Lifescape’s Dan DeGrush on Instagram-worthy designs

Social media means your clients don't have to invite people over to wow them. (Photo: Dan DeGrush)


Social media raised the stakes on keeping up with the Joneses, and landscaping clients no longer have to invite people over to wow them.

“They want features that they can take pictures of and share with their friends,” Dan DeGrush, landscape architect at Lifescape Colorado in Denver, said. “People want to boast a little bit.”

For example, water features are an old stalwart in landscape design, but instead of water trickling over rocks, new designs incorporate bold sculpture, rusted metal or fire elements.

Younger clients in particular are interested in what DeGrush calls the “Restoration Hardware” look: mixing metal and wood in oversized pieces.

“That kind of furniture and that kind of look goes with a lot of different [styles],” he added.

Ultimately, though, the style most clients are asking for is contemporary, he said. It doesn’t have to be stark and minimalist, he explained, but designs featuring clean lines and geometric shapes rather than curving bed lines are increasingly popular.

“Especially in a small landscape,” he pointed out, “the simpler the lines are, the larger the landscape feels.” Considering the high demand for real estate, particularly in Central Denver where lots are smaller, maximizing the available space is essential.

That indoors-outside feeling

Outdoor living is still a huge trend for landscape customers, who want to create “an interior room outside,” DeGrush said. Using a lot of glass and large doors and windows, or using the same materials in the indoor and outdoor space, helps smooth the transition between the two areas.

For example, DeGrush said he’s seeing a lot more tile in designs. Thicker tiles—about three-quarters of an inch—can be used indoors and outdoors, and textured materials make the tile safer when it gets wet.

Clients are more conscious of the resale value of their home improvements than they were a decade ago, he added, and are more willing to hear ideas for long-term solutions, even if they’re more expensive. “It’s like, ‘If that costs another $1,000 or $2,000 more to do it the right way, I want that,’” DeGrush said of clients’ mentality.

Fake grass is for the dogs

artificial turfThere’s a big call for pet-friendly designs, too. “Most folks we come across have a dog,” DeGrush said.

In some neighborhoods, a customer might have a pretty small outdoor space to work with, but a larger dog. In that case, DeGrush recommends using artificial turf, which has improved dramatically over the last five to 10 years.

Turf is easier to maintain than sod, especially against the particular stresses that a dog will put on grass. “You don’t have to deal with all the spots when they go to the bathroom,” he said. “It’s just an easier thing to maintain than a 20-foot by 10-feet piece of sod that has 40 yellow spots.”

(Photos: Dan DeGrush, Lifescape Colorado)

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