Have you ever had this happen to you? You hire a designer, consult with them on all the decisions you need to make. All is well. They leave, and then the contractor, painter, tiler. . . in other words the trades who will be executing your project, arrive on the scene.
You tell them what you want and they say “That can’t be done or that’s a bad idea, or I’ve never done it that way before”. . . and then, you change the decision you made with the designer because you think maybe the person who installs it every day must know better.
Or another phenomenon happens. You have this great guy taking out your bathroom and installing a new one.
You see him every day.
You buy him coffee and donuts.
After all, you want him to like you, you want him to think you respect his opinion because you want him to do a good job for you.
So you ask for his point of view. After all, he knows this is not your area of expertise.
And he gives it to you. The designer is not around, so you go with your contractors opinion.
And then, in the end, it’s not as perfect as it should have been.
Well the same thing happened to me, except I know the pitfalls and I know exactly what to do.
This is what you say when your contractor, painter, tiler, hardwood floor installer offers up his opinion.
You say “This is the way my designer wants it done”.
That’s how you get what you want and at the same time, still be pals with the guy getting the job done.
Make the designer the heavy. It’s perfectly fine. It’s the way it should be done.
The trades will roll their eyes because the designer is not the one actually doing the job, therefore, she/he has no compassion.
It doesn’t matter, it still ends up looking the way that it should if you listen to your designer.
If you don’t do that, it’s just your opinion, vs. his. The guy who does this every day. It’s harder to win that one on your own (maybe).
In the Spring of 2013, we installed a brand new garden.
See this concrete above and this bald spot in the cedar? Well we had a huge Rhododendron sitting in the middle of the backyard (above right) and my LA, Mary Anne and I had decided the best solution to cover this area was to move it right in front of the big empty spot that you see here.
Before we hired Kyle Dupuis, the awesome landscaper who did our installation, we had other contractors come by to give us quotes and discuss our project.
After we told one contractor what we were doing with the Rhododendron he said:
“If you move that shrub over to the area where the concrete was, it will kill the Rhododendron!”.
“Oh really? I said, “I’m really glad you told us that”.
So then I called MaryAnne and told her what happened.
She said “How long has that concrete been sitting there?”
“About 7-8 years”, I said.
“Well any lime that will have leached out into the soil will be long gone, how many Rhododendrons have you seen sitting beside concrete walls or beside sidewalks? she asked.
“Oh. Well good”. I said.
Before the vegetable garden fence was installed.
Here’s how it looks now. It wasn’t always this pretty. When the contractor who did the demolition moved it, I was out of town leading my Colour Training in Toronto.
When I came back and saw how it had been installed (above), I asked him to come over with his excavator and move it again.
It took probably around 1 1/2 hours to get it exactly right. As you can see by the first image, it’s the size of a tree so the only way it could be moved was using a bobcat. And It was actually three shrubs that had grown together and that’s the way I liked it.
So that’s the way it looked in the end but it wasn’t without a little drama, haha. He was totally great about it.
Why was it so important that it be positioned just perfectly?
Because we look at it every single day from the family room and kitchen which face the backyard.
You might think something your contractor is doing is “No big deal” in the moment. But trust me, you pay hundreds and thousands of dollars and it ends up being installed wrong or it’s the wrong colour? Now you’re cranky.
Much easier to live with something ugly that you inherited from the previous homeowner, rather than something ugly you’ve paid for with your hard, earned money.
MaryAnne says you look less like a farmer if you install a fence to define your vegetable garden from the flower garden. Not that there’s anything wrong with looking like a farmer. I’ll save that for my next property. Everything is so visual from the house here.
The fence had just been installed when I had some clients arrive to work with me in my studio for the afternoon.
They asked if the shed in the corner of the garden was a guest house. No one asked me that before the fence was installed ; )
These are Knockout Roses, they bloom until Christmas. Terreeia complained that we didn’t have any colour in our white garden so Maryanne said, “Get the yellow ones”. We love them!
See the burgundy leaves from the Japanese plum tree? This corner of the garden is North and the huge purple tree just made it darker in the winter. Last fall when Terreeia and I were raking and raking and raking the leaves, I said to her “Do you like this tree?” She said “No, I hate it”.
So I emailed MaryAnne and asked her if we should just have it removed. The subject line of her return email said “Off with her head!”
It looks so much better gone. Since we removed the tree I noticed that almost every house I drive by has a burgundy tree in the yard so one day I asked her “Are purple trees to you like espresso brown sofas are to me?” She said. yes. And then wrote a post about it here.
MaryAnne designed the garden bed to go around the existing maple tree. She does not draw circles around trees. I love the curves she designed all over my garden. She says she’s obsessed with them.
This corner used to be full of mossy grass because it doesn’t get any sun in the winter. Now it’s a lovely garden bed with a little pathway to the gate at the side of the house.
See this wrought iron obelisk? I’m currently getting two made that look like this these (below). One will replace the black one and the other is 7 ft tall and it will stand in the garden.
Accessories for the garden MaryAnne says.
When you see the before pictures of our front and back yard, you’d have thought I had this vision before we bought the house!!
But I did not. Luckily, MaryAnne did have vision.
You can contact her here.
The Three Most Important Words in a Consultation
How to be Smart in a World of Dumb Designers
Ugly Costs the Same as Pretty
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