Backyard Bling 4

Owning a home is one thing, but when there is the possibility to make the backyard a personal paradise, look no further than Chris Sears and his company, Sears, Smith and Associates, Inc.

Sears, 44, is a Georgia Registered Landscape Architect and company president who developed his expertise thanks to his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. Adding that to more than a decade of work experience in Georgia, and the result is Sears virtually becoming a property owner’s Wizard of Oz.

Sears also holds a Commercial GC [General Contractors] license with the state of Georgia. “That makes me more qualified than any of my competition to implement our designs,” Sears says. “From a knowledge, licensing and liability standpoint, many folks don’t realize that hiring a ‘landscaper’ isn’t the same as a licensed GC that handles the electrical, plumbing, utilities, and other elements of a big outdoor pavilion and kitchen near a pool. We have a separate entity to install our designs, A&C Development, Inc., which has no legal limitations when delivering a large, complex project.”

With so many services to offer, Sears notes that there are certainly some challenges to carrying out a project—especially an extravagant one—from beginning to end.

“We meet for an hour or two on site, review your program, the goals and objectives, and discuss the best options,” Sears explains. “Sometimes small sketches are all that’s needed for a few hundred dollars, or sometimes it takes several thousand for detailed plans. We help you understand the permitting issues, limitations and pitfalls, and of course, look for opportunities to create as wonderful an environment as you can invest.”

They take great care with every detail, mindful of staying within budget.

“The devil is always in the details, and we help you understand if your ideas are going to be feasible within your budget,” Sears says. “We have smaller residential projects from $15,000 to larger ones well over $100,000. Some of our commercial or larger client projects have been over $1 million.”

Selecting one his favorite renovations of late, Sears made arrangements to share with us the backyard of a home nestled in a Brookhaven neighborhood just off Ashford Dunwoody Road he recently renovated. Opening the door of a high wooden fence secluding the half-acre backyard from street view, a multi-purpose sports court with weatherproof VersaCourt flooring and a glass basketball backboard immediately catches the eyes. Sears recounts, “This used to be only a lot of trees, but once I met with the homeowners, they said they wanted something for their teenage boys to play in; this was the result and they love it.”

Of course, the parents had to have their entertainment as well, so Sears added a raised deck complete with a Big Green Egg cooking station, and a Zen-inspired section complete with a private waterfall and a stone-lined stream to cleverly direct rainwater from an adjacent home elevated on a hill. It’s overall an exclusive escape from the bustling city life friends and family can enjoy all year long.

Emphasizing why this particular property hits close to home, Sears says, “Water features and fireplaces are of course common, but sport courts are a fun, new twist. Having three boys myself—plus actively coaching sports—we see the need for companies that can not only build great usable environments, but have them all tie together, look great for the adults, and still be functional for the kids.”

Keeping a fresh outlook on what clients may want, Sears loves globetrotting whenever possible to get more inspiration. He has been to Europe, the West Indies, Canada, Mexico, and just returned from a trip to Montana. Loving what he saw in the latter, Sears says he is now looking for an opportunity to insert some rustic wood and elk antlers in a future development.

“I love to work with the local elements for a ‘sense of place’ so to speak, but we try to tailor and customize our work to the clients’ desires, ultimately,” he says. “We are focused on growing a reputation for exceeding expectations and creating memorable places.”

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