Alexis Sutton, her husband, James, and their two children moved to Denver four months ago and brought with them Tilly. Tilly is a child of Alexis’s, but not the two-legged variety.
Tilly is a simple, user-friendly online platform that delivers custom landscape plans for an outdoor space. The affordable service takes the intimidation out of the world of landscaping.
Sutton and three long-time friends were sitting around one summer afternoon last year, chatting away the day. Sutton, Heather Hoeppner, Blythe Yost, and Sarah Finazzo are all lifelong friends who grew up together outside Chicago. One topic seemed to take root: the cost of landscape design. That day, Blythe Yost, a landscape architect in New York, and her childhood friends joined forces to launch Tilly the following February.
Why Tilly? “Picking a name was definitely hard, but we knew right away that Tilly was a keeper,” Sutton says. “It started as a play on tilling your land and the idea of really caring for and taking pride in your outdoor spaces. We also wanted to make it friendly and accessible, and the name Tilly just worked on all fronts.”
Sutton derives great satisfaction from the new business. She is devoted to making top-notch landscape design accessible to many people. Depending upon location, hiring a landscape architect in the traditional way can come with a price tag up to $10,000, before buying plants or materials.
“We are taking the traditional landscape architect-client process and taking away some of the layers, trying to make it more simple. We are making beautiful landscape available to more people,” Sutton says.
The ease of the Tilly website, tillydesign.com, simplifies a process that can be time consuming, cumbersome, require in-person meetings, and the blending of personalities. Tilly offers four design packages: The Mini, The Front, The Back, and The Full. The entry level Mini package helps tackle a problem area of a client’s yard. At every level, each design is tailored to the client’s style preferences, and takes into consideration the use of the space, customer’s lifestyle, environmental, and logistical factors. Experienced landscape architects with extensive experience in the field develop each plan.
To start the process, clients complete a simple online questionnaire at tillydesign.com and upload photos. They then have a phone or video call with a Tilly designer. Shortly thereafter, customers receive personalized design recommendations, a plant list and images, installation and care instruction, an aerial map of the property with plant placement, a narrative on the overall design concept, and indepth installation instructions. Tilly also provides seasonal guidance and care instructions, making it easy for clients to watch their gardens grow.
Handling regional differences has not been a problem for the crew. While most of the projects are in New York, Tilly now has projects in other parts of the country, including Denver, Boulder, Stapleton, and Aurora. “At this point in time and price point, we do mostly plant planning, and not as much hardscape planning,” says Sutton.
Denver is a tough area to garden, but the designers consider regional differences in their planning. They know what shape and form they want to place in a certain area. If they need ideas, they have sources in their clients’ areas who can advise them on plants especially welladapted to the area. If the designers include a plant that is not available locally, then they recommend an alternative.
“I’m passionate about the landscape design industry, but haven’t seen much evolution since joining 15 years ago. With today’s technological advances, there is no reason why we can’t share the love and make highend design accessible to the average homeowner,” says Yost, co-founder of Tilly and also owner and President of Yost Design and Hudson House & Garden. “Being online is the norm, and remote landscape, the ease of clicking your vision to life, is welcomed.”
Yost graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. Perhaps Sutton’s greatest pleasure, understandably, is happy clients. She spends time talking with them, and, she says, holding their hands, if only by phone. “It gets personal out there. Design can change people’s lives. Many of our clients are not really expecting much, and they’re pretty much floored by what they get,” says Sutton.