Design Styles for the Central Coast

Design Styles for the Central Coast

by Jules Welch

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when looking at an empty plot of land or a back yard in disrepair. Luckily for homeowners, HOA’s, and commercial property owners, landscape designers see your space as a blank canvas—a unique opportunity to meld function with artistic expression. Design style plays a huge part in every built environment, and often incorporates a colorful mix of the owner’s personality, designer’s aesthetic, and greater climatic and cultural context. Some design styles that are popular for our coastal California area include:

                -Contemporary/Minimalist

                -English Cottage/Craftsman

                -Xeriscape/Native/Low Water

                -Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival

There is a lot of overlap when it comes to style, but certain core characteristics define each aesthetic. Read more about these traits to find out what speaks to you:

Contemporary/Minimalist:

Colloquially described as “modern” design, contemporary landscapes are influenced by mid-century modern art and architecture but are defined by their cutting-edge qualities for the present day (which, technically, could be any style). However, when someone refers to a contemporary landscape, they are likely describing a geometric style which features minimalism, clean lines, and grid layouts. Contemporary design is often used in commercial projects such as campuses, plazas, and office buildings; it may also be used to complement custom homes. These landscapes generally favor green foliage over colorful flowers, with intentional spacing and simple hardscapes like concrete or pea gravel.

Gain Inspiration: Andrea Cochran is a renowned Bay Area designer known for her spacious designs with an emphasis on form.

English Cottage/Craftsman:

English Cottage Gardens came into their own during the industrial revolution, when families fled city life for remote holiday cottages in the country. This mix of ideologies brought a unique design sense which mixes the formal with the chaotic. English cottage gardens can be identified by their overgrown, lush look, usually incorporating lawn and border plantings among tightly-grouped flowering perennials.

Gain Inspiration: Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was known for her craftsman inspired cottage gardens, using color “rooms” to achieve dynamic and natural mass plantings.

Xeriscape/Native/Low Water:

Xeriscape is a style of landscape design which requires minimal irrigation and maintenance, focusing on efficient use of water. Often using native and native-adjacent plants, these water-wise gardens tend to evoke an arid, desert feel. Gravel, cactus, and decomposed granite are the keystone elements of a xeriscape. Designers also incorporate sustainable water-harvesting elements such as planted swales and rain gardens into their xeriscapes. Native California gardens can still look lush, colorful, and attractive, while still retaining their drought-tolerant, low maintenance qualities.

Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival:

Most coastal regions in California have a Mediterranean climate, meaning that numerous plant species from Southern France, Italy, and Spain thrive here! Mediterranean design styles bring lavender, olive trees, and Italian cypress into California’s landscape. It is also the origin of our incredible wine culture. Often using plaza-style patios, pavers, vines, and potted plants, Mediterranean design makes the most of sun/shade, views, and crops. Sometimes used to describe Spanish Colonial Revival style, these gardens often incorporate stucco walls, tile, and cooling water features. Symmetry and striking, sculptural plants with colorful foliage often come into play.

What’s your Design Style?

Design style can be subtle or overt, but it is responsible for the feeling we get in an outdoor environment, whether familiar or obscure, nostalgic or innovative, cozy or vast. Most importantly, though, it’s what makes home feel like home.

Tips for Creating a Lush, Sustainable Landscape

Tips for Creating a Lush, Sustainable Landscape

Tips for Creating a Lush, Sustainable Landscape

A Guide for Central Coast Homeowners

It’s 2019! If you’re thinking about landscaping this year, keep sustainability in mind. So, what does that mean? Here’s how author and landscape architect Owen Dell describes a sustainable landscape:

“Imagine a garden that rarely needs pruning, watering or fertilizing. One where natural controls usually take care of pest problems before the gardener even becomes aware of them. A peaceful garden where the sound of blowers, power mowers, or chain saws never intrudes. Imagine a garden that also serves as a climate control for the house, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter; a garden that traps rainwater in an attractive streambed to deeply irrigate the trees and recharge the groundwater; one that provides habitat for wildlife and food for people. Imagine a garden that truly works. This is the sustainable garden—not barren or sacrificial, but as lush and beautiful as any other without all the struggle and waste.”

In considering your landscape project, good planning is vital. Creating a design can save you time and money by coordinating your efforts to make the most of your space, time, and budget. What are the uses you’d like to incorporate? Hardscape areas like patios, play areas and structures, or water features can all make your property work for you. When contemplating how you’ll be using the areas, think about the materials. Are they sustainably produced and sourced? Consider the Embodied Energy impacts, which include everything it takes to have a material available for your use.

Any discussion of California landscaping will include irrigation. Irrigation systems need to be accurate, low-flow and timed appropriately to keep plants healthy and thriving. When thinking about the plants, whether shrubs, trees, veggies or turf, think about conserving resources, especially over time. California Native Plants can often be very good choices to include in your design. Local native plants are often the most climate compatible and lowest maintenance choices.

These are just a few of the sustainable principles you can use as guidelines to maximize your landscape efforts. And in doing so, take advantage of living in the incredible region of California’s Central Coast. Make time to get out and enjoy yourselves in your gardens. They offer unique opportunities to unwind and relieve stress. Reconnect with things natural, beautiful and up close. Even in our own gardens we are connected in a very real way to the larger landscape, and how we have a responsibility to sustain the health and beauty of our beloved Central Coast. Let’s make it work for the long run.

Want more information on Central Coast resource-friendly landscapes? Here’s a short video hosted by our own Rick Mathews.