Landscape Design…Online

Text by Kaitlin Madden Photography by Susan Teare


Proof that no industry is immune to the power of technology: even landscape design, traditionally an in-person, on-site service, can now be delivered online…and with impressive results.

For years, having your yard designed meant nothing less than hiring a local professional to come to your home, survey your property, draw up a plan, and map out an installation, often over the course of a few months and multiple face-to-face encounters.

Today, that entire design process can be done online, thanks in large part to an innovative idea from Vermont-based Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio. The award-winning studio created the Home Outside brand in 2012 to give homeowners everywhere easy access to the expert landscape design help they need while reaping the cost savings of online design.

An Affordable Master Plan

The Home Outside platform offers a comprehensive experience that allows customers near and far to work with an excellent landscape designer without ever meeting in person. People can browse design samples on the Home Outside website, purchase a service, submit all their information and preferences, meet with their designer, and get a master plan for their whole property—all from their home computer.

Jennifer Silver, communications manager at the firm, says there are a few mindsets driving the growth of Home Outside. For one, using a remote service can save clients money over traditional landscape design. “We had a customer in rural Washington State who said that there weren’t many local designers in the area, so she would have had to pay travel fees and expenses to anyone she wanted to hire,” Silver explains.

Other clients are simply after a higher quality of work that they can’t find nearby; Home Outside designs are creative, elegant, and functional. But perhaps the largest draw is a shift in how people today like to work. “We have clients who hire us because they’re used to working online,” says Silver. “A lot of our clients are attracted to online design because they don’t have to schedule a meeting with the contractor, and then wait for them to come to the site and walk through the space. They can email us late at night with their ideas, and get a high-quality design without having to leave their house or make time to have someone come over.”

How it Works

The process takes place entirely within the Home Outside platform. “Our remote clients choose from a partial or full property design, and fill out online workbooks giving us all of the information we need to design their property. We ask about things like existing landscape features, particular problems they want us to solve, maintenance needs, and their general aesthetic preferences,” Silver explains. Then, clients share property photos and get paired with a designer who is experienced in their location and hardiness zone.

Perhaps the most innovative part of the design process is the way in which the firm can create a base plan of the property without ever seeing it up close. “The client never has to go out in their yard with a tape measure. If the homeowner doesn’t have a plan or survey for the property, the technology we’ve created can use satellite data to set the scale for the design,” Silver says. “We create a base plan and check with the client to make sure we get everything right before we begin designing.”

The process includes screen-sharing calls to discuss the design ideas and get client feedback. The result is a conceptual design that shows where to place everything the client wants for their property. The final package includes a printable full-color 11-by-17-inch PDF of the design along with detailed explanatory notes and an image board that illustrates the design ideas and types of plants, materials, and furnishings.

Planting Design Help

A client can also get further help from Home Outside with choosing specific plant varieties, overseeing installation, or sourcing plant material. “With the initial concept plan we start with the big picture, which includes general planting recommendations,” Silver says. “With a detailed planting plan, we give specific plant varieties and show exactly where to place them.”

Interested in working with Home Outside? The company’s scope ranges from small urban patios to suburban backyards to rural and waterfront properties. You can purchase a full property plan or a partial property plan for a front or backyard. If you just have a few questions for a landscape expert, you can use Home Outside’s Ask an Expert service for a phone consultation. Pricing is available on the Home Outside website.

For over 40 years, JMMDS has been designing landscapes of beauty and meaning for institutions and residential clients. Owner and principal designer Julie Moir Messervy is the author of eight books on landscape design and the designer of many special gardens, including Tenshin-en at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Toronto Music Garden (in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma).

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