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Redesigning your yard can be done virtually on Long Island

Alan and Alexis Garten, with son Aidan, 2,

Alan and Alexis Garten, with son Aidan, 2, used a virtual design company to spruce up the landscape and patio of their Flower Hill home. Credit: Danielle Silverman

When Alexis Garten and her husband finished construction on their Dutch Colonial in Flower Hill about a year ago, they were very happy with the results — except for the front and backyards.

“Our yard was a mud pit,” Garten, 36, says. Today, the space is filled with plantings including hydrangeas, May Night and Dragon Lady, and the backyard has a deck fit for the entertaining her family enjoys. 

Garten transformed her yards with the help of Tilly (tilly-design.com) — a virtual home design service for the outdoors that offers plans ranging from do-it-yourself projects with consultations starting at just $75, to entire property refurbishing with installations done by Tilly’s or other professional landscapers.

Garten, an attorney, got a full design plan for $675, did some of the suggested plantings herself, and then used professionals hired by the company from the tristate area to do the rest of the job.

“I was able to discuss ideas for the yard and show the landscape designer my property all via FaceTime,” Garten says. “Within two weeks, I had a 3D rendering of my landscape plan with a description of everything to be planted and easy to follow instructions.” 

Port Washington resident and co-founder Sarah Finazzo, 37, says the goal of the company is to make landscaping more affordable, and to make outdoor design more convenient. And she adds some of Tilly’s newest clients are looking to create a better recreational space to escape from current events. 

“I think people are looking for ways to enjoy and maximize their space with their families,” Finazzo, who started the company in 2019, says. “This is a stressful time and people want to be surrounded by something that is calming and can help them relax. People also have additional time for home projects.”

Betsy McDonald, 39, lives in a more than 70-year-old house in Port Washington and signed up for a redesign of her yard to “spruce up” its appearance and make it more conducive to entertaining — especially now. “We have already been using our yard more due to social distancing," McDonald says. "Whenever the weather has been decent over the past couple of weeks, we were outside playing sports and/or doing work from our laptops in the sunshine.”

Finazzo adds that while contractors aren’t available to do landscape work under the circumstances, DIYers can still get projects done. And to create an ideal space for your own family, you don’t need a giant green thumb. Tilly chooses plants that are most appropriate for you, and for the amount of time you want to dedicate to the maintenance of your yard.

Finazzo says a landscape design from a traditional company can vary widely but can be well over $1,000 for a full yard design. Tilly’s front yard package is $375, backyard $475 and full yard $675. Renderings in 3D that had been included when Garten had her design done, are now an additional $175. Should you opt for a $75 consultation, it'll involve a 30-minute FaceTime call with a designer, which Finazzo says “is ideal for a problem or an area for which you need inspiration or expert advice." The client receives feedback from the designer and a follow-up email with directions for the project.

Included among the company’s designs in addition to front and backyards, are lighting, basketball courts, hot tub retreats, fire pits and veggie gardens. The process uses FaceTime, Google Earth, uploaded pictures of the space to be designed and includes a survey with questions about the customer’s goals for the project.

“It’s a 100 percent online landscaping design company,” Finazzo says. She adds the concept was conceived after she and three of her friends (the co-founders), including one already owned a successful landscaping company, were discussing how landscaping is so expensive and wondered why there weren’t more affordable, efficient and easy to use resources to help. 

Like the Gartens, Liz Simons, 37, a physical therapist who lives in Port Washington, paid $675 for a full yard design. Simons says she hadn’t used a landscape designer before “mainly because they are generally so expensive.” She says her yard gets a lot of use by herself, her husband and three boys, ages 2, 4 and 7. “I loved working virtually," Simons says.

WHAT YOU GET:

THE CONSULT: $75
Chat with a Tilly designer to work through a problem area, find inspiration, and access expert advice about your specific yard.
Includes: 30-minute phone or video chat with designer and 2 follow-up emails from designer.

FRONT YARD: $375
Partner with a Tilly designer to create a custom landscape design package for your front yard. Details about your project, photos of your space and a property survey (if available) will be collected and then a video conference will be scheduled.
Includes: 30-minute video (or phone) chat with designer; full-color scaled plan of project area; complete list of plants and materials (including botanical name, common name, size and quantity); materials palette; detailed installation and care instructions; one round of design revisions.

BACKYARD: $475
Partner with a Tilly designer to create a custom landscape design package for your backyard. Details about your project, photos of your space and a property survey (if available) will be collected and then a video conference will be scheduled.
Includes: 30-minute video (or phone) chat with designer; full-color scaled plan of project area; complete list of plants and materials (including botanical name, common name, size and quantity); materials palette; detailed installation and care instructions; one round of design revisions.

FULL PROPERTY: $675
Partner with a Tilly designer to create a custom landscape design package for your full property. Details about your project, photos of your space and a property survey (if available) will be collected and then a video conference will be scheduled.
Includes: 30-minute video (or phone) chat with designer; full-color scaled plan of project area; black and white scaled installer’s plan; complete list of plants and materials (including botanical name, common name, size and quantity); materials palette; detailed installation and care instructions; one round of design revisions.

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