Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A front garden with not much promise...?

When a contractor I work with regularly asked if I'd be interested in doing a design for a front garden in Edinburgh that he'd been to see, my heart sank when I heard that the client's priority was parking for his cars and originally wanted to just re-tarmac the whole thing. The contractor mentioned to him that talking to a garden designer about it could give him a space that would not only fulfil his parking needs but make it feel like a proper garden, and potentially save him money. Gathering the brief from the client I realised there was much more potential for this front garden that just a glorified huge place to park. It was large, not overlooked (it was surrounded by beautiful stone walls & electric gates) and got sun until late in the afternoon. When I documented in my design proposal that I could include 3 parking spaces but also add a place to enjoy breakfast, store wheelie & recycle bins, room for the kids to play safely as well as include lots of planting, they didn't seem too convinced. This was it before:
Not very pretty or inspiring, so I could understand their scepticism. I drew up the survey and an informal bubble diagram emerged in the process:
Trying to park 2 cars at the north end of the garden, whilst leaving space for a 3rd car and/or access to the garage seemed like quite a tall order. I had to accept that there would be more hard landscaping than planting areas, and we'd agreed that a majority of this would be pale creamy coloured paviors to tie in with the house fa├žade.But how to not make it look like a supermarket car park...? Hmm.
The above concept was created, and using the simple device of using curves, circles and a 2nd colour of pavior really helps break the large parking space up. The area to the side of the house was very private and got lots of sunshine, so there is included a good sized circular patio, surrounded by planting, which separates it from the more utilitarian parking areas & rest of the garden. A small step from it leads to another circle which allows the clients to reverse their cars and get out of the gate easily. A 3rd contrasting circle provides an attractive welcome for visitors at the top of the stairs and helps link these to the front door. 
I'm often written blog posts about the value of Sketchup (and no I'm not on commission!), especially for tricky sites on slopes and the like. But sometimes it's just really good at convincing clients that something that looks nice, but pretty ordinary, from above can look great when you're actually in it. I always prepare 3D models to clients now, it really never fails to get them to see your vision. I took these along at our first design meeting.
The not only look good from a distance, but the view at person height in the garden shows them how well the accentuated curved planting beds can make it feel like an attractive garden and not just a place to park. The plants especially on either side of the front door really help anchor the house with the landscape without taking up too much room. The kids too can zip up and down the whole garden on their scooters and roller skates in safety.
And this view showed them that the breakfast patio is tucked away and could be a nice place to be.
The clients were delighted with the design and wanted to go ahead without changing a thing. So the final design drawing was produced. As usual the clients get a copy which is done in Photoshop. 
But as I've mentioned on other blog posts, the Sketchup drawing is the one that allows me to provide the contractors with the dimensions & areas for them to provide a quote. And once the build commences a great tool for marking out. I also use Sketchup to create my planting plans (more of that in another post), so the design outline can be re-used for that too. This garden had virtually no straight lines, so the measurements for triangulating centres of circles and well as line to create quite precise curves was easy to document. Marking out was a doddle!
We have started the garden now, it took quite a bit of clearing (tarmac over a foot deep in places). The weather has been against us, very wet and the guys have done a really good job so far considering how many paviors they are having to lay. We started with building the circles:
And the rest is following on quite nicely. Some bare root pleached trees are going in over the winter with the majority of the planting being done in the spring, which will hugely help in softening off all the hard landscaping that exists there at the moment.


Rosalind Rosewarne said...

As ever a fantastic advert for Sketch Up! I am impressed if not a little amazed at how good your drawings are in Sketch Up. I have tried a couple of times to take 3D models to the setting out/marking up stage and it simply isn't accurate enough, under my hand at least. More practice perhaps :)
Great to see the progression of the design

The Best Dressed Garden said...

Hi Tracy Was very interested in your comments re sketchup. Thought your 3d drawings looked really good. Do you use the pro version or the freebie? also do you do use it for your initial layout plans or just to show the 3d and planting plans? Did you teach yourself or did you go on a course?? Hope you don't mind me asking all these questions, but have been looking at using it myself and its interesting to get the opinion of someone who is already using it. Thanks Jane

Tracy McQue said...

Thanks Rosalind, nice to hear from you. I can't lie and say that everytime we mark out it works out to the exact cm from the models but usually not too far off. Getting better at the surveying & drawing up stage in making them accurate. Probably spend far too long on footering (Scottish word!) around with including houses etc in models, but feel it's worth the end result. I'm going to take some Sketchup training over the winter to see if I can improve skills & speed up a bit.

Tracy McQue said...

Hi Jane, thanks for the message, happy to answer questions. I've been using the freebie version I use the 2D model that I create from the survey as a basis for everything in the process - the 3D models, presenting to client, calculating areas & dimensions for spec &layout drawings for contractor. I have created a whole set of 2D plant components which allow me to do planting plans to scale too. The Outliner in Pro version even allows you download this a plant list! I am self taught, so probably still making mistakes, so going on a couple of days bespoke training over the winter to see if I can become more efficient. If I can help with anything else, don't hesitate to give me a shout. Tracy

Tracy McQue said...

Oh, and Jane - some more detail on how I use it in previous posts:

The Best Dressed Garden said...

Thanks for the info, Tracy, really useful. Really need to get up to day and bin the pencil and paper

Vialii Garden Services said...

Hi Tracy,
Very impressive stuff. I have had great intentions to get more skilled with Sketchup as it's clearly a powerful design and presentation tool but as with most things, devoting the necessary time to train up always seems to be difficult. Your articles, however, will push me forward to do more with it from now on. Perhaps if it snows some more I'll gather up enough spare time to do it :)
Keep doing the good work.

James Todman said...

Looks fantastic Tracy. Big fan of the curves. Really helps soften and add fluidity to the area- if that makes sense! Looking forward to seeing the area with your planting.

Tracy McQue said...

Hi Michael, thanks for the comments. When I first started trying to learn Sketchup I forced myself to use it on live projects I was working on - not necessarily for the whole range of stuff I use it for now, but maybe drawing up the survey or presenting to clients. Took a bit longer than way I'd been taught at college, but slowly the information sunk in! Taking a day or two's training can probably help you avoid pain I went through - I am in the middle of organising a web 2 day course with a company called Ria Solutions, so will let you know how I get on with that. Good luck!

Tracy McQue said...

Hey James, cheers for nice words - always good to know folks are reading and liking what I'm doing. Hope all's well with you & bad weather hasn't caused too many problems with work.