I love working with stone in my projects, especially stone that comes from the project site. That’s a common occurrence in Napa. Have you ever noticed how many stone walls there are in Napa? A lot of stone is often unearthed when fields are plowed to plant vineyards. Instead of hauling the stone away, the vineyards build walls.

Viader Rocks
Stone boulders and native oaks at the Viader Winery

I’m currently doing some design work for the Viader Winery near St. Helena and they have some really beautiful Napa stone walls. I asked the owner who build the walls for her and she said that some of the guys on her grape growing crew build the walls in the off season. Working with stone and the soil go hand in hand.

Viader wall
Stone wall at the Viader Winery

As a designer, I use stone to help tell the story of a site. Stone reveals the ancient geologic history of place and when it is manipulated and cut for architectural use, it tells the story of the human hand. Whether it’s a lichen covered bolder or a beautifully crafted wall, the rich tactile quality of stone is as compelling as water in a garden.


The New California Garden

A garden overlooking the bay in Sausalito. Design by Manmade Workshop.

Do you know what a New California Garden is? Probably not because it’s a new term I use to describe a fresh approach to garden design. When people hear New California Garden, they may think of a style like a sleek contemporary garden or a modern cottage garden at the beach, however, the New California Garden is more than a style. It’s my approach to creating healthy and beautiful gardens.

As a designer, I’m often called upon to adapt a garden to the architectural style of the house or a specific aesthetic the homeowner desires.  Whether it’s a city balcony or a country estate, I approach each project with the intent of creating something remarkable. A remarkable New California Garden has strong architecture, beautiful plantings, and mindfully conserves natural resources like water, soil, and fossil fuels. Most importantly, it also captures the unique spirit inherent to that place.

Entry gate to a garden in the Oakland hills. Design by Manmade Workshop.

Adaptability and resilience are key principles of a New California Garden. A New California Garden is adapted to its natural and built environment. It’s also resilient because it does not rely on excessive water use or require heavy maintenance to thrive. Resilient gardens endure fluctuations in climate and inconsistent levels of care.

A New California Garden has outdoor spaces that flow seamlessly with the house providing a variety of places to relax, entertain, and grow food. Easy care decks and patios are surrounded by waterwise plants that provide seasonal delight. It’s a mini-retreat right outside your door.

The New California garden is here. It’s smart, inspiring and in tune with its surrounding environment.

Sketch for a garden in Palm Springs. Design by Manmade Workshop.

Design by Pinterest

Long before Pinterest people collected magazine clippings and hoarded photographs for design inspiration. Finding inspiration in today’s world looks a little different and only takes a few clicks and searches online. Sharing inspiration and collaborating on ideas helps designers make dreams become reality.

Pinterest, an online service and app, allows users to share images through social networking. When it comes to landscape architecture, users share their Pinterest boards with their designers, providing an insight into the client’s expectations.

Clients’ Pinterest boards act as a tool for designers helping us understand what a client wants.  After seeing a client’s dream board, I use my design expertise to create a beautiful garden that others will want to pin on their Pinterest boards.

My Pinterest board for a garden in Palm Springs

Share your ideas, expectations and Pinterest boards. This develops trust with your designer to successfully make this Pinterest board become a reality, but it also grants the freedom to create something completely original.

Keep pinning and dreaming and I’ll keep designing.

Follow me on Pinterest and share your inspirations with me!

The Self-Cleaning House

The headline proclaimed, “The Inventor of the Self-Cleaning House is Dead at 101.” Two thoughts ran through my head; 1) Wow, 101 is really old, and 2) Why haven’t I ever heard of the self-cleaning house? I’d like to have one.

The article explains how Frances Gabe spent years designing and building her own home that would free her from the drudgery of house cleaning. Sounds good to me! The idiosyncratic inventor figured out how to turn her house into what is essentially a giant dishwasher. That explains why I never heard of the self-cleaning house. Who wants to live inside a dishwasher? Not me.


Photo of Frances in her house. Source: NY Times, Shane Young.

I don’t mean to mock her achievements. She was obviously a very creative inventor. What I’m reacting to is the lack of beauty in her solutions. Perhaps, Frances believed her home was beautiful because she considered every inch to function exactly how she wanted. I get that. A truly personal design is like a work of art.

Design can be both functional and beautiful and stir emotions like great art. When we can marry the form and function of the spaces with the inherent beauty of the natural environment, we create meaningful gardens that set the stage for new experiences.

Look around. Like Madonna says, beauty is where you find it.

Travel and the Inspiration for a Creative Life

Even though I love being at home and nesting, I also love to travel. Recently my husband, Bren, and I travelled to the Pacific Northwest on a vacation that ended in Seattle for the opening of Bren’s show at the Bellevue Arts Museum. (Check out the Seattle Times review of his show here:

The lush and green landscape of the Pacific Northwest was a refreshing change from the dry Bay Area where we live. One the highlights for me was visiting the Forecourt Fountain (Keller Fountain Park) in downtown Portland. The park was designed by the office of the well-known San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Completed in 1970, the sprawling fountain is an internationally acclaimed and popular public open space. I studied this park in my early days as a baby landscape architecture student in the 1980’s. After seeing it so many times in books and magazines, finally getting to see it in person was amazing.

The primary reason for starting my own business is to embrace the creative life. The best part of having my own business is the freedom I feel and the luxury of time to travel and create these moments of inspiration.