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It was a trip through Europe in 1850 that inspired Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape design, to create and construct some of the most legendary properties and landscapes of the 20th century. From Central Park to the Biltmore estates, there are some principles that guide the footprint of Olmstead’s (1822-1903) work, and that you can implement and adapt to your own gardens, yards, and spaces.

Take note of these seven design principles from Frederick Law Olmstead, the Father of Landscape Design:


Stay true to the space.

Don’t try to create something that simply isn’t there; stay true to your site and work with what you have. Bring out the beauty and strengths, camouflage the flaws, and optimize the inherent appeal of your specific space.


Make sure there is a purpose.

Don’t add flashy features that lack a sense of purpose. For instance, instead of implementing a faux water feature, consider digging a small man-made pond that can become part of its own eco-system.


Learn the art of obscuring art.

Create small points of interest within the natural surroundings; instead of highlighting something as art, work it in subtly. This creates something new to look at each time you visit or peruse the landscape. It brings a sense of humility and humbleness to the space.


Keep things simple.

Above all, keep things fairly simple and consider the amount of maintenance and labor involved in upkeep. Choose different projects or points of interest each season or year, instead of taking-on too much all at once. Fewer, well-tended features are smarter than a large, elaborate design that can get away from you.


Go green.

Olmstead always touted the importance of sustainability when designing landscapes. Use this as a guide in your own yard and garden projects. Be cognizant of the carbon footprint that you leave behind and opt for recycled and recyclable materials when working on your home’s curb appeal and green spaces.


Find function over flash.

When making the choice between utility and ornamental value, go with utility. There are plenty of ways to enhance practical landscape features, and after all, isn’t functionality a beautiful thing?


Aim to make the world beyond a better place.

Think about your neighbors, community, and the world when designing and planning your space. Look for benefits beyond boundary lines and contribute a little-something to the world beyond your property. For example, buy recycled mulch for borders, provide a natural habitat for wildlife, or plant native species of grass and foliage to contribute positively to the environment around you.


Consider Olmsted’s landscape principles when designing your own outdoor spaces. Bring a sophisticated curb appeal to your Charleston-area property with the services of Natural Tendencies Landscape Professionals.