On the Boards: North County Rustic Modern

On the Boards: North County Rustic Modern

A redesign in Paso Robles at 10,600 SF, this North County backyard landscape creates a rustic modern outdoor sanctuary—befit for its owners and the home it surrounds.

This project redesigns the entire backyard, re-envisioning every space to include custom features like a live wall, firepit, and a new outdoor kitchen and dining area. It blends historic elements and flora native to the California Central Coast with these new modern features to create a comfortable, aesthetic balance.

The design includes points of interest and focal features such as a dry creek, raised garden beds, horizontal fencing, and landscape lighting. Stately oak trees create a canopy with moonlighting over the activity areas.

With all the custom elements in this project, there have been many details and revisions to keep up with. Communication between the install crew and the design team has been increasingly important with each adjustment.

From the design-build teamwork to the inspired design, this North County landscape is a wonderful example of creating an outdoor sanctuary with varied gathering spaces that are both functional and aesthetically beautiful.


On the Boards: Shell Beach Oasis

On the Boards: Shell Beach Oasis

As part of this Shell Beach Residence’s major remodel, we are designing an outdoor sanctuary by creating a beautifully contemporary, tropical California landscape.

A unique space that requires plenty of communication and creativity, this design is the epitome of an oasis. It is both striking and practical, formed by three differentiated spaces within one cohesive whole and designed to be split in half by a roll-out gate. This gate, strategically placed within the patio and complemented by the yard’s single-palette planted border, allows guests a feeling of privacy while creating a manageable visiting space for the owners.

From raised garden beds to a built-in spa, this coastal residential landscape harmoniously blends multi-functional features with a stunning, tropical California aesthetic. A bit different from the North County plant palette, the well-drained, irrigated, and thoughtfully-placed materials emote the feeling of a tropical vacation—truly a paradise!

Meet the Team: Mike Molina

Meet the Team: Mike Molina

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! For August, we are putting a spotlight on our Maintenance Foreman, Mike Molina.  This April was Mike’s 6th year with us and we can’t imagine our team without him!

1. What’s your favorite thing about working at Madrone?

Marone has a great work environment. I work with great people and spend my days working in lovely landscapes.

2. What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

My favorite project is Ligon, located with its rolling hills and diverse animal population.

3. What’s your favorite or least favorite plant, and why?

My favorite plant is Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’). It’s bright yellow flowers and green foliage are beautiful. 

My least favorite is ground cover roses – too many thorns!

4. What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy spending time outside pressure washing around my house and relaxing by just watching the trees sway in the wind.  

5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

I love the outdoors and will never work indoors again!

Meet the Team: Ian Parker

Meet the Team: Ian Parker

It’s a wonderful day to Meet the Team! For July, we are putting a spotlight on our Sales Manager: Ian Parker. Ian’s strong leadership skills, great sense of humor, and wealth of knowledge of the industry make him a fantastic leader for our Sales and Design Team. This September will be his 8th year with us and we can’t imagine our team without him!

1. How did you get into the landscape industry?

 I had a passion for art and was already pursing a degree in graphic design at a local community college. I liked the idea of being a graphic designer, but found the thought of being trapped indoors in a competitive industry may not be for me. I had always enjoyed being involved with construction work, and had held several summer jobs helping on job sites growing up, so I started to think that this might be something worth pursuing. One day my Mom came across a brochure for Cal State Northridge’s Extended Learning Program, which described their Landscape Design curriculum. It sounded like the perfect blend of creative and hand-on practices, so I enrolled. I started looking for a low-level landscape labor job and was quickly hired on by a landscape contractor in Malibu: I was hooked on the first day. The sunshine, the smell of fresh cut grass… ahh it still gets me excited to this day. Now ~20 years later I’m still excited about my work, and every day seems to be a new adventure! 

2. What other positions have you held within the landscape industry?

After spending a few years working in Malibu, I founded a small landscape company in Los Angeles where I was able to incorporate my own designs into my work. I learned the business of being a Landscape Contractor during this time, and gained some experience doing real-world designs. I made a lot of rookie mistakes and learned a lot through trial and error. This was a lot of fun, but it also showed me how stressful being an independent contractor can be. Around 2008, at the height of the recession, I made the difficult decision to shut down my business and move to the Central Coast. I landed a job as Maintenance Department Manager for a local landscape firm that managed a variety of large maintenance accounts. This exposed me to a whole new level of the landscape industry that I hadn’t seen before. In 2012, I made the move over to Madrone, and spent the next 5-6 years managing landscape construction projects. From there, I’ve gone wherever Madrone has needed me; I jumped in as a Designer for a short period, and ultimately ended up as the Sales Manager in 2018.

3. What does a typical day as Sales Manager look like?

Most of my days are spent providing support for our landscape designers, estimators and construction staff. As my job title says, I manage our Sales Department  which means lots of consultations and site visits. More often than not, I am the first person that people meet when talking with Madrone about a potential project. Between meetings, my days are very reactionary based on where I’m needed. I regularly work with our designers on plan reviews and conceptual analysis ensuring that our ideas are buildable and properly described on plan. I also spend a lot of time bridging the gap between design and construction, and I try to make myself available to both our clients and our project managers. I attend most of our design review meetings, so I get to know our clients pretty well through that process, and enjoy being involved in the construction process as well. Occasionally I still get to go help out with difficult builds in the field!  

4. What about your sales process sets you apart from other firms who offer similar services?

I think that being a design/build firm is really what makes us special within our industry. Last year, over 65% of our construction work came from in-house designs. Through our design process, we are able to really listen to our client’s needs and desires and ensure that their projects are properly planned before ever breaking ground. Our design process includes several rounds of revisions, which are each accompanied by an in-depth budget analysis. This information allows clients to properly prioritize their needs, and ultimately leads to great projects that fit within a client’s desired budget. Some competitors simply send prospective clients construction bids with minimal information, and it’s basically “take it or leave it”. With our process, we really take the time to sort out all the details and create a dialogue that builds a trusting relationship with the client long before breaking ground.   

5. What inspires you when working on landscape designs?

I’ve been a student of landscape design for close to 20 years now. In my daily life, I’m constantly analyzing everything that I see in search of inspiration. What works? What doesn’t What is it about a landscape or natural space that makes me feel a certain way? I draw from this experience to help guide our clients and designers, but ultimately, it’s all about listening to the client. Everyone is different, so our goal is always to take their initial vision for their property and mold it in a way that will be beautiful and sustainable for years to come.  The old saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is so true in our industry, so I just try to share my experience with my team and our clients to help them make the best decisions possible.     

6. What is your favorite thing about working for Madrone?

There’s a lot to love about Madrone, but my favorite thing is the commitment to our Core Values. It’s so important to me that we stand behind our work and treat all of our employees, clients, and the community at large, with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Some companies out there cut corners to make a buck, both in terms of how they treat their employees and how they treat their clients. But in my 8 years with Madrone, I’ve found that from top to bottom, we consider ourselves members of our community first, and it’s our reputation that matters more than anything else.   

Work From Home: Designers in Their Home Habitat

Work From Home: Designers in Their Home Habitat

Madrone’s Landscape Designers: a unique breed. Creative, social creatures; it’s not often you’ll find us alone. We tend to work in packs.

But these days are not the norm. We’re currently working from our home habitat – roaming our yards and living rooms, and keeping a safe social distance. While on one hand, it’s nice to have time to work on our own gardens and yards, it’s also been a challenge to work away from the office, field, and teammates.

#WFHLife: The Pros

For Megan Savage, working at home has some real benefits. “It’s a flexible workspace,” she says. “I usually set up at either the couch in my living room or at my dining table. But, on nice days, I can sit at my patio table in the sunshine while I work; it looks over a small greenbelt, and my neighbor’s jasmine is blooming right now so it’s very peaceful. And my dog Lily is happy I’m home!” Ian Parker, too, finds some solace in his own personal landscape, saying that one of the things he likes best as he stays at home is the opportunity to “work in my beautiful backyard and spend time with my best doggie friend Daisy.”

Megan's Workspace feat. Lily the Dog

Both Jill Bleher and Christy Dufault are enjoying the company of feline friends. Christy says that she’s “actually enjoying the solitude of working at home. Of course, having animals in the house helps. My cats are keeping me company.” For Jill, her cat Destiny has been one of the best parts of working from home, along with seeing her husband Alec throughout the workday. When sharing social isolation with anyone, from friends to family, it’s a relief to have good company.

Jill's Workspace

#WFHLife: The Cons

Even with the designers who have people or pets at home, the isolation can be a new kind of challenge, missing the company of both coworkers and social ambiance. For Megan, it’s the chatter she yearns for. She misses “being able to talk to my coworkers without having to pick up a phone.” Likewise, Christy says, “It will be nice to see everyone and be able to communicate in person!” Ian misses collaborating with his “lovely teammates”. Being unable to share ideas with one another so effortlessly is truly one of those things that we don’t realize we’ll miss until it’s gone.

Christy's Workspace feat. Viktor the Cat
Thank goodness for technology! Jill admits that “our communication remotely is relatively good with Zoom and phone calls and technology in general”—work would be strenuous without it—but it still can’t compete with physical proximity. The “long-distance communication just doesn’t match in-person connection!” she remarks. Ian finds that his home technology falls a little short – he longs to use his big computer screen.
Ian's Workspace
All in all, our Madrone Design team is still working away from their respective homes; starting new projects and continuing their efforts for current clients. We look forward to resuming work in our usual manner, but the circumstances have allowed us to grow and appreciate our working environments in fresh ways—both the old and the new.

While we all work together to make sure this pandemic passes as quickly as possible, we take solace in our surroundings and look forward to the friendships, teammates, and work spaces we’ll come back to when this is over. In the meantime, stay safe and upbeat – we look forward to seeing you in the office or field soon!

Daniel's Workspace