Design by the Yard

When it comes to budgeting for—and focusing on—a home remodel, the lion’s share is often spent on the interior. But curb appeal is key. Here’s how to maximize a landscape redo for the most impact.



Harvey Smith Photography/Courtesy Signature Landscape Contractors

It's tempting to give our exteriors short shrift when planning a home makeover, but isn’t the outside the first thing people see? If you wow them from the curb, it’s the perfect introduction to a well-designed interior. 
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So, how do you get the most bang for your landscaping buck? We spoke with four Central Florida experts to find out.   

“The goal of each landscape should be a feeling, a setting that will enhance the architecture,” says Andy Swanson of Signature Landscape Contractors in Winter Park. “Transforming a yard takes thought in what will create the best overall impact for the budget being applied by the homeowner.” If the budget is tight, Swanson suggests a clean and simple approach with an emphasis on an immaculate lawn: “Great green turf might make the largest impact since visually it covers the most amount of the property.” 

Ups & Downs 

A broad expanse of lush, green lawn creates a strong horizontal visual that carries the eye up toward the home, but Swanson notes that the vertical plane is important, too: “Quality tree selection and placement also create an impact; if the right sizing and quality is selected, trees make significant vertical impact for the building structure,” he says. “The right tree in the right location can make a great focal point or backdrop for the home.” 

Landscape architect Scott Redmon of Redmon Design Company in Maitland says it’s important to look up for landscape inspiration: “The roof color should dictate the paver color for the driveway and other hardscapes,” he advises. The ideal is to create a well-balanced landscape with a mix of horizontal and vertical planes, using lawn, pavers and mulch contrasted with shrubs and trees in a variety of heights. Lawn ornaments such as sculptures and fountains can also contribute to the verticality of the yard.  

“Look for the home’s most flattering architectural elements to create complementary landscape elements and spread the richness throughout the property.” 

Bright Lights, Big Impact 

By day, it’s easy to see the curb appeal of a well-designed landscape. But when the sun goes down, so does the luster. Blooms fade into shadow, architectural features disappear and the entire yard can appear lifeless. That is, unless you add lighting to the mix. With the proper outdoor lighting, a yard can take on a completely new personality at night. “Lighting can extend the use and enjoyment of the garden long into the evening,” says landscape architect Stephen Pategas of Hortus Oasis in Winter Park. Dramatic uplighting can make palms pop; illuminated walkways can create an inviting path for visitors; and “wall-washing”—lighting your home’s façade—can make a home positively glow. “Landscape lighting is the icing on the cake,” adds Swanson. 

Consider additional illumination with unexpected applications, such as rope lighting around palm trunks and twinkle lights in tree branches or wrapped along a balcony railing or exterior stair rail. A lighted water feature in a pool or spa, a fire table on a deck or clusters of candles in a zen garden can add layers of light while sparking visual interest after dark.

Make a Splash

Water elements add life and movement to a landscape plan, and that doesn’t just mean fountains, says Redmon. “Pools are fountains that people sometimes swim in; that’s how I design pools,” he says. “It’s the number-one water feature, and that’s where most of the money is going to go.” 

Pools should be more than a big rectangular container for water; a good pool design incorporates some type of visual dynamic, such as water jets or a fire feature, and dramatic lighting, as well as activity space for games and recreation. 

Bottom Line 

Like any home improvement project, you get what you pay for with a landscape makeover. A simple cleanup that includes trimming overgrown shrubs away from windows and architectural features, remulching and freshening flower beds may be accomplished for $3,000-$5,000, but for a more extensive redo that includes an extensive replanting plan, lighting, hardscapes and more, expect to pay between $15,000 and $25,000. If you’re adding a pool, a large entertaining area or other costly features, the amount can potentially hit six-figures. It’s not inexpensive, but creating a beautiful outdoor living space can add great value to your home and quality of life. Says Pategas: “Renew the garden and your enthusiasm while you expand your use of the out of doors. It’s space that is worth the investment.”


Makeover Magic

Landscape transformations—just like home interior renovations—come at a cost. Here’s a general idea of what you can expect to pay:

  • Small projects can range from $5,000 to $7,000.
  • An average or medium-sized project can range in price from $15,000 to $22,000. “When landscaping means more than just plants, it is like remodeling a kitchen,” says landscape architect Stephen Pategas. “You are creating a room or rooms outside.”
  • Large projects are limited only by budget, says Pategas: “The sky is the limit.”
  • Landscape design fees range from $1,500 to $2,500, and may include bidding assistance and site inspections.
  • Demolition costs vary widely but can run $3,000 or more.
  • Hardscapes start at $1,500 minimum, but $3,000-5,000 is more likely if a patio and small pergola are part of the plan.
  • Landscape/irrigation renovation can range from $6,000 to $10,000.
  • LED lighting costs approximately $250 per fixture, including a transformer and lighting. Expect to pay a minimum of $2,000 for an overall lighting plan.

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