By Jason Cramp
Heidi Richter didn’t go to design school to learn her craft, and that’s just fine by her. A self-taught designer, the HGTV Canada stylist was her family’s go-to girl whenever something needed to be put together at home. It was Richter’s DIY philosophy that helped her get a volunteer gig on a home décor TV show in 2002. Soon enough, she landed a position as a design assistant and worked her way up to lead design stylist. Today, she is owner of HR Design Inc., a Toronto-based design/project management company. And when Richter’s not working with clients, she’s still getting her TV fix as the stylist on Disaster Decks, as well as stylist/project manager on Custom Built, both seen on HGTV Canada. It’s no wonder Pools, Spas & Patios checked in with this painter/carpenter/designer/project manager/stylist for her advice on making the most of your backyard space.
PSP: For backyards, why is it important to know the homeowner’s intended use of the space before beginning to decorate?
Richter: This is an essential point. Getting to know the wants and needs of a client and translating these into the appropriate placement and finishes of furnishings is the number one job of a designer/stylist. The time spent in establishing these guidelines ensures a client is going to be pleased with the end result.
PSP: What other factors come into play when choosing a particular style or colour scheme, etc.?
Richter: There are many important factors to consider. For instance, are there children or pets in the household? Do the clients entertain a lot? When those factors exist, you may choose to go with darker coloured, textured, or patterned textiles that won’t show wear and tear as easily as a light fabric without a pattern. Also, take a good look at the house, both inside and out, as you want to make sure there is a smooth transition from indoors to out.
PSP: What questions should the homeowner ask of an outdoor stylist before hiring him/her to decorate their outdoor space?
Richter: Before hiring a stylist, a homeowner should definitely ask some key questions, such as does the stylist charge an hourly or flat rate? You should also check whether they charge mark-ups on purchases. More importantly, however, when hiring someone that is going to design a space for you, listen to how many questions he or she asks. The more questions they ask, the more interested they are in learning what you like and how you live your life. As a result, you will get a finished space that accurately reflects you and your lifestyle. After all, your home is an extension of your personality.
PSP: How much planning is required on the part of the homeowner? What things should they consider to personalize their backyard space (e.g. shade elements, creating privacy, furniture options, and lighting, etc.)?
Richter: A prepared homeowner will spend a year planning the use of their backyard. It is important to watch your backyard throughout the seasons so you know where the sunny and shady areas are at different times of the year. Same goes for the damp and dry spots. You also want to note which existing plant life drops leaves or fruit. That way, when it comes time to design and style, these can be taken into consideration and appropriate design solutions can be applied.