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3 Common Reader Questions Answered by Local Design Pros

Your architecture, building, interior design and landscape questions answered by Valley pros.

Communication is essential during the design process. While a client might express a dislike for contemporary aesthetic, the architect may have a different definition of the same style.


Andrew Carson III, Carson Architecture and Design
How do I best communicate my ideas to ensure my architect and I are speaking the same language?
The first meetings with your architect are important to help develop the language the design will take on. In the past, clients would come in with boxes of pages torn from magazines with images to show us what they liked. Now in the digital age, they download their Pinterest or Google files, and we go through them together. Architects are usually keen on listening and observing common themes and styles that their clients are drawn to. But sometimes clients create their own terms for what they like, which might not align with the terminology that the architect would use to describe that style.

When this situation occurs, we try to create a ‘Rosetta Stone’ of words our clients like to use and adjust our thinking to ensure that we understand each other. This can be a challenging process but very rewarding, as it eliminates the frustration that can result when the client and the architect are having trouble communicating.

As an example, a few years ago, we worked with a woman who insisted she did not want a contemporary house. As we went through the images that she had gathered, everything I saw looked contemporary—but that is not what she called it. Internally, we developed a system to ensure that no one on our team used the term ‘contemporary’ in association with this project, and ended up defining a new term, ‘ranch elegance,’ that she liked very much. Communication is an integral part of the relationship between the architect and the client, and sometimes it just takes the right amount of time and patience to make sure that we’re all speaking the same language.

When used judiciously, high-quality synthetic turf can add beauty to a yard without looking obviously artificial.

Landscape Designer

Harrison Hoffman, Roots First
Are there any general rules of thumb when it comes to using artificial turf in my yard?
Artificial turf has come a long way in resembling real turf, and it offers year-round greenery with little maintenance and the obvious benefits of water conservation. However, there are some things to keep in mind when considering installing synthetic turf. Because it is a plastic material, it can reach temperatures of more than 130 degrees, and unlike real turf, will hold onto this heat longer after sunset. Some companies will suggest installing sprinklers. I don’t suggest this, as I would be concerned with hard-water deposits and leaks.

The other item to be mindful of is installing synthetic turf around existing trees. If your tree is currently residing on a real lawn, the transition to synthetic could stress the tree, and it will no longer benefit from the moisture of the lawn and the water it received from sprinklers. It now will have warmer soil around the roots and receive reflected heat. To combat this, I recommend creating a planter around the tree, holding the turf back a minimum of 4 feet and installing dedicated irrigation to the tree, using multiple drip emitters or a soaker line. To ease the concerns over the high heat, I remind my clients that when the summer is at its worst, they tend to use these areas the least. If you have synthetic grass between your home and pool, a quick hit with the hose will help, or wear foot protection. 

When selecting and designing your synthetic turf yard, we recommend using high-quality turf that contains multiple widths and heights within the grass blades and a small percentage of dead thatch to better imitate real turf. We recommend a pile height (length of grass blade) of 2 inches, and a face weight (the length and density of turf blades) of 70 ounces. This will ensure realistic, long-lasting turf. When designing synthetic turf layouts, we try to avoid having it touch existing masonry walls and instead prefer to leave a space for planting, leading to a more realistic, balanced look.

In summary, synthetic turf is a great option for yards that struggle to grow real grass due to heavy shade; hardscape designs that incorporate turf joints; and busy homeowners who want consistently beautiful lawns year-round. There is the old saying, ‘You get what you pay for,’ and this proves true to the synthetic grass product and installer you use. The higher the quality, the better the result.

Homeowner’s Representative

Keith Galbut, ADVOCATE – Residential Construction Advisors
Can I use a competitive bidding process for the building of my private home?
Absolutely. We find it essential for many reasons, and families are often not aware that they can take advantage of the layered benefits of a competitive bidding process when selecting a builder for a new home or a major remodel. Implementation of this process results in economic benefits, risk reduction and enhanced alignment among the homeowners and the build team.   

First, a competitive bidding process will ensure market pricing based on client-defined architectural drawings and specifications. With unpredictable fluctuations in construction pricing, this exercise is imperative to understand what the true market costs are for a particular project, providing an objective analysis and a transparent approach for the homeowner. Second, a competitive bid process assists in identifying missing or overlapping scope, ensuring accurate pricing and mitigating risk. Third, a competitive process can yield highly valuable information to assess if a potential builder is a good fit for the homeowners, the design team and the project, emphasizing holistic unity between all parties involved. Does the builder have the necessary experience for the complexity and style of the build? Do the builder’s and homeowners’ personalities align? Does the builder have the capacity to deliver the project in line with the client’s expectations? Has the builder previously worked with the design team? A competitive bidding process ensures that a builder will be held to predictably perform within a homeowner’s budget, timeline and objectives.


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