Design Services

As design-build contractors, we know that the key to a beautiful landscape is a well-designed landscape plan. In this section, you will find information on our approach, our process of landscape design and our areas of specialization. O’Connell Landscape provides full service landscape design. We specialize in residential garden design- from intimate small-scale spaces, to large full-scale gardens and residential master planning.

*Note: As design-build landscape contractors we develop plans for projects we construct, we do not offer standalone design services for other projects.

 

View our Portfolio of Design Examples

Our Approach:


 

Our landscape designs are client focused- we want to use your input to create a garden that meets your needs. While we try to use our experience and expertise in creating a successful landscape design, we find that the best designs are those that take and enhance the client’s needs and desires for the new project.

We recommend that during the process of designing that you look at the project as whole unit, instead of individualized elements. It’s best to create a design that will take into account the entire space to be designed, even if other elements may be installed in later phases over time. The ultimate goal is that the finished product looks professionally designed and all the elements of the project fit together. Materials, shapes, and spatial arrangements should relate and complement each other well.

In our design process, we create a full color plan that plots all features of your new landscape in a flexible computer format, which can be referred to throughout the landscape process. The digital format keeps things flexible and saves time and effort as we make changes and adjustments along the way.

The Process:


 

Landscape design is an iterative process. Typically, the starting ideas for the project are developed and revised from preliminary concepts into a finalized plan that is ready for installation. The important thing to remember is that changing and developing the design are a normal and important part of the process, and one that takes time and care to ensure the best results.

With this in mind, our landscape designs are typically divided into 3 distinct phases:

 

1. Conceptual Design Phase

In the conceptual phase we explore your ideas and desires for the project. For example, are you looking for outdoor living areas or to upgrade existing elements? Maybe to retrofit existing materials (such as old concrete) with new materials to create a new and stronger sense of style. As we explore your ideas, we draw up initial conceptual designs. These are rough-draft representations of spatial organizations, and ideas for elements and materials to be included. Frequently we explore the size and position of elements in relationship to the whole design. We also start to think about the style of garden or installation that we would like to focus on; such as Modern, Classical, Informal or Country, Regionally Inspired, incorporating a particular material or type of planting. The purpose behind the conceptual phase is to explore ideas and create something to address your needs. Once this framework has been created, we move on to the Preliminary Design Phase.

2. Preliminary Design Phase

Once we have a good idea of a general style and arrangement of elements, we draw up the initial landscape plan. This is the first formalized landscape design. At this point, we are starting to get a more definite idea of materials to be used and we start to factor in a key element- Budget

Of all the factors in design, budget is one of the most important. It guides the selection of materials, the sizes and complexity of elements to be installed, and the timetable for when the various elements of the project will be constructed. This is one of the great advantages of the design-build process. We design with not only the composition and appearance of the project in mind, but the target budget that you want to spend. We strongly encourage clients set up a target range for the budget and then we structure our design accordingly.

Also during this phase, we start to look at and hone the planting design and material selection. It is at this point where we often go on a materials tour or provide sample materials to start make choices and moving toward the final design.

Frequently during the preliminary phase, we do a spray out. We come to the property with a scaled landscape drawing and marking paint or chalk and spray out the design. While 2 dimensional representations are useful, the spray out brings the plan to life right on the project site. We have found this a great way for both the client and designer to look at relationships and sizes of elements and to make necessary changes. It is better to discover the main patio area is too small in this phase, rather than after we have poured the concrete.

3. Final Design Phase

Once we have developed the plan in the preliminary phase, we revise the plan and present the finalized landscape plan. At this point, we are finalizing budgeting numbers, materials, and elements to be included in construction. Typically, once we reach this stage most of the key factors have been determined and we present this plan to make final adjustments and prepare for construction.

It is also at this phase that we submit the plans for approval to any local agencies, home owners associations, or construction permits required.

We recommend that during the process of designing that you look at the project as whole unit, instead of individualized elements. It’s best to create a design that will take into account the entire space to be designed, even if other elements may be installed in later phases over time. The ultimate goal is that the finished product looks professionally designed and all the elements of the project fit together. Materials, shapes, and spatial arrangements should relate and complement each other well.

In our design process, we create a full color plan that plots all features of your new landscape in a flexible computer format, which can be referred to throughout the landscape process. The digital format keeps things flexible and saves time and effort as we make changes and adjustments along the way.

Areas of Specialization:


1. Planting Design

Plantings are part of what define great gardens. In our process of planting design, we work with our clients to establish a style for the garden and plantings, and then use our expertise in selecting plant material appropriate for the style, climate and site conditions. We take into consideration the exposure, soil type, amount of water to be given, restricting factors (such as oak trees which can have no summer water), and size/composition of plantings in creating the planting design.

We work with our clients in reviewing and selecting plant material. For those interested we often lead clients on nursery tours to get a firsthand view of available plant material. In the process of creating the planting plan, we also give our clients a customized plant portfolio. This details a possible planting palette for the design and gives information about the plant: photographs, care and growing information.
We design using our knowledge of what plants have worked in various applications in Marin and Sonoma County and we use a number of plant databases that allow us to find the right plant for almost any application.

2. Hardscape Design

lagstone or Concrete? Brushed Concrete or Colored Concrete? Natural Stone or Manufactured Stone? There are a variety of options for hardscape design and scores of material selections. We help guide clients through the process of selecting appropriate materials for hardscape design that will fit the spirit and style of the rest of the project. We can help find the best materials for applications such as your new patio, access pathways or sidewalks, decorate stone veneers on plantings beds, etc. We suggest materials that appropriate for a variety of situations, applications and budgets.

3. Site Grading and Retaining Wall Design

It seems like a disproportionate number of homes in Marin and Sonoma Counties are built on hillsides. We design systems of retaining walls and grading that helps you get the most out of the areas available. There are a wide variety of wall types and styles for applications varying from decorative or low border walls, to large scale retaining walls designed to reclaim space. We can also prepare and coordinate engineering for technical plans for approval with permitting processes.* We design walls of wood, modular blocks, concrete, and natural stone to complement the design and style of the project.

4. Woodwork

Well-designed woodwork can add a distinct feature to any project. We design trellises, fences, arbors, gates, planter/vegetable boxes and decks that incorporate the detail and richness of wood into the project.

5. Special Features

A garden is more than just plants and hardscape alone. Lighting, water features and special outdoor use areas, such as barbeques and outdoor kitchens can add a new dimension to your project.

Water Features: bring the action and sound of water into the garden, and can be incorporated at a variety of scales into the design. From small precast fountains, to streambeds and ponds, we design fountains and water features created to add life to the garden.
Lighting: Low voltage lighting brings the dimension of nighttime viewing and safety/access into the design. We create lighting plans to accent key features, provide lighting for outdoor use areas, a light pathways, steps and walls.