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Renovating my House

Professionals Know When to Avoid the Obvious

By 09/09/2012May 3rd, 202018 Comments

Update | Spring 2020

We are in month number four, since we’ve moved into our new house and many of you know, we’re completely re-designing the front and back yard this Spring, one third of our backyard is concrete and it’s coming out. If you’re interested in seeing the entire landscape of our yard in all it’s untouched glory, it’s all here in my flickr account.

Front Yard: Before | Spring 2012

Update, here’s my front garden AFTER:

Spring 2020

One of my favourite quotes is: “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur”. I would never attempt to get my landscape re-done without the help of a landscape designer.

You become good at what you focus on, I have spent more than 10,000 hours focused on colour, interiors and decorating and that’s what I’m good at. And I would want someone who has the same kind of expertise focused on my garden!

Maryanne White is my fabulous designer, she’s in New York and has been following my blog for awhile. I am so lucky to be able to work with her on my home. It’s hard to find good designers in any industry, once you find one who has your aesthetic, get busy and hire them, even if it’s just for a consultation. You will be so happy you did!

Within days, she drew these up for me so I could see her vision  and I have been dreaming about our soon-to-be-fabulous front and backyard ever since. Once my yard matches the interior of my house in the look and feel, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to move.

First, here is the backyard sketch:

My studio is the building on the left, the boxes beside the studio will be our vegetable garden. There will be a row of blueberry bushes along the cedar hedge in the back to cover the bare areas at the bottom of the cedar hedges. I love blueberries, during the season, I regularly buy 10 pounds at a time just to munch on.

A Holly bush will go on the left to cover the even bigger bare spot in the cedar hedge where there used to be an additional shed before we demolished it, immediately upon taking possession.


The only thing that will remain in the backyard will be the two existing large trees. I love the way she designed the one closest to the shed to be included in one of the flower beds. I think the current bed designed in a circle around the tree looks so contrived and obvious.

And this is what we do without a professional right? We choose complicated tile because we don’t have enough experience to know that simple is the most beautiful and timeless. We choose a charcoal sofa because suddenly we second guess our favourite colour and mistakenly assume that the trendy choice is the right one.

The obvious is usually what a professional goes out of their way to avoid.

Maryanne drew two ideas for the front yard. This one is curvy with boxwood running along the new path.

She said the reason she started the new walkway beside the driveway is so that when you get out of the car you aren’t stepping into a garden bed.

And here’s the thing. I never thought for a second that we should take out the front walk. There’s so much concrete coming out of our yard already, adding the front walk to the demolition just did not occur to me. I thought we’d do some curvy beds on the left side of the front yard and in front of the house and call it a day.

But Maryanne saw the view from our front yard (above) and also included a bench as part of the path design.

I can’t imagine it any other way now. It’s now so completely obvious!


I really love this more contemporary plan. The right angled boxwood planted in the front which repeat the angle of the windows on the house. She sent me this image as an inspiration photo:


Maryanne, drew a fence to the left of the garage where we’ll enter the pathway to the backyard. And there will be another one close to the bench so that it doesn’t feel like we are sitting beside the garage while enjoying our morning coffee with the view. Also, there’s another decorative fence at the bottom of the sketch with another rounded garden bed.


She sent me this image as inspiration (above) for the design of the fence.

In front of my living room window, she suggested we install a concrete urn (below). Just like an accessory in the interior of your home.

After she emailed the sketches we talked on the phone for two hours and I learned so much about the world of professional landscape design, I can’t wait to share more with you as we progress!


One more thing about designers in general. As a designer of interiors and colour, when I consult with a client and they say things like “Wow I never would have thought of that, or You are totally worth your fee”, I always expect to feel the same way when I’ve hired a consultant to help me.

If something lands on my desk and I have to start re-designing it myself, that’s when I know I am not dealing with someone either who has my aesthetic or who has enough experience.

I’m always expecting and praying that I’m about to say “Wow, love it, I never would have thought of that”, and it’s extremely frustrating when I realize I have clearly not found the right person for that particular job.

When you’ve been doing something long enough and now you’re the expert, you know when you should avoid the obvious and when suggesting the obvious (ie. simple and uncomplicated) is the perfect and only way to go.


And that my lovelies, is when you know something beautiful is about to happen.

Related posts:

My Landscape Project this Fall

How I Became a True Expert

One More Reason Why you Should Skip Accent Tiles Altogether

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones to learn how to get colour to do what you want.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.


Republishing this article in full or in part is a violation of copyright law. © 2008-2012, all rights reserved.


33 pins


  • I am going to really enjoy following your landscaping story. I’m as interested in landscaping as I am in interior design. It’s SO important and SO overlooked.

    Your comments on the value of a professional are very well stated. And the litmus test of “I never would have thought of that” is a good one to remember. Usually an initial conversation will tell you if you’re sympatico and if the person really is a pro, but we’ve probably all made mistakes with hiring. So glad you found the right person. It’s going to be gorgeous!

    The urn in front of the window: I never would have thought of that!

  • Debbiecz says:

    You’ve found a gem in Karen. The front fence will look perfect as an accent to that great view.

  • Mary from Virginia, USA says:

    WOW, these ideas are so lovely. I cannot wait for you to get started. Congratulations on your new home and about to be new landscape. I am happy for you to have found such a wonderful designer.

  • So many obvious things I would never have thought of – the bench in the front, the fence in the front garden, the urn. It does pay to work with a designer! Can’t wait to see the results.

  • karen says:

    Does the lanscape designer have a web site?

  • Susan@Susan Silverman Designs says:

    I totally agree with you about hiring a professional. My expertise is in interiors, not landscape. But I do so love a beautiful landscape. The only problem here in the GTA (believe it or not) is finding someone that is truly a landscape design professional and not just someone who thinks they are. I’ve been trying for years to get a proper design for my backyard and haven’t had one that suits my aesthetics. Its a good thing we back onto a beautiful forest. My front yard is beautiful but small and narrow. (We live in an end unit townhouse). I did the design for the stone walkway and raised bed and I had the bed done by a landscape designer. I didn’t like the design she did for the backyard. Too busy and complicated for my lack of gardening expertise.

    Your design is beautiful…..can’t wait to see the end result.

    • Angela says:

      You are so right. I have had three different landscape companies work in my yard and I’ve never been completely happy with any of them. Just because people work for a landscape company doesn’t mean they know what they are doing!

      • Charlie says:

        I completely agree. Just because you can dig a hole and water in a tree, does not make you a landscape designer! I have had similar disappointments with “landscapers.”

  • SandyCGC says:

    Maria, checked back to your post of 05/11/12 when you expressed how challenged you felt about the landscaping because it wasn’t your area of expertise. Of course you did the exactly right thing – looked for and found a designer whose expertise IS landscaping, and your “outside” is on its way to being magnificent. What I love most is the inspiration pics Maryanne sent along with her renderings. I can already “see” your yard in my mind and it’s gorgeous, and I know it’ll be even more so when it’s finished and you send us the after pictures. Looking forward eagerly!

  • Janet says:

    Broken concrete can make a beautiful path or patio. It looks nice with the smooth side up or the rough side up.

  • Karen says:

    Wow, She has nailed it down. I cannot wait to see pics of the install and the completed project. Who is doing the work, since this is being done long distance?

  • Marion says:

    Hi Maria:

    Love the curves in these landscape designs. They will warm up your house amazingly. You will be so happy with them. I also like that there is just enough contrast with some formality, some straight lines – like the small fence and bench. I can absolutely see the shared style aesthetic. Like others, I look forward to watching this unfold!

  • mollie duvall says:

    Maria, the design looks lovely. We renovated our front yard landscape this summer and included a very large (3 1/2ft. tall and 30in. in diameter) urn in the design. I love it as a focal point. I am planning on using it as a large floral arrangement which will be changed out seasonally. This week I put in the fall arrangement which includes a tall grass, flowering kale, yellow mums, yellow and purple pansies and a pumpkin.

    So smart of you to hire a professional to help. Have fun and enjoy the process!

  • Donna Frasca says:

    I have a friend who’s a landscape designer and we exchange services. She gave me great ideas now I just have to find time and money to do it all!

  • Charlie says:

    Where have you been all my life? Seriously, I wish we were neighbors. I love your design, your explanations, and the way it feels to read your blog. As if I’m listening/talking with a friend.

  • Jack London says:

    Thanks for share. Good lucks for you

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