Pointers for Beginning a Residential Design Business

image: Jan Johnsen
image: Jan Johnsen

As co-chair of the Residential PPN, we are tasked with finding talented landscape architects to contribute to this blog.  As a new-ish business owner (my firm is still in its toddler years; established in 2009), I could only hope that my friend Jan Johnsen would be willing to share her thoughts on starting up a new residential design business.  Jan and I met in 2005 when we both began teaching at Columbia University’s Landscape Design program.  Her design studios are a perennial favorite of students, particularly as the program often engages individuals with dreams of beginning their own firms.  Jan owns and operates her own firm, writes a beautiful blog called Serenity in the Garden, and has a book being published in 2014 by St. Lynn’s press focused on creating gardens for inspiration and reflection.  Jan’s thoughts below on beginning a firm are relevant not just to newbies, but also serve as a wonderful reminder of what is most important to operating a mature firm as well.
– Jennifer Horn, RLA, ASLA

Residential landscape design is one of the most fulfilling – and demanding – professions I know of.  Fraught with all sorts of pitfalls, transforming someone’s property is a very personal and uplifting endeavor. I find it to be all consuming but in a wonderful sort of way. Does this sound like a two edged sword? It is as if I am saying ‘come, but stay away’ at the same time.  Well, that is true. As in everything, there are 2 sides to the story and residential landscape design is definitely a ‘both sides, now’ undertaking.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2013

RBC Blue Water Roof Garden image: Adam Woodruff
RBC Blue Water Roof Garden
image: Adam Woodruff

As May and June are such busy months for landscape architects and designers, the opportunity to visit the Chelsea Flower Show (CFS) is usually a far and away bucket list item.  Adam Woodruff, of Adam Woodruff & Associates located in Clayton, Missouri, visited CFS 2013 and created a wonderful post on his website that showcases a wonderful slide show.  He showcases every garden, including detailed pictures of plant material and design in each bed. There are some amazing combinations of plant materials, which can be inspiring to see in bloom!

View Adam’s images on the ADAM WOODRUFF + ASSOCIATES website.

by Deirdre Toner, Planting Design PPN Co-chair