Q+A with Ellen Rasnikoff, Senior Landscape Architect

Whether your property is big or small, a new landscaping or pool upgrade can have a major impact on the functionality and value of your home. But the prospect of taking on such a project can often lead homeowners feeling hesitant due to the scope of the work. Thankfully, the process is smoother and simpler than homeowners could have ever imagined. Here, with the help of Groupe Paramount’s veteran landscape architect Ellen Rasnikoff, we demystify the process of designing and building our clients’ custom projects.

How do you begin with a new client?

When a client approaches Groupe Paramount for a landscape design, the first step is to meet at the home so that we may walk around the property together. By asking questions about their lifestyle, how they would like to use the outdoor space, what they enjoy about their property, and who lives in the house (people AND pets), I can prepare a ‘wish list’ as a starting point for the design. 

At what point do you visit their home?

During the initial meeting, I assess the condition of the property and all existing features including trees, planting, lawn, driveway, pathways and steps, circulation around the property, drainage, walls, perimeter fences and hedges, as well as privacy and views, and exposure to the sun.  Interior/exterior transitions are very important to note both for views and access. The architectural style of the house will help determine a complementary landscape design.

How do you develop a project’s design?

The next step is to prepare a preliminary landscape plan. This is presented as a coloured, scaled plan (or plans) based upon a precise certificate of location and existing features.  Along with the information I have amassed, I apply the city bylaws appropriate to the project. Each municipality imposes their particular construction setbacks, percentage green space coverage and allowable materials. The client can view the entire design along with photos to explain certain details and materials, and an itemized budget.  With this information, we can modify the plans as needed and then I prepare the final construction and submission package for the municipality to be approved for permit.

How do clients explore material and colour options?

We visit a showroom to choose materials and samples and view them all together on site in the natural light. I prepare a planting list for all the new planting that we can actually see at the nursery. Our project manager and I  co-ordinate consultants as needed for lighting and irrigation, railings, etc. Once the construction begins, I visit the site to ensure that everything is being built according to plan, and maintain constant communication with the client.

What are the advantages of working with a seasoned expert?

A home designed by a Landscape Architect ensures that the client’s needs are being met, the environment is being respected, the municipality receives an accredited, stamped design, and there are years of professional education and experience behind the planning process for the client’s benefit.

What do you love most about your work?

I’ve been with Groupe Paramount for over 20 years and I have to say it’s an absolute pleasure to work in this profession. I enjoy travelling the world visiting gardens for inspiration; I’m even going to Japan early this year.  Each client and their project is unique and it’s a challenge to bring together the client’s desires, the municipal regulations, and the particular site conditions using the latest materials and features to create a special landscape.  Our Groupe Paramount team can offer professional planning as well as the entire project construction, simplifying the process for the client.