Interview With Michael Howell

Interview by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Tabatha Golat.

Tell us a little bit about how you start your design process after a site inspection with a client? In creating a new design, I take stock of what is, identify the potential and envision what could be. For as long as I can remember, I have the ability to see the inner beauty inherent in spaces. Every site has potential and possesses what is referred to as ‘genius loci’, which is a critical component of my site assessments. The term ‘genius loci’ originates from Roman mythology and refers to the protective spirit of a place.

Once you have established a design, what is your approach to your creative process? I tend toward a collaborative approach that harnesses the unique and individualistic creative processes of both myself and the client. Co-creation with my clients is the best way to build exterior spaces that are a true reflection of our clients’ identity. Simultaneously, I apply my vast plant knowledge to prioritize and ensure the sustainability and longevity of the landscape. My goal is to always take cues from the landscape and give our clients a landscape design that is a physical expression of themselves.

What type of clients do you typically work with? I am incredibly inclusive when it comes to the clients that I work with; the breadth of my clients is quite significant and extends to creating custom landscapes for both residential and commercial clients. I thrive in settings that challenge my comprehension of design and creative processes that require innovative solutions and unique ideas. I work best in situations with creative collaboration and opportunity for the sharing of ideas. The input of my clients, while also applying my expertise and insight, ensures their satisfaction with the end result.

What other services do you offer at Terra Luma? We also offer a Garden Mentorship service that has become incredibly popular. Many of my clients have a good idea of what they want to achieve but they need guidance with implementing their ideas. Together, we can elevate their exterior space with their ideas and my extensive plant knowledge and professional access to the nurseries and growers with the really cool but hard-to-find plant material or the unique outdoor furnishings currently available. So personal shopping comes into play, which is incredibly fun!

We will create an illustrated plant list, highlight the characteristics of each plant and their applicability to your unique environment and coach clients through plant decision-making, installation and long-term care instructions.

Terra Luma also acts as a catalyst for interior renovations. Many of our clients generate inspiration from their outside projects, recognizing the potential for improvement within their homes. This is where we incorporate our team of experienced carpenters to bring to life our clients’ vision. Though offering design-build solutions from structural repairs, room additions, deck and patio constructions and remodeling, Terra Luma ensures all aspects of renovation are navigated with the highest standards of skill and professionalism.

How do you manage maintenance and upkeep of your landscape designs? I pride myself on working closely with my clients throughout the creative process, extending into the implementation of the design and well past the completion of the project. This ensures the longevity of the design, providing clients with maintenance insights that are invaluable to the sustainability of the design.

What are your favourite parts of the gardens you design? Gardens present opportunities for dramatic vignettes to showcase sculptures and garden art. I love unique nooks and corners in the landscape where one might frame a family heirloom or unique piece of driftwood brought back from a childhood beach trip. These areas may be large or small in scale, but they become incredibly special places and bring joy into the owners’ lives. I especially love to illuminate the artifact in an artful manner that draws attention to it in a whole new way after the sun goes down.