The one garden renovation that adds value to your home – and what not to do

Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis reveals which transformation is worth the investment – and what not to do

urban garden designed by the Manscapers/Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis
(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

As one-third of The Manscapers, designer James DeSantis has climbed to the top of the landscaping industry around the US and beyond. 

The team (James, Melissa Brasier, and Garrett Magee) have curated exterior spaces for Calvin Klein, Sies Marjan, and Diane von Furstenberg while fronting Bravo’s Backyard Envy – and with these experiences comes a host of invaluable garden tips and backyard ideas.

So, when H&G sat down with James, we were inevitably keen to test his expertise and find ways to improve the value of our homes and gardens – and naturally, James didn’t disappoint. Here, he shares which renovations are worth the investment and the one project you should avoid. 

city garden designed by the Manscapers/Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

How to add value to your garden – according to James DeSantis & The Manscapers

‘Outdoor lighting is super impactful. It’s expensive, but it can dramatically transform your entire space,’ James begins. 

‘You will want to be out [in your garden] at night, as we all work so much and spend the day inside – once the evening comes and the lights turn on – you get a sense of relaxation and letting go. Adding some outdoor lighting will add a lot of value to your house,’ he adds. 

However, James suggests that most backyard projects will add value to your home – and recommends investing in a new patio or decking, which are equally as impactful as smart outdoor lighting ideas, if not as affordable or as easy to implement. 

Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis garden renovation tips, city garden designed by the Manscapers

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

‘In general, just doing a backyard project will add value to your home, especially if it’s done correctly with a designer. Just adding more hardscaping in general and having a place to have more tables and chairs,’ he adds.  

Are there any renovation projects we should avoid? 

Despite James explaining that almost all exterior projects would benefit our property’s value, there is one key exception – a swimming pool. 

‘All of my clients keep telling me that pools are not adding any value in the home market right now, especially in California. There is a huge outright expense, and my clients tell me they don’t increase the home value at all,’ James shares. 

city garden designed by the Manscapers

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

Plus, even after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an extravagant swimming pool, your property’s value ‘will only increase by a fraction of that amount,’ James adds.

‘Unless you feel like you really need a pool, I would steer away from that. Get a hot tub or another water element that doesn’t cost as much,’ James shares. 

It looks like James DeSantis has given us every excuse we need to spend our pool ideas fund on a flight to faraway shores instead – although with staycations more popular than ever, we can't help but yearn for a pool at home. 

For more tips from James and the rest of the Manscapers, catch up with Backyard Envy and look out for their upcoming book Take it Outside

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.