Will Lehnert wants his landscape design process to be “an act of optimism.” And he wants you to be in love with your backyard—whether it’s home to a gathering place for big summer parties, or just a spot to sit with your feet up by the (custom designed) fire pit.
With a degree in landscape architecture from the Ohio State University, Lehnert knows his way around a garden and a patio. (614) took the opportunity to pick his brain about his exterior artistry. From outdoor lighting to edible landscapes to historical district design approval, Lehnert and his Outdoor Space Design team can wave their design wands and bring into bloom your verdant visions.
This is your own little slice of earth. Mold it to fit your dreams.
Which provides more challenges, the greenscaping, such as plants.. Or the hardscaping, like patios?
It really depends on the site. Many of the projects I work with are in very urban settings and usually entail a lot of detail in both the planting design and the hardscape. Some projects have really tough growing conditions so we have to really think through what would actually be successful in these spaces…that can really be challenging.
How involved are homeowners in their makeover designs?
Some are extensively involved and others just say “make it look great…got to go to work…” I like it when clients have a lot of ideas but they need someone to pull it all together in a cohesive vision. Many people organize ideas on Pinterest or Houzz and just share them with me…inspiration photos go a long way in communicating about the design together.
If you could give one piece of advice to DIYers who want to attempt a big makeover like this themselves, what would that be?
Well I believe it all starts with a vision for the space. Many homeowners get motivated and just go to the garden store and buy all the pretty flowering plants that catch their eye and end up creating a lot of chaos in the garden. I have a bias here but it I think it is worth every penny to get a professional designer to help nudge you in the right direction prior to tackling the project yourself.
Designers help people think a bit outside the box and give them ideas that will really bring things together for them. If you don’t have a budget for a designer then I would roughly sketch what you are thinking out on paper and gather some inspiration online prior to starting construction.
What elements to you attempt to include in every design?
I like to introduce an element of order to every design. Many gardens and outdoor spaces have a lot of chaos and just look underwhelming. Sometimes it just takes a small stone wall, trellis or a hedge to pull the whole space together!
I really want the outdoor space to make sense and visually flow from the house…we want clean and intentional movements of plants and hardscape elements. There can be some chaos but it needs to be controlled by some organizing feature.
I think of the garden as a series of outdoor rooms that have enough detail that they can operate as a comfortable living or viewing space…much like rooms in your house.
I like to use authentic, time-tested materials…You know, real stone, brick, wood, metal. I am really not to into fake concrete products like unit concrete block walls; I stick with the real thing…
Where do you draw some of your inspiration from?
I like to walk the historic neighborhoods around Columbus area. I also look at what is going on in the Northeast and Europe. There are some of the best designers and builders in the world there. When I travel I am always taking pictures of garden gates and little landscape details…I am always the guy lagging behind dorking out about some stone wall!
What kind of questions do homeowners need to ask themselves when going into a project like a backyard re-haul? I think they should start with how they want to use the space and work backwards from there. Are you having large dinner parties?
Is it just for you and your partner to have a quiet night next to the fire? Each use will take up a bit of the garden and you should plan for them. Many people go way too small and build spaces that just don’t function well.
Also, consider what kind of materials and plants are appropriate for the house. We should work to select materials that feel like they fit the space and almost feel like they have always been there. What kind of maintenance do you want to take on? Many of the gardens in the magazine get weekly if not daily attention. There are ways to design a lower maintenance space and that should be considered.
For those of us that don’t have the budget for a whole backyard re-do.. What are small but impactful changes we can make?
Container plantings really can pull a space together and make a B-minus space to an A-plus. Quality outdoor furniture is also a great investment that you can take with you when you move! Keep things simple and try to constrain yourself to a small plant pallet where you repeat a similar texture or color through the space for lots of visual impact.
What’s your favorite part about this job/business?
With some designs there is a moment where this big idea clicks and you can see the space come together on the page… It’s like BOOM! There it is. Love it! It is great seeing a vision that my clients and I worked so hard to capture come into reality. I like sitting in the finished space with my clients and hearing about how they have been enjoying the space. •
For more projects from Lehnert, visit outdoorspacedesign.net.