The App That Helps You Build a Better Backyard

home outside app
Photograph by Susan Teare

Fall’s cooler temperatures make it just about the best time of year to upgrade your landscape. From patios to plantings, a lot of backyard upgrades are within DIY reach—with enough elbow grease. But wouldn’t a master plan, one that lets you attack an outdoor design in stages while providing a roadmap, make it easier? Home Outside is a landscape design firm that’ll remotely generate a plan for your yard, wherever that might be. We tried the service and it’s a game-changer for those looking to revamp their yard.

The project starts by selecting a package based on how much land you want to be redesigned, and then completing a couple of detailed questionnaires or workbooks. This exercise, which involves questions about what colors and plants you like and outdoor lifestyle habits, also asks for a Pinterest board, which helps designers understand your tastes. We found this part to be useful in forcing us to better understand what we wanted in our backyard—something formal or casual? How much maintenance did we want to get into? What kind of hardscaping do we gravitate towards?

Home Outside app
BEFORE: The yard had a pool and plenty of sun, but the layout made it difficult to enjoy it come summer. Courtesy image

Along with the workbooks, we submitted photos of our yard, a sketch with a few measurements, and some drone shots. (The latter is not necessary, but useful for the designers to see how the property has changed since the last time Google Earth photographed it.) They use all this information to generate a base plan of what your yard looks like now. From there you phone conference with your designer about what works, what doesn’t, and what you’d like to change. In a week or two, they send you a draft of their design, which you discuss over the phone with the aid of a computer. You can submit changes—don’t like the fence where they have it? Would you rather see pavers where the designer added deck boards? And then on to a final design in the form of an 11×17 printable PDF.

home outside app
AFTER: With a pergola to provide shade, a dedicated space to shoot hoops, and an outdoor shower, the yard has a better flow that makes it easier to entertain. Courtesy image

Our designer created a plan that addressed some awkward spaces in our yard along with the need for shade. The plan was spot on and it yields a design that lets you tackle the work in stages as your time or budget allows. Don’t feel like doing all of it yourself? Hand the PDF over to a landscape contractor. It’s worth noting the fee doesn’t include a planting plan, which runs about $100 per hour to generate.

[From: $999;]

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