Landscape issues? There's an app for that!

Tuesday August 2, 2011

SAXTONS RIVER - Julie Moir Messervy first got into landscape design to get people outside and into the natural world.

For the past 35 years, whether she was working at an internationally known museum or in a private backyard, Moir Messervy says her designs have been created to make her clients comfortable outside among the plants, stones, trees and structures that she places under the open sky.

Lately though, as technology gives us more reasons to stay inside, Moir Messervy is finding that too many hours are being lost in front of screens.

So, instead of trying to beat them, Moir Messervy has decided to join them.

Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio, which is based in a cozy, second floor office in Saxtons River, has introduced an iPhone app and an online program to help demystify the design process and get more people comfortable with the idea of designing an outdoor space that is personal and unique.

"I want to help people think about this process in a new way," she said Thursday, soon after learning that the newly launched iPhone app had been sold to its 750th customer. "There are so many new and exciting ways to do this. It's pretty exciting."

Moir Messervy is a successful author, teacher and landscape designer.

She designed the Toronto Music Garden which was built in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma, and spends much of her time visiting sites around the country while designing public parks, museum gardens and private estates.

The idea to move into cyberspace came up at a Christmas party in Saxtons River a year-and-a-half ago when she was introduced to Jeff Richardson, a computer programmer who lives in Vermont.

Richardson had heard about Moir Messervy's work and was working on the newly introduced iPhone apps.

Over the next year they worked closely together and the Home Outside Design app was put up on the iPhone store about two months ago.

It is available for $2.99.

The app is the first of its kind, Moir Messervy said, which puts a designer's drawings in the hands of a property owner.

Once the basic elements of a landscape are saved on a screen, pathways can be moved and expanded, trees can be removed or added and pools, saunas, flower gardens or patios can be tweaked just so until the colors, shapes and spaces are working together to form a perfectly balanced yard.

"When you ask people to design their own garden, they typically freeze up and are afraid of making mistakes," Moir Messervy said.

"This allows them to play, and try ideas out. It's fun and it's a way to get people to try new ideas."

Along with the iPhone app, the studio also has launched an online design program that allows property owners to experiment with the concepts Moir Messervy introduced in her book, "Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love."

The award-winning book helps homeowners jump-start the design process by helping figure out what design elements work best, and how to bring the personal feeling from inside the home, outside into the garden.

Moir Messervy is enthusiastically entering the digital world.

She is meeting regularly with designers and programmers and still exploring the ways to link her website, her Facebook page, and her online program with the iPhone users.

Designs can be e-mailed and uploaded and new online communities can form around design ideas.

Comments, and criticisms, are coming in from users and she is still tweaking the app and program.

She still accepts clients, and welcomes the opportunity to travel to beautiful gardens and create unique spaces around the country.

Still, the traveling gets old, she admits, and once one enters the digital world new opportunities are bound to present themselves.

"People could be working remotely, and sending me their designs from their yards," she said. "We could talk, and share plans. It seems like a crazy pipe dream but it also feels like we're getting there."

For a link to the Home Outside Design app on iPhone store, and more information on Julie Moir Messervy, go to

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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