Category Archives: Design Examples

From the Drawing Board- Santa Rosa Master Plan

We are working on a two stage master plan for a residence near Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. The back yard development that will be installed as phase 1 focuses on improving flow and usable areas throughout the space. The front yard plan, which is still in development, removes a large lawn and replaces it will a natural dry stream bed and low water use plantings.

From the Drawing Board- Peacock Gap Reboot

This half acre residence in San Rafael has good fundamentals, but the landscape has suffered from neglect and lackluster design. We are working on a redesign that would incorporate a stronger more coherent plant palate, bolder masses and visual lines, and improved focal points for the front yard. In the back yard, the lower pool deck is undersized, so we are developing a plan for an expanded seating area, combined with a fountain for interested and improved plantings.

Peacock Gap Redesign

From the Drawing Board- Tiburon Back Yard

We are working design development for this back yard project in Tiburon. The clients had an existing landscape plan that needed to simplified and improved for usability for two small children.

The solution was to regrade the site to make more unified spaces, removing some of the existing walls and grading from the existing plans. The result is a clean design with finished concrete and connecting walkways and a rear lawn play space with perimeter plantings and privacy fencing and screening.

Tiburon Back Yard Design


From the Drawing Board: Petaluma Victorian

We are working on design development for this corner home in West Petaluma. It is prominently situated on a corner lot, meaning the design incorporates a lot of new fencing. At one side we have detailed large shrubs that would create a green fence and expand the size of the back yard. In the back yard a new patio, lawn and connecting walkways have been detailed for new living spaces.

Site plan for large corner lot in Petaluma
Site plan for large corner lot in Petaluma

From the Drawing Board- 4 Spring Projects

The spring seems to be coming early this year with all of the warm weather this winter. Here are some images from four different design projects in different stages of conceptual development.

-Novato Concept- Back yard patio and synthetic turf installation
-San Anselmo Concept- Back yard patios, walkways and garden area
-Cotati Concept- Back yard terracing, vegetable garden, steps, and paths
-Tiburon Project- Hardscape layout and retaining wall plan



Petaluma Interior Pool House Design

We are working on an interesting project with Bradanini Associates, developing an interior pool house planting scheme. The planting seeks to make the area a tropical oasis, as half the interior is devoted to the pool and the other half to a patio with palms and other tropical plantings. The plant selection provides an added chanllenge of selecting plantings that will give the desired look while doing well in a lower light environment.


Petaluma Pool House
Petaluma Pool House


From the Drawing Board- Sonoma Concept Plan

This project near the main square in Sonoma focuses on transitioning a back yard from a lawn and small deck to a larger more open layout with no lawn. A deck/porch with wrap around steps, central patio, garden paths and vegetable boxes highlight the design in the back yard. In the front yard a new driveway and entry walkway feature new materials and bluestone accents.

Conceptual Front and Back Yard Plan
Conceptual Front and Back Yard Plan

From the Drawing Board- West Petaluma Landscape

Here are some conceptual drawings from a project we are working on in Petaluma. The design focuses on an overhaul of the front and rear yard, creating new usable rear patio and synthetic lawn spaces. In the front a new picket fence provides definition, while a revised entry path and porch will change the whole look of the front yard.

West Petaluma Front and Rear Yard Design
West Petaluma Front and Rear Yard Design

Houzz ideabook for the project:


From the Drawing Board- Terraced Tiburon Back Yard

This design for a project in Tiburon took an small existing patio an underutilized hillside and transforms it into a large usable patio space with numerous amenities. There is a sequence of spaces from dining, cooking and entertainment space at the main patio, to a bocce court and seating deck at the upper hillside to take advantage of views of San Pablo Bay.

Conceptual Layout and Planting Massing Plan for a Project in Tiburon, CA
Conceptual Layout and Planting Massing Plan for a Project in Tiburon, CA

From the Drawing Board- Petaluma Planting Plan

This project in Petaluma situated on a large corner lot was more or less a clean slate after the initial clean-up. The front yard layout focused on a low maintenance installation featuring grasses and flowering perennials, accented with Sonoma Fieldstone boulders and Trinity Gravel Mulch. The back yard, which is still in design development, has a series of linked spaces and patios, with a more formal planting layout.

Front and Back Yard Planting Plan Layout for Large Corner Lot
Front and Back Yard Planting Plan Layout for Large Corner Lot
New Plantings, Boulders and Gravel Mulch
New Plantings, Boulders and Gravel Mulch

O’Connell Landscape Featured Projects on Houzz

Houzz is a great website for high quality images for inspiration, to explore materials, or just window shop at some beautiful landscapes and homes.

Here’s a slideshow of some of our featured projects on Houzz


Common Landscape Mistakes: The Napkin Plan

The Napkin Plan Syndrome is something we see a lot in our office when we are doing take-offs. What is a napkin plan? It’s a drawing that lacks sufficient detail to be bid properly (e.g. something that was drawn on the back of a napkin).

Landscape architects and designers can frequently omit important details or submit a conceptual plan for bid instead of a true construction document. While this may be easier, save time, or reflect the stage of the design process for the project, it’s enough to drive us crazy.

Common problems include:

  • Poor material specification: Work labeled Stone Patio, or Wood Deck (what kind of stone or wood- 2 dollar tile from Home Depot? $20 Travertine imported from Italy?).
  • No size/length specification: Yes you can have the contractor perform takeoffs of areas like irregularly shaped lawns, patios etc. Most of the time this information could be provided with a couple of clicks in a design program. It would save bidding contractors a lot of work, and result in more consistent and accurate bids for project clients.
  • No plant specification table: Planting plans often don’t have a table counting the plants. Again, it’s easier to make the contractor count the hundreds of plants on your plan, but doesn’t produce help produce consistent bids. Planting tables also often lack container sizes.
  • Bidder design irrigation: Also known as have the contractor design a complete irrigation system without any specifications or guidelines. Suffers from the same problems as the previous examples.
  • No construction details: Often complex elements are not detailed at all- Install BBQ Island: This brings to light about a hundred detailing questions (what kind of counter, what type of island construction, what type of appliances, where does the gas line come from, etc, etc, etc…)
Can You Bid on This Drawing? (For the record this was drawn on a paper towel)

From the Drawing Board- San Rafael Backyard Patio

This project in San Rafael is a small backyard patio that had the unfortunate distinction of being completely covered in concrete. This concept devises a solution that leaves much of that concrete in place, surfacing a portion of it with new flagstone and building a new Trex deck to better transition from a set a sliding glass door. The rear perimeter of the yard will be saw cut and demolished to create a new planting bed.

Mill Valley Planting Plan

For this Mill Valley project under construction the owner wanted plantings that would provide showy color in a vibrant palette of reds, pinks and purples. We integrated a number of hardy blooming perennials such as Rose Campion, Lavender, Blue Bacopa, Blue Salvia, White Campanula, and Geranium Johnsons Blue, to compliment the installation of a dark gray concrete patio with flagstone accents.

From the Drawing Board: Novato Front Yard

This project in Novato needed a serious front yard overhaul. Weeds had overtaken the yard and a school across the street meant there was lots of foot and vehicle traffic that needed screening. We developed a design concept that included a larger usable lawn play space, with efficient subsurface irrigation. Border plantings around the lawn are low maintenance and provide a buffer and screening in critical areas. A side yard retaining wall expanded usable space for both the side and back yards.

Novato Front Yard Conceptual Plan