Next up on the makeover list of our Sacramento Carter Sparks designed, Streng Bros built home in Sacramento is landscaping. We selected the online landscaping design platform, Yardzen, to develop a design plan. In this Part One we describe how the process works and the pros and cons of working with an online landscape design platform to design your dream yard.
A Rocky, Dusty Mess
Not much remains of our original 1965 landscaping. When we bought the home in 2020, the front yard was so overgrown you couldn’t see the trademark Carter Sparks roofline. And the backyard had this weird mix of expensive plants still in their original pots and a lot of rocks. We found out later that the previous owners had started landscaping design in 2012 but abruptly stopped the project.
We cleaned up the front yard so the roofline was revealed, and it had better curb appeal. But the back and side yards remained a dusty mess while we worked on the house interior.
When we finally turned our attention to the landscaping, we looked at different options to develop a design plan. We quickly realized that finding a local landscape design firm would not only be expensive, but like many suppliers during these Covid times—unavailable to talk to you for many months.
Online Landscaping Design Platforms
We selected Yardzen as they seemed the more established company, having been in business since 2018 with a good amount of positive reviews.
They offer six different packages to select from such as Outdoor Transformation to just the Front or Back Yard, or simply helping you pick the right plants for your yard which they call the Curb Appeal plan. The prices range from $2495 for the Outdoor Transformation Design Plan that also includes helping you pick exterior paint to $649 for a Custom Planting Design. They helpfully provide a quiz so you pick the right package, and if you still can’t decide, you can request a 15-minute consultation call.
We opted for the Full Yard plan, which would include a design plan for the front, side and back yards.
How It Works
You communicate what you want in your design plan by using their YardBuilder tool which includes your style preferences, inspiration photos, site conditions and maybe most importantly, how will you use the space.
We especially like the part where we walked around with our iPhone taking videos of our space chatting about what we liked, disliked and our dreams for the space. We told them which plants and trees had to stay (both orange trees!) and which ones could go. It took us about two hours to pull all that information together.
Our overall style for the backyard was to continue the mid century style of extending the interior living area outside. To us this meant a space for entertaining. We also wanted a peaceful, cool retreat where we could escape the Sacramento heat. And given the continuing drought in California where we live, we wanted a gravel garden and native plants to conserve on water and maintenance.
TIP: Prior to working with Yardzen we had spent many a Saturday afternoon pouring through Instagram design feeds as well as back issues of Atomic Ranch magazine and other Mid Century Modern design books for inspiration.
We gave them a budget number, to which they responsibly told us that, given everything we wanted, we would certainly exceed. We chose to go ahead with the full plan even though it would exceed our budget—we wanted to see what they would come up with and then decide whether or not to implement their entire plan.
Yardzen then went to work using our information and satellite imagery to confirm the boundaries of our property. They determined sun and shade patterns and measured and mapped our yard using their 3D modeling software.
About two weeks later, we received our preliminary design plan for review. And it was impressively spot on. We made some corrections to the plan, asked a few questions, and then Yardzen went to work on creating our final plan which would include Computer-Aided Drawings (CAD), plant list, furniture and material suggestions. With our final plan in hand, we began our search for a local contractor.
Pros & Cons
In Part 2 we will share how we chose a contractor to implement their plan and tips on how to turn a Yardzen plan into reality.
For now, here is what we found to be the pros and cons of working with Yardzen:
•Their YardBuilder software made it easy to communicate our design goals
•Good initial communication— we received responses to our emails within a few days
•Final design plan submitted to us within a month
•Price of design plan good value for plan received
•Will match you with a landscape contractor in your area to implement plan
•Once final plan is received, we found it almost impossible to get a response to questions. We even resorted to leaving comments on their Instagram feed pleading with them to respond to our emails.
•No information on where to source some of the materials they suggest in the plan
•Mistakes in CAD plan—some of the dimensions were off, plant list didn’t match list on plan, for example
•Material suggestions were inconsistent—for example, pavers had specific dimensions in some places and not in others.
•They do not offer electrical, lighting or irrigation as part of the plan
Bottom line? Yardzen helped us organize our landscape vision. Having the plan as a starting point made communicating our design vision to our landscape contractor a snap. The more homework you do before you start working with them, the more likely that the plan they develop will reflect that vision.
There you will also find profiles of other Mid Century Modern enthusiasts written for Atomic Ranch Magazine as well as articles on Mid Century Modern finds such as where to shop, eat, drink and stay in Palm Springs. You can follow me on Instagram.