Improving weather keeps landscape design firm busy

Homeowners paying more attention to yards, the new family rooms

Spring is here – according to the calendar anyway – and homeowners are anxious to make the improvements to their yard they have thought about all winter. But that vision may have to wait until next year, as landscape designers like Jeff Welch get booked out months in advance as nicer weather approaches. Cold weather doesn’t affect his ability to design a landscape, and he encourages clients to call ahead to get the process started.

"Do research, look at pictures and figure out what you want," said Welch.

Welch began Escape Designs about a year-and-a-half ago. He enjoys putting his own touch on people’s landscapes, but the process is always better when his clients get as excited as he does about their yards.

Welch said the explosion of TV shows dedicated to landscaping and gardening has made homeowners more educated about yard features.

"People are starting to appreciate their landscape like they do the inside of their home," he said.

Yards are also being treated as an extended living space. With increasing home values, people are refinancing and reinvesting equity back into their property through landscape improvements.

Major trends include integrating lighting and the use of hardscapes for patios, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and low-maintenance design.

Welch has been involved in the industry for about 13 years and has four two-year degrees in horticulture, turf management and landscape maintenance. He works with clients to design the yard they desire and works with contractors and landscapers to oversee the project.

"I represent the homeowner to ensure everything is installed correctly and according to plan," said Welch.

Escape Designs’ revenue represents only about 10 percent of a project’s cost, with the majority going to the contractor. As a plant broker, Welch’s biggest profit is from the plants used in a project, allowing him to keep clients’ design costs to a minimum.

Most of Escape Designs’ work is done in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon, but word-of-mouth referrals have him working throughout the Northwest and the country. In 2005 he traveled to four jobs. In the fall he is scheduled to do a project in Baltimore. He travels to long-distance jobs for the initial design and manages the rest of the process by phone.

The company produced $125,000 in revenue last year, and Welch expects to double that in 2006.

Escape Designs and Woody’s Custom Landscaping will have an indoor display garden and exhibit at the Clark Public Utilities Home and Garden Idea Fair April 28 through 30 at the Clark County Event Center at the fairgrounds.

Escape Designs

Jeff Welch, owner

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