A Beginner's Guide to Landscape Design Concepts

by Lee Joseph 07/28/2021

If you’re new to designing outdoor spaces it might be easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily, there are some key principles and guidelines that go into every landscape design no matter the size or location. Here we’ll go over the basic tips and concepts to consider when creating your own landscape design.

Consider Usage

The easiest place to begin when designing a landscape is the concept of form following function. Whether you want it to be a venue for dining and entertainment, an escape for quiet contemplation, a place to play with pets and family or anything else, use that to guide your decision making. Be aware of what design choices would prevent you from using the space in the way you want. For instance, does the lack of shade make it uncomfortable to sit outside during the day? Are there too many garden beds and not enough free space to move around? Think of the function first and the form will follow naturally.

Assess the Space

It’s crucial to understand and make a note of the space you are working with. Things like dimensions and microclimates are important to every design decision. You’ll need this information to know where the best place to plant trees or flowers are or the perfect corner for your barbeque pit. Pay attention to how the sun moves across the yard during the day and make a note of the areas that get full sun versus those that remain in shade. Air flow is also an important factor in comfort and design, so pay attention to the way the wind moves through—or if it doesn’t at all.

Keep It Simple

It’s easy to overcomplicate, especially in the brainstorming phase of your design. In order to avoid this, focus on specific priorities and build around them. For example, if creating a deck is the most important part of the yard, focus on that rather than get bogged down by details. Think in broad terms and put yourself in the space physically and mentally. Do you create a walkway all the way around the lawn or does it make more sense to cut through it? Is there a simple path back and forth to the inside of the home? Usually, the simplest answers to these questions will be the most effective in your design.

Establish Focal Points

Focal points are an essential part of any design because they guide and determine the entire aesthetic and flow of the space. A focal point is where you want to draw the eye, so think about how you can create the best but most comfortable view. Your focal point can be a stone fire pit or an elegant water feature. It can even be something as simple as a retaining wall decorated with potted plants. The focal point should be the most aesthetically important part of the yard.

Have Fun!

While there are guidelines, landscaping design is not an exact science. It takes equal parts practicality and creativity, and the possibilities are endless. As long as you keep these general concepts in mind you’ll be able to create the landscape of your dreams—one that looks and functions exactly how you want.

About the Author

Lee Joseph


This is my 36th year in real estate and I love what I do! I enjoy making the American Dream of home ownership a reality. I believe in always being on the cutting edge of anything new in my industry and as a result, hold the national designations of ABR (Accredited Buyer Rep), CRS (Certified Residential Specialist), and SRES (Senior Residential Specialist). I received the Natalie Quinlan Distinguished Service Award in 2017, Realtor of the Year Award in 2013 and the Realtors Choice Award in 2010. I currently hold the Coldwell Banker President's Premier Award and the Central Massachusetts Association of Realtors Diamond Level Award. I believe in giving back to our industry and serve on the Professional Standards Committee for both RACM and MAR, MAR Director, and also serve as a mediator for RACM to resolve conflicts that arise. In the community, I enjoy supporting the performing arts and especially the Hanover Theatre. As Founding Members, my husband and I sit on various committees and enjoy attending as many performances as we can. I also sit on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club. I am a Shrewsbury resident and have raised two daughters who have enjoyed and benefited from an education from the Shrewsbury Public School system. I practice seller and buyer representation, new construction and relocation.

Lee Joseph, ABR, CNS, CRS, GRI, SRES