Tim Shaw

What is your professional background/expertise?

Homeowner looking for practical landscape solutions.

How did you come to know/work with Kelley Oklesson/Groundsmith Collective?

Our contractor introduced us to Kelley Oklesson and the outcome couldn’t have been a more pleasant surprise. Kelley is a true designer. She listened to our needs and got to know our style, our preferences, and limitations. She did so in a warm and empathetic way, offering ideas to test in response to what we said in a helpful, exploratory fashion.

Kelley then came back with three designs for the front side of our house that showed that she not only well understood the utilitarian problems to solve, but also that she imagined exciting beauty around the needed features. She had internalized what was necessary, and then had thought creatively about how to re-conceive the space to be an asset that was also highly functional. She also presented the designs in an engaging, excited way, listened carefully to our feedback, and came back with on-target refinements.

Were there any challenges or changes in plans and how did Kelley handle it?

It was the renovation we didn’t want. The house was reasonably comfortable as is, and the gardens were nice, courtesy of prior owners. After three years, though, our daughter was severely injured in an accident, and thereafter mostly wheelchair bound. We would need new living space for her, but, as important, there would need to be a much more accessible entry to the house. Could we do all this and still have an attractive property, without blowing our budget?

The core of the designs was a wheelchair-friendly hardscape, but Kelley brought ideas and patterns we would not have considered on our own. What could have been an ugly expanse of concrete or asphalt in other hands became a beautiful, inviting feature that perfectly integrates with the new wheelchair ramp.

What did you enjoy about working with Kelley and how did she compare to working with other design professionals?

Kelley designed a new garden that softened the hard edges of the hardscape. She nailed our taste for colors of flowers and needs of care, and then added features that never would have occurred to us, such as a gorgeous river birch and and ornamental boulder. She personally oversaw the planting. When the results full emerged in the spring, we couldn’t have been more pleased by the results, and everyone from neighbors to friends to passers by has loved our new look. After a year and a half of use and enjoyment, the space has proven the ideal mix of function and beauty.

At the time, we only had budget to work on the front of the house, but we have since hired Kelley to provide plans for the back as well. We plan to do some work ourselves, but also to potentially hire Kelley to manage bigger aspects of this work.

We cannot recommend her highly enough.

How did working with a designer impact the outcome of your project?

One particular facet of this work is work highlighting. A couple weeks after the initial planting, Kelley came back and said, nonchalantly, that she wanted to add some bulbs that would like nice in the spring. She had our trust, so we waved her on and didn’t think much of it. When spring arrived, however, the “just some bulbs” became a set of stunning alliums that were the focal point of the spring bloom. We got tons of complements on them, in particular.