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3 Things to Look for to Get Expert Level Custom Swimming Pool & Landscape Design

You are probably about to make a significant expenditure in your outdoor living space. But whom should you call first to help? It depends whether you need a quick utilitarian fix to an urgent problem, or if you want a long-term solution offering the highest level of beauty, functionality, and maximum return on your investment.

How do you discern between who offers what? The key is in contrasting the strengths of a contracting company vs. a design company, and knowing which is right for you.

The pool as it was before had a striking geometry that matched the lines of the house, but was encumbered by contrived, artificial rock outcroppings.

The pool as it was before had a striking geometry that matched the lines of the house, but was encumbered by contrived, artificial rock outcroppings.

Here are 3 things that will help you get expert level custom pool design and custom landscape design.

1. Do They Charge For Design?

Most contractors / salespersons draw quick, free “designs” (even in 3D these days) sufficient to expedite their business model of making sales and “getting on with building already,” because the latter is what they do best and is where they make their money. The part you have to live with, the design, is a necessary evil for them, a means to their end.
On the other hand, independent pool and landscape designers prepare more thorough and insightful strategies first, at a surprisingly low cost relative to your build. Their business model explores all the right options before crews start turning shovels in your yard. “Planning your trip and preparing the map” is what they do best.

Yes, an independent designer will have a cost that may seem significant at first, but the investment in preparing a “map to your ultimate destination” ensures every dollar spent on “travel” is amplified to give you the greatest satisfaction!
If you value the biggest bang for your construction buck, it’s counterintuitive advice but don’t skimp by going with free or undervalued design. Your payback will be huge because design costs so little compared to construction costs and the permanent implications of your choices. Make every dollar count!

2. Do they talk more about How or Why?

Both contractors / salespersons and independent designers will draw you a pretty picture. The “aha” is realized when you look past the pretty picture and recognize the profound but deceptively simple differences between them.
Conscientious contractors / salespersons focus on “how” to build things properly to achieve long-term durability. Their conversation will gravitate towards the nuts and bolts of your project, like pumps, filters, procedures, drainage, this tree vs. that plant, this waterproofing vs. that thinset, etc.

Insightful pool and landscape designers recognize the subtleties of “why” things are beautiful, functional and satisfying long-term. Their inquiry elicits your overall goals, bringing “elite” seemingly expensive looks to everyday people. Their conversations have recurring themes of how to use proportion, scale, symmetry, texture, lighting, color, to achieve mood, ambiance, functionality, and comfort.

Bottom line, you need both, but in the right order! Why comes first. Then how. If you are in a hurry and skimp on asking “why” up front, you are likely to ask yourself “Why, oh why?” later! Then again, if you have never personally experienced the value a professional designer brings to the table, you don’t know what you are missing!

3. When it comes to design, do they advise, teach and lead, or do they look to you?

Contractors / salespersons can talk all day about componentry, their benefits and features. But when it comes to esthetics and overall design, they will be hesitant. They will lean on you to tell them what to do. Where do you want the pool? Where do you think the tree should go? They dare not contradict you with “personal advice” lest they jeopardize rapport and loose the sale. They want to get on with construction. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is their unspoken rule, and esthetic decisions “are up to you.”

A talented designer knows the elusive qualities of why things are both functional and beautiful, and how to implement them to your advantage, making simple things look expensive. They will educate you confidently about what will work best for your unique situation, leading you to what is appropriate, financially sensible, and in good taste. They will be bold enough to diplomatically dispel any preconceived notions you may have that are not in your best interest.

After

The finished product makes the pool as a reflection pond, showcasing a specimen ironwood tree that replaces the artificial rock waterfall, and the pool edges are cleaned up to reflect the clean line of the house.

So which starting point is right for you? Surprisingly, both cost about the same in the end, but what about qualitatively? One choice yields a far superior esthetic, functionality and investment value for each and every one of your hard earned dollars.

A conscientious contractor knows when to team up with an expert designer to elevate their game, and an expert designer knows to align themselves with expert contractors to build their creations in an enduring way.

In summary, “Quality is not expensive, it is priceless.” It pays to hire the right designer, to get a plan worked out first, before talking to a contractor, and it is a common misconception to assume that the “free designs” provided by contractors are of the caliber you really need to get what is actually attainable to you. Most don’t know the difference till it’s too late. Do you?