There is still a lot of demand for landscape architectural services in spite of the economic downturn, said Jamie Fleckenstein, principal at Studio 342. Fleckenstein said the two-person firm that specializes in residential landscape design is still getting quite a few new projects, but work is increasingly coming directly from homeowners or property owners, with fewer referrals coming through architectural firms.
There is also a new level of cost consciousness among those owners, he said.
“People still want to spend the money, they just want to do it efficiently and make the most of their investment,” he said. “They’re asking for a little bit more creativity in materials and use of materials, and certainly energy and resource use.”
More native plants
The trend toward more native and drought-tolerant plants and on-site water capture and reuse is continuing, and that’s a good thing, Fleckenstein said.
Studio 342 is working on several residential projects in Seattle and the Eastside, a home in Gig Harbor and a few on Mercer Island. Fleckenstein said people are increasingly choosing cleaner, contemporary design over more traditional landscape design, which he and partner Chad Wichers are happy about.
“The perception (is) that contemporary design is cleaner and simpler than an older-fashioned, traditional garden design that might be perceived as high-maintenance or stuffy or something like that,” he said. “It’s a trend of simplifying the landscape for homeowners and project owners.”
Out with townhouses
Studio 342 is doing far less townhouse landscape design than in the past few years. One of Fleckenstein’s least favorite trends over the past few years was the fenced-in front yards right against the sidewalk that so many townhouse projects had. He said much of that was code-driven, and it would be vastly preferable to have a larger community garden space for a cluster of townhouses to share rather than individual yards that aren’t really usable.
He said he is glad to see more cottage housing projects in the works around the Northwest, but there still aren’t as many as he would like.
Working with clients
One of the trends Fleckenstein appreciates is clients being more involved in the design process. He said clients are increasingly sitting in on design charrettes — sometimes at their own request and sometimes at the firm’s — and that really helps him better understand what the clients want, and to pick up on some details that might otherwise be missed in discussions.
“It can provide some really valuable insight, because nobody knows the space better than the owner, the property owner, and especially when they have a vision of how they want to use the space,” he said. “(It) tends to strengthen the outcome of that process.”