Book & Media Reviews

Liking It Hot
It’s hard to pin down exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past dozen years the concept of the outdoor kitchen took off – so much so that these features have moved from “relatively unusual” to “must-have” status on very nearly every upscale residential project.   That’s certainly been the case in my practice, and I hear the same thing from most other watershapers and landscape professionals I’ve talked with in recent times. I’ve already covered some books intended to help us design these spaces and select among the variety of available components and options (“Book Notes,” June 2007).  This time, I’ll take a different tack by
Revealing Our Past
As someone who has spent years digging into the history of landscape and watershape design, it comes as something of a surprise to me that, alongside the luminaries who dominate discussions of the origins of familiar design approaches, motifs and styles, stands at least one practitioner who is not nearly as well known as
Emotional Intelligence
Whether we think of them this way or not, watershape and landscape designs have the ability to create emotional responses among our clients.   In that sense, we’re actually in the business of provoking those feelings.  When we do things right, the conjurings are positive and are at their best when we successfully forge links to our clients’ treasured experiences.  If we miss the mark by not properly considering our work’s emotional impact, however, the results are discordant and somehow unsettling. I think I’ve always known all of this on an intuitive level, but I’d never
Architectural Majesty
Earlier this year, I attended the Texas Pool & Spa Expo in Fort Worth – and, upon arrival, was treated to an unexpected earful. As soon as I reached the show floor, I walked over to greet my friends at the Genesis 3 booth.  Before I could even get in a good round of “hellos,” David Tisherman asked me if I’d ever been to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth – just down the block from the Convention Center and practically in my own backyard. For those of you who know David, whether as an instructor or as a prolific writer for WaterShapes, I’m sure you can guess how he reacted when I confessed
Daily Inspiration
When times are tough, I sometimes find it useful to think about the things in life that I’m able to control while giving less thought to those I can’t.  The plain fact is, no matter how troubling the news is or how tough the economy makes our working lives, nothing can ruin our positive attitude if we don’t let it. In other words and no matter what, we are always in charge of how we greet the world. That’s a point I’ve had confirmed by re-reading The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino (Frederick Fell Publishing, 1964).  To my mind, there are few books that truly warrant the label “classic,” and this is one of those masterpieces.  I regard it among the most inspiring and life-altering books I’ve ever read – and I’m apparently not alone:  It has
Trust Matters
I’ve spent some time in the past couple months looking for a good book about trust.   I ran into some stinkers along the way, with many of them impressing me with how boring and preachy they could be.  But I never had that kind of reaction to The Little Teal Book of Trust by Jeffrey Gitomer (Pearson Education, 2008):  I’m a big fan of his (you may recall that I wrote about his Little Red Book of Selling in March 2008) and have always liked the way he manages to
Designing in Style
There was a time not long ago when most of my clients wanted swimming pool environments that were designed to suit a design theme of some sort that was separate and distinct from the house.  It wasn’t unusual, for example, for clients here in Texas to ask for outdoor areas that replicated Rocky Mountain settings or tropical lagoons. Those projects still come along from time to time, but in the past few years, increasing numbers of my clients want exterior designs that clearly relate to the architecture of their homes.   In part, this has to do with the trend toward
The Home Front
    When I was a landscape architecture student, my coursework on residential landscape design wasn’t much to speak of – just one project in a single course.  In those days, in fact, expressing any interest in residential spaces made you something of an outcast who really should have been thinking of loftier pursuits in civic, public and commercial design. Happily, I’ve been hearing from some younger landscape architects that the situation is now different – but that there’s still no real focus on residential design and a tremendous void when it comes to
The Color of Uniqueness
As 2008 draws to a close, it's apparent that we are contending with a far more challenging marketplace than we enjoyed just a couple years ago.  Current economic woes have cut deeply into bottom lines, forced some watershapers out of business and prompted many others to seek out ways to maximize the business and referrals that come their way. With this challenging business landscape in mind, I recently picked up a copy of Seth Godin's Purple Cow:  Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (Penguin Group, 2002).  Godin, the best-selling author of 10 books, is well-known for challenging the conventional thinking that constrains many businesses.  Although this particular book was written before the recent downturn in the world and U.S. economies, his message in this easily read 150-page discussion is quite applicable to today's situation - particularly among watershapers who want to enhance their approach to the business. Godin's discussion starts out with an account of a trip to the French countryside, during which he was
The Color of Uniqueness
As 2008 draws to a close, it's apparent that we are contending with a far more challenging marketplace than we enjoyed just a couple years ago.  Current economic woes have cut deeply into bottom lines, forced some watershapers out of business and prompted many others to seek out ways to maximize the business and referrals that come their way. With this challenging business landscape in mind, I recently picked up a copy of Seth Godin's Purple Cow:  Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (Penguin Group, 2002).  Godin, the best-selling author of 10 books, is well-known for challenging the conventional thinking that constrains many businesses.  Although this particular book was written before the recent downturn in the world and U.S. economies, his message in this easily read 150-page discussion is quite applicable to today's situation - particularly among watershapers who want to enhance their approach to the business. Godin's discussion starts out with an account of a trip to the French countryside, during which he was