Before we even moved to North Carolina, we had big landscape plans for our new exterior–primarily, a pool. A pool was at the forefront of our mind when we were house hunting back in February. “Where would we put the pool” was a frequently asked question. At first we were only looking at homes WITH a pool, but once we settled for the option of putting one in, we were able to find our lovely colonial home that was more than optimal for it…kind of. And if we’re digging into the ground and adding a pool, a few other things on the exterior design should be addressed while we’re at it.
We’re still in the early planning stages, and we wanted to be transparent about what this process is looking like, including deciding on if we should hire a local landscaping designer, or an online exterior design service.
We have been working with Scott, a landscaping designer out of Charlotte, and he has been so helpful in educating us and walking us through the process because we’ve never done anything like this. In our last house, we hired a landscaping company who did some basic planting and grooming, so this is next level for us. He came to our house and we walked around the yard and courtyard, while we shared our hopes and dreams and concerns for the space. He took some measurements and went to work.
Scott required 50% of the $3,000 design fee up front, and we will pay the other half once we are happy with the design. That cost includes 3 initial designs (we’ll share a look at one of those), and will revise as many times until we are satisfied. We gave him these inspiration images to keep in mind.
In what seemed like no time at all, we received his first initial design. Let’s take a look together shall we?
Initial thoughts? Wow. Incredible! But as we looked at it we realized (and the feedback we gave Scott) everything was a bit bigger than we wanted–especially the pool. It felt a tad disconnected from what we were envisioning style-wise. Definitely more modern for our personal taste, and too many trees removed. But Scott was great with taking the feedback, and he is drafting up a revision for us!
On the plus, Scott also sent us a projected timeline which was really helpful to see and he is extremely hopeful that by summer of 2022, we could have a fully functioning exterior space of our dreams. Perfect.
One thing we’re keeping in mind is that on top of the price of the entire project, we would pay an additional 10% of the total scope of the project if we hired a landscape designer. So if the project costs $150,000, we’d pay him an extra $15,000. Of course, for that fee Scott handles all the details and works directly with the contractors to bring the vision to life, so its well-earned. This is pretty standard in the design world but something to keep in mind especially with an expensive project like this.
A lot of our followers recommended we use a service called Yardzen. We had never heard of them, but they offer design services for outdoor spaces, ranging from botanical designs, to just a front yard or back yard, to a full outdoor transformation. We used a promo code to try out their $2395 design service for the full transformation to see if we’d get where we needed going this route, saving money but also taking on the task of “making it happen.”
We sent them the same inspiration images, filled out a bit of information on their website, and they sent back these renderings.
My jaw was on the floor. But before we get carried away, let’s keep in mind that a design decision shouldn’t be made fully on the quality of renderings. Yardzen did have the advantage of coming after we received the renderings from the local landscape designer. We learned from our communication mistakes a bit in working with the landscape designer, and I think we were able to get really clear about what we wanted and didn’t want in an outdoor space. But there were still things that weren’t quite right. The fire pit and fireplace within 10 feet of each other did feel a redundant, and some of it felt sparse and then crowded. The kitchenette felt more reasonable, and the design a little closer to what we imagined (minus the white paint on the house).
We’ve given our feedback to Yardzen as well and I can’t wait to see what else they come up with.
There’s actually a lot more to factor in when it comes to choosing who we’re going to work with though so I thought I would list out some of the pros and cons to make sense of it all.
Pros of Hiring a Landscape Designer
• More robust revision process
• Direct communication and hand-holding
• Oversees the project including making sure we get the proper permits submitted and approved, and hires and manages all the needed contractors
• Should be well-versed on the local climate, plant life, soil and drainage
Cons of Hiring a Landscape Architect
• Cost ( additional 10% fee to the total cost of the project)
Pros of Hiring an Online Exterior Design Service
• Flat fee up front
• Quick turnaround from the comfort of your home
• Incredible renderings that make it easy to visualize (at least in this case)
Cons of Hiring an Online Exterior Design Service
• Could be a bit of a design disconnect with the actual space. The design doesn’t feel catered to our yard or factor in real potential issues like the hill in the back
• They do not oversee any of the project, but instead will put us in contact with contractors
Honestly, we’re not really sure which direction we’re going to go, and we’re just kind of sharing our research in real time. I do think the 10% fee to completely oversee the project and scheduling is worth it! But we also have a pretty good idea of what we want and don’t want. Either way, we thought it might be helpful to some of you to hear about this process and there’s honestly no right or wrong way to go. Both seem like great options, and we are really looking forward to seeing the next drafts. Please do tell us what you think in the comments of course!
I think the benefit of having a local company who is able to provide informed decisions about your land, soil, native plants (if that’s your thing) is key!
I can’t wait to see how you tweak both ideas and make them your own! I keep hoping, too, that in your research you end up coming up with some unique solutions to backyard pools that are more environmentally friendly. I found the idea of “Living Pools” (https://gb.bio.top/living-pool) a while ago and am SO curious about options to have something like this installed in North America (vs. Europe). It would be *amazing* if you could use some of the Chris Loves Julia clout to help expand this market, as it seems like such a win, win, win idea to me. I’m sure it would garner even more attention for this project too… to do something that is pushing design further? Would you consider at least looking into the possibility? :)
Very impressive… I really appreciate your work, you explained it very well.
I’m at the beginning of this process and appreciate your feedback. And, I lack the expertise and experience you have gone through before. Thank you very much for sharing and your analysis.
Thank you so much for sharing Julia- I love your design style- good luck-
Given the scope and magnitude of the project I would definitely be more comfortable with the local landscape designer.
I absolutely love the rendering of the online service. I love the sleek pool with the jacuzzi built within it. We have a very similar style pool/jacuzzi as the one in the local company rendering, and I think I would prefer the style inside the pool. I don’t think the fire pit and the fireplace are a duplication because you need separate spaces. For example the adults will gather around the fireplace and the kids around the fire pit.
We used a landscape design company that also had an arm that installed the pool. No 10% add on. You might want to check with some pool companies to see if they have designer arms as well.
It’s going to look amazing. I suggest a heated pool for max swim time.
One more option for you is the DIY route. You guys are so talented and you have great support team. When my husband wanted to redo our yard he bought software and planned the patio and all the plantings himself. Of course there was a lot of research involved, like plants that would do well in our lighting and space, maintenance, and how fast or slow some plants grow, in some areas we are looking for privacy and don’t want to wait ten years to improve the view. I just feel like you know what you want and you can have a lot of control over the plan if you do it yourself.
I cannot wait to hear what you’ve decided and more on this.
My advice would also be to go see your landscaper’s work and talk to the owners. This allows you to see how it works and to see if the feedback and opinions are positive. Good luck in this project!
As someone in the design industry, I think you hired the wrong landscape architect. Online services can be good, but a good designer team will always be better. I’m sorry you had that experience with a local person. 🤷🏻♀️
Wow looks amazing! Do you not need pool fencing in the US? We just went through this process last year and spent a fortune on an inground concrete mineral pool as well as landscaping. We live in Queensland, Australia. The laws surrounding pool fencing are very strict here!
Hi, The two photos of pools that you liked were beautiful. Nestled in the landscape and matched the look of the house. I honestly didn’t think any of the ideas that either place presented were even close to those first two photos. Good luck with your projects big and small. It brings me pleasure and ideas.
Hire the local landscape designer. You may regret it if you don’t.
One thing to keep in mind is that, if you place a spa in the middle of the pool as pictured in the landscape designer’s rendering, you won’t be able to use an electric pool cover. It makes covering your pool much more complicated. I’d suggest putting the spa in a corner of the pool and having it be level with the rest of the pool for that reason.
My suggestion is to put the spa/hot tub as close to the house as possible. (We have had it both ways.) We have been much happier and have used it more when it is right outside.
Just a thought from someone who has had a pool built: having the hot tub at the same level and in the footprint of the pool (like in the Yardzen design) means you can use the auto cover over the whole thing rather than having to deal with a separate insulated hot tub cover. So. Much. Nicer.
I love seeing the design process! thanks for sharing!
I would definitely recommend orienting your pool / the backyard design around with the sun. I personally would place the pool in a location that gets the most amount of sun. I’m on the west coast and people will huddle near the last remaining part of the pool that gets sun at the end of the day and wish our pool was over about 10 feet to get more hours of enjoyment in the summer.
Please clarify for your readers there is a difference between hiring a landscape design vs Landscape architect! Anyone can call themselves a designer and format any type of fee, whereas a Landscape Architect is licensed, therefore you are protected i health safety and welfare, (think pool: accidents, safety,
hazards and children) and there is years and years of training let alone testing to qualify individuals. Someone who calls themselves a designer may just like plants and drawing!! Hire a professional when the job is serious and big fees are at play..
We just finished putting in a pool. Hire your hardscaper first! Make sure they take elevations and work w the pool contractor. We hired the hardscaper after the pool was in and it cost us so much money. We had to put in twice as much retaining wall because the pool was set so high.
I agree, mapping out topography is essential to know where walls may be needed, where all the equipment and backwash plumbing will go. Also how deep they can dig if the pool is going to be level. Also drainage so rain water doesn’t run back into the pool. A lot to consider.
Given that you moved the main line of sight to the backyard – for any respsible parent –
( kitchen looking into the backyared) it is hard to weigh in on any of your pool thoughts!
I have to say, reading thru this it seems like a no brained to hire the designer. I do have a landscape architecture degree (haven’t practiced in 14 years due to having kids so I’m a tad more impartial?) so there is some bias here, however you have already paid $5400 in schematic design costs so clearly you are invested in how the project fits into your existing space. The designer has a much better understanding of how the finished product will work with your space AND your family. That designer will oversee and adapt to any problem that may arise with proper grading and can finish the project much better than any designer working sight unseen. A good landscape architect will incorporate your wishes into the landscape to create a seamless, cohesive space that accentuates the best parts of your landscape. Give him time, let him tweak, I don’t think you will regret it a bit! There is something to be said for being in the space, hearing the sounds, feeling the scale, etc. Your setting is beautiful, I can’t wait to see what it becomes!
I was just looking into yardzen so this is incredibly helpful! Thanks for sharing ❤️
I like the first design BUT love the design from Yardzen. I feel the flow is much better with the placement of the spa area as well as the outdoor fireplace backing onto your fireplace. Also the cooking area is in closer proximity to the home for supplies, etc. I love the location of the fire pit as well. A winner in my books!
Personally prefer a human being nearby and their personal cell phone number to be able to get in touch. Your moving nightmare kind of reenforced that😬 Also, you might want to be sure pool & decking not too close to the house…leave ‘breathing’ room👍
Our family has a General Contracting company. It often happens people think they can run their projects and simply can’t do it. You and Chris aren’t new to “projects” and would be more than capable to bring it to pass. However, with all the things you’ve handled lately, the incredible stress of moving cross country, Grandpa’s
passing, crooked movers (grrr to them 😬😬) etc. Pleeeaaassseee pay the 10% additional fee to hire it done. The simple fact of the stress you’d be relieved of will be well worth it. More than worth it. 😍😍
Yardzen limits how many revisions they’ll do so after that number, they basically wash their hands of you and you’re on your own to edit the renderings as needed. It sounds like the local landscape architect is more invested throughout the life of the project.
Both designs incorporate a lot of hard scape. A lot of deck. My thought is a lot more grass area around the pool to give your backyard a more natural, woodland look. Also, the white arbor does not fit the traditional look of your home. I would do something with a flowering vine growing on it.
You may want to investigate Yardzen more they actually do make an extra fee just like your landscape designer does it just hidden from you. When they finish the design they will refer you to area contractors to price the install out. The contractor that gets the job pays Yardzen that fee which in tern is hidden in the costs the contractor charges you.
Also if you work with a landscape design build firm they too would have a landscape designer or landscape architects on staff.
Also not all landscape designer charge a fee for the cost of installation, only if they perform project management services are you charged for that.
You should check out ASLA ( the association of landscape architects) and APLD (association of landscape designers) to get a better idea of what’s out there for design services.
I just hired Tilly, an online firm. I had never heard of this option either. The interior is easy for me, but I was really out of my depth outside. I just needed the backyard area and just a 2D plan. Total cost $525! This includes a virtual consult, a base map to confirm what is existing, their design and one revision. I like that I know they aren’t trying to sell me anything other than a design. Of course, our job is much simpler and we can contract it out ourselves, but for this little money, we’re thrilled.
Thanks for sharing this process!!! So interesting to see the comparisons! I don’t know if this might be why the designer suggested taking more trees out, but as a along time pool owner in NC, I can say that taking down more trees in our yard about 10 years l
after we built our pool reduced our cleaning a lot, and also extended how long the water is warm & therefore the swimming season significantly. Just something you may want to give a second thought, based on our climate & the messy types of trees we tend to have around here! 😊
Very good suggestions! I hope she sees it!
The Facebook group “first time swimming pool owners” is fantastic. There’s a LOT of feedback and advice in there from people who have built pools in the last 10 years. It’s a super active group and I’ve gained so much knowledge about regrets, tips, mistakes, etc.
One tip I see repeated a lot is it’s worth it to have a separate hot tub in cold climates, so you can close the pool but still use the hot tub.
I think I’m in the minority here, but I wouldn’t hire the landscape architect to oversee the project. Like you, we are experienced in renovations and in the middle of a very large ($$$$) back yard project. Our architect did a great initial rendering and design changes; however, he’s so busy that we would have gotten no where with him overseeing the project. I hired all our own subs — let’s be honest, I like to have my hand in every design decision — and it’s moved along so much quicker this way. Plus, there are tons of changes along the way and I’m able to make the decision without having to relay it through another person. Time is money — especially if you want that pool by spring. I’d manage the project yourself and pay the landscape architect — whichever one — to choose the plant species for you, since that’s not in your wheelhouse.
Its not just plants to consider here! In hiring a licensed landscape architect, theres health safety and welfare to think about too, especially when dealing with children around a pool. There’s more to think about than plants, and how things look. Dont skimp on details! Its worth the wait to get the job done right with the right professionals.
Both renderings are so pretty – although not as closely aligned with your design inspiration as I would have expected – still, they are both fantastic first drafts! If it were me, I would prioritize a pool house with shower and toilet over even a fireplace. You will be so thankful when the girls get older and their friends can use the pool house instead of bringing water and grass (stuck to their feet!) in your house. Anyway, you’re super cool for sharing so much!!
Love following you! So excited for your upcoming project of a pool and yard changes. Speaking from our experience of my husband being a licensed and educated landscape architect and construction company, who just retired after 44 years! Yes. Finally. Anyway. He was often called in to change or redo so many projects. So my suggestion would be a landscape architect. And his fee seems reasonable. Draw out a quick sketch of your yard, drones make it so easy as does the plat from your county, draw in circles. Simple circles of what you’d like to do in each section of your yard. Example. Fire pit. Picnic. Lounge. Pool. Volleyball. Kids play area. Cozy entertainment area. Etc. move forward from there. A person who knows what trees can come out without damaging others close by. Knowing what grows with ease in your area etc is invaluable. Love my yard! Love that we went from boys and football games in our yard, to girls practicing color guard or dance. Now we have grands using the play areas again. And we can easily host a wedding or other party because It was designed with all stages of life factored in. Wishing you the best!
This is amazing information! I’m sure this will end up being a magical place in the end! The cost of a landscape designing overseeing it is more than worth the cost, I agree! All the things that happen during the process and left and right curveballs to manage on top of your day to day is worth more than 10% in my opinion. In addition, someone who knows the climate and can be onsite is SO wonderful and a time saver!
Both designs don’t look exactly like your vision/style. Maybe a covered porch in front of the dining room that extends all the way to the wall near the arch. I see multiple focal points .. the kitchen, sitting area, Pool, Fireplace. What to do with that bare wall near the garage.… and Yes definitely make sure the scale of the pool matches the scale of the house and the outdoor kitchen etc. I like throwing ideas around and figuring things out :) Best of Luck !! You got this !!!!
I liked the concept of using a flat fee design firm, but are there other alternatives out there (beside a whole design firm) that may be in your budget?!? Would like to see other alternatives!?!
Hi- always love being on the journey with you guys and your amazing designs. As a registered Landscape Architect with 16 years experience in high-end residential design, just encourage you guys to reach out to about difference between what we do vs. a landscape designer….it’s not communicated well in the blog article. Always happy to chat because we have to work hard to educate clients on how our expertise contributes to the success of the project.
I probably re-do 3-4 yardezen projects a year because the designers aren’t educated in local plant material and they don’t consider grades, drainage, bed preparation etc. which are so important for the success of your rear garden. A few design items to consider: a pergola off your dining is going to significantly decrease the natural light. You might shift outdoor kitchen against the garage to keep those beautiful views open to your extensive property and pool. Finally, you always want a spa closer to the house. Having it on the other side of the pool makes it hard to access in the cold winter. Also consider storage for pool toys and cushions. Last nugget of insight- as someone else pointed out don’t do the small stepping pads- it’s impossible to float furniture on them. For your style of home think bluestone and brick are a classic combination. Just beware of heat if you have a lot of sun exposure. Again, really enjoy your content and keep it coming!
I would love to know more about the differences between a landscape architect vs designer. We’re getting ready to contact someone for our own backyard reno. One item we want is a substantial balcony/covered patio (not just a wood deck attached to the house). Is this in the realm of a landscape architect?
I would like to know too.
I love you are taking use through the process! I was also wondering about shifting the pergola and kitchen over to keep the views in the dining room.
Thanks for sharing your insight!! It’s so great to hear!
I have 45 years experience, 21 of those as licensed landscape contractor in Oregon. Do design work for swimming pool builders in many states, mainly Texas, Hawaii, California. Likely 500-1,000 at this point. Concur with your advice on spa placement, light restriction with pergola, advantages of local designer. I design remotely but it’s for contractors who know drainage and their local construction requirements. For those reviewing your feedback I would second the motion as being solid advice! And the positive tone is very constructive.
Fantastic suggestions! I hope she sees them!
These are beautiful, Julia! Given the view from your living/dining room, I like how the local designer raised the elevation of the pool to adjust the sight-line. That should make a big difference!
One other thing based on personal experience (in NOT having this) – having some protection from sun and shade is sooo helpful, especially when you have a lot of stone. I know it can sacrifice some natural light in the house, but given how much you’ll be able to sit outside in NC – I don’t think you’ll ever regret having a covered porch area like the first inspo pic.
We just finished our pool in the Raleigh area. Ours is similar to the ones in your work ups. We are still working on the final fixes and landscaping. We did heated with salt water. Neighbors thought we were silly with the heat but we use it so much! A covered screened porch is must. The NC bugs are the worst.
We just finished a pool and I fully recommend the automatic pool cover. It has kept our pool clean and warm.
We also got solar heating & could have done with less panels based on having the cover because we had the heater on for only about a month in the spring. Also, I don’t see it in the renderings, but it is important to know where your pool equipment will go and how you will cover it. I was not prepared for how many pipes were put into our backyard and we have a small (14′ x 28′) pool. We had a local pool company design and manage the whole process which was super easy but we weren’t re-designing our yard. Lastly, pools require way more maintenance than I anticipated (checking chemicals & Ph balance, cleaning filters & salt cell, etc.) so you may want to determine if you will do it yourself or hire a service. It is all worth it though, because we love having it! Can’t wait to see what direction you go!
Wow!! Love all of the drawings. Hard to pick which is a better path to go in terms of virtual or local but the management element is enticing. I actually loved the white paint!!
Love the idea of the local landscaper!
Just a function over form issue…the hot tub being on the back side of the pool LOOKS better (mine is the same and has a fountain in it), but you will wish the hot tub is closer, especially in cooler months when you’re running too and from your hot tub in a bathing suit. Ideally the hot tub should be closer to the house. You will most likely use it much more than the pool, especially as your kids age.
So interesting! For the design price difference I feel like local landscaper is a no-brainer. But love seeing what Yardzen can do! I’m a veteran of a large patio construction project and the PM help was week worth the cost to me, they noticed and corrected things I wouldn’t have recognized as issues. One suggestion, think about where you are going to keep all the pool/patio items…I wish I had designed in more outdoor storage.
Ohhhhh CLJ, this is some FUN, meaty design stuff ❤️🔥 So my first impression of the local designer, my eye was drawn to the stark white pergola in a bad way. Once you said, modern, that also clicked as to why I did like it. I mean, it’s a stunning design but just didn’t quite fit for me. The Yardzen design really appealed to me, funny thing, I love the small pops of white on the house. Wonder if it is creamier if it would appeal to you more? I find it to update the exterior in such a fresh clean way (I do live in CA and am used to a lot of frikken white 😉) I also love how the pool is centeredly off centered on the house 😛 well centered in the courtyard. I love the pad with the grass or greenery between the pavers 💯so traditional. Note in love with the grey tiling around the pool 🤷🏼♀️. Love you guys 💋💋💋 be well everyone. Be gentle too.
Lots of great feedback. I live in our general area. We also have a pool put in 20 years ago. Pools are quite common in this area. My comments are don’t skimp on the size of the pool. With 3 kids you’ll appreciate a bigger pool. Also better for the exercise aspect. Also a shaded area is a bonus and much needed in the heat. We sit under the shaded all the time. Much more than anticipated. Pool covering and near by tree consideration is important. Pine needles in the pool are annoying. After 20 years we need to do a refresh so I am loving your move and your new pool plans
Thanks for putting this together! Would be curious to know if the online exterior design service offers plant recommendations if you just needed basic re-planting and grooming?
Lovely! I’m sure you will make it beautiful.
1. Agree with you on the pool size
2. While I find the tiles with sod between them beautiful – I think it would be super hard to move chairs when you are at the table and could constantly be falling off the tile.
3. love the fireplace outside…gorgeous.
Piggybacking off Sam’s comment. For a long time my aunt had tiles with sod between, but the sod was always dead or super muddy because of it’s proximity to the pool. A couple years ago she ripped it all out and put down faux grass between the tiles. It looks much better and there’s enough separation between the real and fake grass that you can’t tell the difference.
Hi Julia – We just put in a pool, inground spa separate from the pool, outdoor fireplace, lots of stonework… huge project. I don’t know how we would have GC’d it ourselves and we’re in commercial construction, have also done several renovations on our home…so *should* be in our wheelhouse, but landscape really is a whole lot of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I’m so glad we had a landscape architect running the show. We did an inground spa separate from the pool. They both have automatic covers. Something to think about if you think you might want to use the hot tub in winter. I wish I would have researched the automatic covers more. There’s a whole world of possibilities I wasn’t aware of and in hindsight probably would have made a different selection. Agree with the comments about thinking about wet towels and feet coming inside and where all that goes. If you want umbrellas, check out inground mounts and installing more than you think you need. They’re so much better and more secure than the clunky bases. So excited for you and can’t wait to see what you do! Good luck!
Quick comment about the Yardzen design, as I’m going through this pain currently….I see garden boxes down below the pool area. If you do intend to have boxes, do think about all those trees. We put our boxes near some trees that were relatively young. Now, they’ve grown up and blocked all the good sun, so we can no longer grow much other than lettuces. We’ve had to pull them out of the hardscaping and move them to another part of the yard. We were able to ‘fix it’, but a lot of work/cost we could have avoided if we’d thought forward in terms of the environment.
We used a pool designer/ contractor and a landscaper, separately, when we did our massive outdoor project. It worked well, but each market is definitely different! One thing they both told us, that we did not listen to, was take out more trees. And 3 years in, I do wish we’d listened. It’s warm enough where we live to swim through the end of October. But it’s just too much work at that point to keep the pool open because of ALL THE LEAVES. Seriously, keeping it clean becomes a full time job (even with an auto vac). Sure it depends on what trees are around, but definitely something to think about!
LOVE this post!!!! I request more posts like this. I’ve never hired a contractor ever, I currently rent! So I like researching what it’s like to take on any sort of project because I one day hope to buy and renovate a house myself. :)
And by renovate a house myself….i obviously mean hire people out to help me lol.
Have you gotten any estimates for the pool, I live in Utah and am astounded at the cost of a pool install (fiberglass 16ft) at 85K-100K. I’m super curious if that is typical or varies depending on the area/demand etc?
Those renderings are so exciting!!!
We are in OR and just got a quote for just pool and equipment, gunnite, 120,000-140,000
We live in Arizona and just got a quote for a pool and hot tub for $60,000
I cannot wait to see the final outcome!
2 practical things I would consider after living in a house with a pool that gets tons of use 1- bathroom placement/accessibility 2- a covered area to allow for grilling/gathering during the rain.
Very interesting to see this. I agree with your thoughts about the Landscaper/Architect pool being too large, that was my first thought too. On virtual one, I wonder about the big solid brick wall next to kitchen, I think I’d like to camouflage that a bit (either with landscaping or extending kitchen.
Julia, a couple of additional things to consider. I don’t see a pool house on the plans. Once you move the laundry upstairs, would the current laundry turn into a mudroom/pool transition room? If so, may want to consider turning the window in that room into an entrance door. Perhaps even add a stackable w/d here to handle pool towels. Also, consider if you’d want an entrance from the backyard/pool directly from your master bath, when you’re ready to tackle that renovation. This will be so much fun to follow along!
The Raleigh house window wall with a fireplace reminds me of the Idaho house living room fireplace that was moved to create a better view. Is there a reason why you prefer not to move this fireplace?
Looks amazing! We just finished our pool/yard build and I did the design myself and used the builders renderings. I was ok with it because I was so heavily involved in the design (they thought I was a little crazy- I drew my concrete layout to scale on graph paper 😂). Anyway- if I was starting all over again, I’d hire a designer that managed the job in a heartbeat! I wasn’t aware, and we did have a great builder, but it is a shady shady business. Having someone “in charge” to keep everyone on track is invaluable. We are now in SoCal and landscape/plants are limited with the size of our yard, but having a local expert in your area would be so helpful. (I lived near Raleigh for 12yrs before here- nothing quite like pollen season and leaves dropping).
If you haven’t considered it, I highly recommend an auto cover. I was adamant and my husband was not a believer, he now says it was the best investment ever! My concern was safety but the added benefits that were a bonus is that it keeps the pool warm AND clean! Our design is simple and since you’re already going with a rectangle, it’s an easy add!
While we had a great builder, we did watch two neighbors go through some stuff with theirs, and that’s why I’m finishing with this: prioritize customer service. It makes all the difference. Once they have a hole dug, you’re stuck. Most builders don’t want to touch an in-progress job. Be 100% confident that the one you choose prioritizes customer service as much as you do!
Can’t wait to see this come to life! It’s a stressful process but worth it all (and so much more)!!!
Wowwwwwwwwzaaaaa! What a fun adventure to start before halloween and the colder months are coming up – but we all know that the next spring is here in no time, right?
So, me personally… I’m oldschool (well, I’m 40) and I would absolutely go with a local (!) landscaper wo is right there with you. You had a lot on your plate, you have a lot on your plate and this is just the beginning so in a different state with different codes, different climate… someone like Scott would let me sleep better at night :) Anyhooo, I’m Team CLJ so I’m rooting for either way that you are going to choose.
And: are you going to have “cuppers”, too? Like the Petersiks?
I’m honestly so excited that you’re doing this comparison for us! I’ve been unsure about which direction is best, of course I think both can be great, but this will be super helpful in making a decision for us as well. So thank you for taking us along and sharing her nitty gritty!
So exciting! I know this is likely the last piece of the puzzle down the line, but I’d talk to the landscape architect about bug repelling plants. There are lots to choose from and any bit of help with giant east coast mosquitoes is good!
Hi Julia and Chris! Yardzen co-founder/CEO here. We’re THRILLED you’re giving Yardzen a try. We have tremendous respect for local landscape designers (and many also design on our platform, in addition to running their primary businesses) and agree there are pros and cons of both approaches. Our aim is to deliver a custom design firm experience, but with all the convenience and efficiency an online experience affords. Looking forward to the next steps for your project — gathering all of your feedback and iterating into a next draft (we offer a design review phone call at this step to all clients if helpful. We’ll get that crowding issue addressed, no problem!) then connecting you with a vetted contractor and collaborating between the studio and the field to bring your design to life.
Wow! I am stunned by the renderings. Do you know of an online company that could do kitchen renderings like that?
Love following all you do. Thanks!
That’s a great question A.R. I would pay someone to do a rendering of my kitchen as well.
I haven’t used them but I believe Unique Kitchens does this.
Any interior designer and most cabinet companies will do renderings for you, even if you are not local!
My first time here so hope this is appropriate to provide email firstname.lastname@example.org I have 45 years experience, 21 of those as landscape contractor, Have worked in nine states, likely designed between 500 and 1,000 swimming pool projects at this point and outdoor kitchens are a regular edition. Do work with clients remotely and designed for contractors remotely primarily in CA, HI, TX, OR, AZ but have also worked in FL, NC, WA, etc. Have a design team of eight, we also design eco villages, farm to table restaurants, All kinds of food growing systems and teach people how to grow food at home as well.
Hi! How did you find/pick/interview the landscape architect? I’m just wondering if there is a reason you didn’t try to work with someone local? There are so many wonderful resources in the triangle.
How big is your lot? (If you don’t mind me asking). Curious because we are in the market for a lot right now and these renderings are stunning!
These renderings look so amazing! I can’t wait to see what you go with! Question, with the Yardzen rendering, is the hot tub in the pool? Would that mean you can’t use it in the winter when you close the pool? Thanks!
Is that a regional fee? We’re in Minneapolis and we hired a landscape architect to design our pool and yard transformation and to over see the work as PM since our pool contractor only does the pool. We paid a design fee to have the work drawn up but it was only $900 and it goes back into the project budget once signed our contract to move forward. There was only one company that charged more than $2k for the upfront design work and they had horrible reviews, particularly from friends that used them. Yes, designers cost money, but I would ask if that upfront fee is put in as part of your budget as long as you move forward.
Hi Sarah! Do you have a recommendation you’re willing to share for landscape architect in the Minneapolis area? We’re near Rochester, and have been looking:) Thank you!
AFLA & PEBL are both great landscape architecture firms (and super nice people!) in the Minneapolis area. Good luck!
I am in the Minneapolis SW suburbs and would be interested in your recommendation for a landscape architect. Thank you in advance.
Any safety concerns with having the pool so close to the house? Are you considering at all putting it in the side yard or further back so it can be fenced separately? Can’t wait to see this come to life!
I would go with the landscaper. It is so difficult to oversee such a large project that you have never done before. Building just a pool involves so many sub contractors. Tha landscaper knows the region and is knowledgeable about who are the best subs. He can deal with them and hold money back if necessary. Good luck! Love watching your stories!
It’s interesting that you found the first design too modern – to me, the only thing really modern about it is the furniture, which of course is not real. I think the finished product is only going to be as traditional or modern as whatever furniture and decor goes into it. Definitely agree that the pool is crazy oversized, though – shrinking it down should add space to keep more of the trees that you want. The outdoor kitchen in Scott’s plan does look huge, as well, but then there’s only a 4-top next to it. I would personally keep the huge pergola (you’ll love the shade in the hotter months), shrink that long counter (or maybe even make it a u-shaped counter taking up half the pergola) and add a dining table under the pergola, next to the outdoor kitchen. Looks like it’s going to be an amazing project.
Love your style and vision and I’d make that work for you. I’m an building designer and I do a great deal of hardscape design with my architectural projects. Love the vision of both Scott and Yardzen but I think with your style sense and experience you would be better off financially by going with Yardzen. I would then find a local Landscaping company that has design services to implement Yardzen’s design with plantings compatible with your area as well as adapt the topography of the lot to work with the design. This way you are developing local relationships and remain involved in the process.
Just a thought but I know you will select what works best for you and your family.
Thoughts on the design.
Love the idea of the two sided fireplace keeping a cozy sitting area for entertaining near the house that can be both utilized for sitting area as well as dining area if you wish to change things up on occasion. Having a fire pit in addition to the fireplace is somewhat redundant. I would either have the fireplace or the fire pit and in this situation the fireplace utilizes the space better. If you add a spa to the pool I would make it a focal point from the inside of the house and perhaps closer to any bedrooms perhaps at the end of the pool not the middle.
Lots of ideas and things to think about. So excited for you and your new home journey.
(I post my projects on my Instagram Joelle66)
I’m so excited to follow along with your process! We just bought a house and plan to put in a pool in a couple of years, but we also want to change the overall landscape design and have been struggling to know who will be best suited for the project.
We have a rectangle pool with an automatic cover for safety and keeps the pool very clean. It’s easy to operate. I would plan on getting a reputable pool company and a landscaper you really like. Our pool contractor worked with a landscaper that we did not like. The pool contractor would know rules on set backs, gas lines etc. I would recommend line item for fees.
I say take the best of both final drafts and have the landscape designer take care of everything. It would be a nightmare dealing with all of the sub contractors yourself. Scott prob already has a relationship with these guys. Love love love Yardzen’s renderings but totally agree firepit & fireplace too close together. Have you seen the celebrity IOU Kris Jenner episode on Discocery+? If you haven’t you’ll need to watch it. They did a pool, dining, firepit, outdoor kitchen that was GORGEOUS!! Still thinking about it🖤
I totally agree! If you like Yardzen’s design better then the landscape designer can accommodate that plan instead. (Also, now I am going to go watch that episode, haha.)
Yes!! I immediately thought of that episode when I saw these renderings. That backyard was beyond perfect!!!
omg saw that episode too! I think you can also watch it on Hulu since it’s an HGTV show. Kris’/Kim’s is my favorite episode – so good!
The olive trees in that design were divine!
It seems like using both (especially since you’ve paid for them both) would be ideal. Use the yardzen plan and have your local landscape designer customize it to your liking, topography & geographical setting. I love the yardzen plan minus some of the crowding. It’s stunning. My best advice is having the option for a pet door with egress to a separate & fenced off area of your yard. Our dogs having full time access to our pool is a pain. They live to take a swim them let themselves back inside soaking wet. Next house will have separate area without access to pool for both their safety and my sanity. Also, we have a live oak shading a portion of our pool and the acorns are a NIGHTMARE! I’m a firm believe there little to no need for an actual deep end. Every one hangs out where they can sit or stand. Those are my thoughts after having a pool for 20 years.
It’s cheaper to heat the shallower it is as well (not sure how much heating is required in North Carolina).
We are also in the triangle area and so happy to read your blog!! Did both options take into consideration your plot survey when coming up with the design and take easement and impervious limits into consideration?
I can’t wait to see the finished product. This post was so helpful. We are just getting ready to start our landscaping on our home and I was considering Yardzen. Can you share the promo code that you used?
Licensed Landscape Architect here, and offering a recommendation that the reason Scott seems more expensive is that he’s actually providing MUCH more scope. The nature of residential landscape design is that you, the homeowner, LIVE there… you will be much more involved in the construction process. As such, his time is very valuable during the implementation phase – perhaps moreso than the initial imagery process. A local presence will ensure you get what you thought you’d get, that in-field adjustments are made with hydrology, microclimate, and local plant species in mind, and that the final product – a living, breathing, growing space! – will accommodate your wishes. Virtual design cannot replicate the local expertise your designer can offer.
So true! I would consider using a service like Yardzen to skip the schematic design phase & lower that initial fee, but I’d still work with a landscape designer in the end.
THANK YOU. I think Yardzen is an interesting service, but I feel it kind of devalues the landscape architecture profession a bit. For initial pie-in-the-sky conceptuals, I don’t have a problem with it, but you really need someone on the ground thinking of all the practical items like grading, drainage, microclimate, irrigation, City regulations (setbacks, ISR ratio, etc.), and a bunch of other things pretty rendering companies likely don’t take into account. Not to mention managing the construction, which is where everything comes together (or, doesn’t!). Go with Scott – I guarantee the end product will be MUCH better.
Just a few thoughts! We recently did almost the exact same project in our back yard. Budget was roughly 150K. We hired a local landscape architect to create a design for us. They did a phenomenal job, and worked with us until we had the design exactly as we wanted it. They are also a turnkey company. They would oversee and manage the entire project for us. However, after finalizing the design, things didn’t go as planned. We met with them to begin the construction process, and were told that the cost of the project would be closer to $500K to build out. I was furious. We had given them our budget up front. The design was amazing. The bait and switch was not. We ended up taking our completed plans, and becoming our own contractor. We built our dream backyard, at exactly 150K. We followed the plans we had paid the landscape architect for, but did all the subcontracting ourselves. We interviewed multiple pool companies. We found condone to lay the travertine decking. We hired someone else build the cabana, outdoor kitchen, and basketball court. It was the CRAZIEST 6 months at our house. I could not believe the amount of work it was, but it was all worth it in the end! So just a heads up and word of caution. Make sure the landscape architect you work with (if you hire them), are committed to keeping you in your budget range.
Oh my gosh, that’s crazy!
Hi! Landscape business owner here!
I will start by saying- we are currently working with a couple who just spent $200k on their landscape and they called us to come out and look at it because all of their landscape died. The job was done poorly and it wasn’t properly draining. Now, they will spend more with us to make it right. Moral of the story: go with someone who knows what they’re doing!! That extra 10% is nothing in the grand scheme of things. (Also- that is a very fair price to oversee that whole process. We charge 20%) I would show your landscape designer the rendering you received from yardzen and tell him you prefer the overall look of theirs more. Tell him you want to work with him but ask him to revise to make it look more like the other design. I do agree that the yardzen design is def more your style. Good luck!! Can’t wait to see the finished product.
I can’t imagine taking on a project of this scope and scale without an experienced contractor. While I think the pool location in the second drawings is too close to the house, I think the view of the pool from the livingroom windows would be really nice.
Does your neighborhood/city have design approval requirements? I’d be interested to hear how all that works.
If you’ve got the money absolutely go with the landscape architect/contractor! They have worked hard for that degree and will NOT steer you wrong!
This is so exciting! I lean into the designs where there’s more room between the pool and the house. As lovely as the pool is, I wouldn’t want it to be the main feature as I look out of the family room windows. It also gives a lit bit of walking time for swimmers to dry off before coming into the house and walking on your wood floors. As a gardener in NC, I’d recommend low walled beds over trees in pots. You will avoid a lot of watering maintenance and more assured plant success with larger specimens.
I agree that the fire pit and fireplace should be separated. I love the coziness of the outdoor fireplace and think a fire pit at the far end of the pool make a lot of sense. Especially as the girls get older and want to hang out with friends away from the adults.
A local landscaper will be such a treasure trove of what design choices work best for your area. My SIL maintains & renovates pools and hardscapes and knows what materials work best and wear well in the area. He’s helped clients save money with his knowledge and recommends to avoid birch trees and large crepe myrtles close to the pool, too many leaves and blossoms falling in the summer.
Great advice! Built in planters are an excellent idea. I’m sure above ground planters need to be watered daily with the heat and sun.
Wow wow wow! The second layout has the pool as the focal point, which bring togetherness to the space. But that bar/cook spot in the first would definitely be the hot spot in any CLJ get together. I can picture Chris’s spread perfectly :)
Both are lovely but the large brick side of your house just seems so barren. Do you have plans to plant trellis vines or something there to tie it into the landscape? Just wondering since it’s
Such a large expanse of brick around the pool.
How timely!! We are in the process of designing a pool as well and I’m struggling with designs that lose the intimate feel of the space. Would you mind sharing the size of the pool in both designs? Thanks.
I live in NY and loads of people are dealing with floods at the moment due to excessive rain last night. I am wondering if these backyards with so much pavement will increase your changes of flooding. Will you use materials that can absorb water? I don’t know the local climate in your location, but it does seem that we will get more crazy storms. Just wondering if you take that into consideration, and if so what are you doing?
Love that you shared this! We are eventually going to need professional help with our yard and it’s hard to know what you’re going to get! Thank you!
Wow, that first inspiration picture with the wood shingled roof. Heart eyes forever! That would look amazing on your house! I know this post isn’t about that (love all the plans, can’t wait to see what you land on) but I’m curious if you have plans to replace the roof in your exterior plans or if you’re still traumatized from all the exterior drama from the last house.
So much potential! I work for a pool builder in Charlotte and the clients we are beginning chats with now would not see there pool dug until well into 1Q and then its 4 months – and that’s best case. Many times we are dealing with material delays especially some of the more unique tile and coping. Anyway, just wanted to share. If you want to be in your pool next summer you definitely need to get on a pool contractor’s pipeline soon! Pandemic pools are a real thing! Can’t wait to watch this develop!
That looks amazing! Have you had the pavers with grass between them before? We had that around a fire pit with eight Adirondack chairs in our Austin house. What I did not consider is how much weed earring it takes to keep that looking neat. In addition, sometimes the landscape guys wouldn’t move the chairs, and the chairs got weed eater marks all along the legs. Even when I asked them to please move the chairs, it just didn’t happen. Every time I see someone with a patio of pavers and grass between, it reminds me of that experience and how we had no idea what a pain it would be. Just something to think about. Otherwise, I love your vision!
I just used yardzen for my design and was extremely happy with the process and final result of the rendering. I agree that some of the real life challenges aren’t taken into account and I wondered how that would all pan out. I haven’t booked a contractor with them yet and am curious to follow along with your decisions!!
These are both gorgeous! Random thought you may have considered. I noticed Yardzen included a fence around the pool area for safety. Love that. Is there a door to outside your girls could use to access the playscape without having to go through the pool area? Just something to consider. Can’t wait to see what you do!
This is a huge consideration for our pool build, too. We’re trying to find a good flow that allows the kids outdoors without them going by the pool first. We, too, will have a pool safety cover, but I want the option to have it open for a focal point/water feature without having to helicopter over the kids. Great point!
We started using Yardzen in March. Here it is beginning of Sept and we juuuust got placed with a contractor. And I had to keep bugging them. Use the ideas, but don’t count on Yardzen if you want your timeline. Just my two cents from my experience..
This was a great post. We are nearing the end of our pool project for our house in Charleston South Carolina. We got three quotes from three different pool companies who are all local. And also brought in our landscape architect. However towards the end of our project we realized that the pool companies do not always map out to scale in the backyard and can cause a lot of issues. Luckily we hired a contractor who is going to finish doing the hard scape for us and were able to make adjustments before everything got finished. If I were to do it all over again I would have had the general contractor come out first. We signed the contract in December, broke ground in March and will be completely finished after the holidays!! Long process but we’ll work it! Wish I saw this post last year!!
Love the online layout – the double sided fireplace with inside is awesome and love that the pool is centered to that, but does feel a tad crowded in that space. I would 100% go with a local landscape designer for this scale of project, especially when you’re new to the area! I’ve worked in development and landscape architects are so underrated – they can add so much value.
It looks like if you marry the two designs together itll be closer to your design. I can’t wait to see this come together !
This is amazing! I’m excited for you and can’t wait to follow along. When planning something like this, do you factor in potential future pets? I’m curious if there are any designed dog considerations with this type of R&D, and what you’ve got planned.
This is great and such good timing for me! We live not far from you with a similar (albeit smaller😂) house and a huge backyard. It is very landscaped currently but we want to utilize more of the space. I think I’m going to try Yardzen so we can get the design and start doing it in phases ourselves. I can’t wait to see what you guys decide to do. Do you have a pool cover plan for safety? I really want the same type your showing but the safety aspect are giving me pause.
So exciting to see your drawings! I know you will make this space look amazing!! I’m curious where the $150k number came from. Is this your budget or did the landscapers estimate that’s how much this will cost? We are doing something similar, but our budget is only 100k so I’m wondering if we didn’t set aside enough money.
I really like your second inspiration photo. The scale of the pool is nice and and I like how it has a little breathing room from the house. I always appreciate landscaping that sort of moves you through the space, creating different types of spaces and places to go. It’s more intimate too, than a huge, open, expansive yard. I’m hopeful you’ll keep as many trees as possible, too!
Do you have favorite resources for landscape design? Blogs? Instagrams? Etc? There is such a wealth (CLJ top among them) of interior design insights and I keep coming up dry when looking for more info than just inspo pics.
Loved your insight on the pros and cons of two different services! I’m interested to know what kind of trees Scott proposed, the ones that are in planters/giant pots. I have a patio in need of shade and never even thought of that concept!
My vote is to find the right landscape architect. Understanding climate, plant life etc is significant…so much more thought and sensitivity to the design IMO. I’m in Miami and got a quote last summer for a pool and didn’t proceed. Well, just called them out again and it’s roughly 40% higher 😩 and timeline as well.
I love the online design
We hired a local landscape designer and while it all seemed perfect initially—I ended up tweaking every single thing—even the plants. I wish we had been more firm in what we wanted to spend bc the land moving required was $150k alone before even improvements. It ended up being so much easier working directly with landscaper and contracting each component ourselves…and I put the unused $3000 rendering temporarily on the wall and we call it our most expensive piece of art😂 If you aren’t working with a designer who is going to give individual quotes beforehand from each component you end up taking over and it was really easy to show each person the tweak of the plans but the layout ended up making more sense as there were so many changes along the way that we had to be the ones to make anyway.
These are beautiful! I would love to hear more about your thoughts on trees and pool. Like how will you keep it clean, how much shade the pool might get, etc. I’m really curious because we really want a pool some day in our backyard but we have tons of incredibly tall trees to deal with that might block sun. And we can’t take them down bc they are in other peoples yards 😉
A lot of pool owners in the south have lanais, full screened enclosures, to deal with pool security, leaf fall and mosquitos.
I agree that the first design is too big and wide open. Maybe if it was shrunk and a nice brick wall put behind the pool, it could feel more intimate. The kids enclosed courtyard you have right now is one of the most charming features, it would be awesome if you could keep that feel. The second design looks more like it.
Beautiful! Flagstone and pavers look beautiful but something to consider is how hot/ burning it feels underneath your feet in your warm climate. I’ve been to pools before with really hot paving around them and it makes it less enjoyable, especially for the little ones. In Houston very few people use these materials and many opt for travertine.
So exciting to see these plans! A word of caution with artificial turf- they get extremely hot in direct sun. My daughter got 2nd degree burns on her palms from bear crawling in gym class!!
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