending money during a pandemic. Turns out when people are stuck at home and can't spend money on vacations, sporting events, going out to eat or kids sports/lessons they want to invest in their home. The season picked up a little later than it normally does but the summer proceeded with business as usual. The one exception was that I had all my consults outdoors and stopped doing the coffee at the kitchen table portion of my site visits. It worked well and I was able to keep my clients and myself safe by limiting or avoiding close contact with the many people I dealt with over the rest of 2020. 

Above: This yard design began in the fall to plan for the following summer install.

Then when September came around and I would typically notice a slow down the phone kept ringing and the emails were flowing in like it was spring. Most homeowners recognized that planning in advance would be key if they wanted their project done right. Planning well in advance applies to any year but in 2020 we saw prices of materials go up and supply chains get crushed stressing how important it was to not wait until the last minute. That is why I decided to write a long overdue blog post about the need to plan those projects in advance to secure your materials, designer or contractor. On an average year I would be calmly working on the few winter designs I have while waiting for the spring rush. Instead I am feverishly finishing up the many plans on my desk so I can stay on track for what will now be the 'busier season' (formerly known as the busy season). My March schedule is full with only a couple of spots left in April which has never happened this early in my 11 years as a designer.

Above:  Seating areas for all four season have become extremely popular this last year.

Tips & tricks

Here are a few things you can do to prepare for your outdoor project...

  • Plan 4-6 months ahead Decide when you want the install to happen and have your plan finished 4 months prior to that. This might mean calling a designer 6 months prior to install if you are getting a design. 

  • Order early If you know you are doing a patio or deck call early to buy or order your materials. Even if you think it is absurdly early the supplier will tell you it is and when a better time to order or buy would be. Better too early than not getting the product you want at all!

  • List the plants Decide on the plants but select 1-2 alternatives in case they don't have or can't get what you want. If you won't be ready to plant until July it might be worth discussing your list with a greenhouse so they can get your plants on their next order.

  • Know your budget Do some research on costs before you call an installer or designer: This can alleviate you planning your dream yard and then getting quotes later only to find out it is 40k above your budget. 

  • Be flexible I think this is important with any project whether it is a pandemic or not but these days it is espcially important. Timelines change, materials are tough to get so be ready to adjust if need be.

Above: Sitting by the fire visiting friends and family at a safe distance has been a great way to stay connected this winter.

Be prepared

Inevitably people will call me in April and be shocked that I'm booked until July but in order to change that reaction I have to do my part to educate people. You wouldn't start building a house without a plan or expect to start breaking ground 1 month after you make up your mind to do it. Rennovating indoors or out should be no different than building from the ground up. Spring is only a few short months away and what better way to get through the winter than prepping for summer? 

Giving yourself time to make thoughtful decisions about your project will ensure you are happy with the landscaping for many years to come!