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Our approach to landscape design

A sense of style

We favor a rich, contemporary landscape design style that transforms landscape elements into functional art, based on sustainable design principles. If you browse our portfolio, you’ll see how we strive to make each design artistic yet functional, each landscape custom tailored to the needs of the client. You'll also see that no two designs are alike.

We do not consider sustainable design to be a style. Sustainable landscape design is a set of guiding principles used to make the design environmentally friendly, but the project can look modern, Asian, Moroccan, Mexican, Spanish, eclectic or have virtually any other style you like.

Sketch first. CAD later.

Since we’re both award-winning artists, we start with sketches. It’s old school, but still the best way to quickly develop ideas fluidly and conceptually.  It’s the quickest way to communicate concepts, too. Sketch, discuss, refine with another sketch traced over the first. You just can’t do that with CAD.

Communicate

You need to know roughly how your new landscape will look. In the concept development phase, while the design is quite fluid, we might provide sketchy thumbnail images drawn quickly by hand to solidify the design.

As the concept develops, we may create a digital model, applying surface textures, reflections and shadows for more realistic images.

Once the concept is decided, we’ll switch to full-on CAD to create construction plans that let the contractor know exactly what we’ve got in mind.

Landscape Plans

Sometimes plans are considered the final product, but in fact are a roadmap getting you from a series of ideas and desires - a program - to a built landscape that you can enjoy. We use landscape plans to communicate concepts for discussion at the beginning of the design process, after walking through your garden to discuss your likes, possiblities and lifestyle. We use plans to give detailed information to builders so they can take the chosen concept forward into reality. Plans are like maps on a route, getting you to your destination.

Our design process

Design is a process that requires feedback between the designer and the client. Each successive design concept moves toward a better solution as it refines what should be included, its placement and how it should look. We build feedback into our approach, so you’re involved in the process all the way. We're one of the few firms in the Sacramento area using three dimensional computer modeling to illustrate and virtually tour new projects.

Sketching 

Sketching by hand forms the basis for our initial designs. Drawing by hand is faster and easier for developing initial ideas than any computerized process.

Design Development

Once we've arrived at a design, we scan it into the computer and apply state of the art three dimensional modeling to visualize the new project, complete with shadows specific to the project location.

Communication

When we've illustrated the new design concept (or concepts) in plan view and with perspective drawings, we meet with you to present the new landscape and then again to brainstorm the final design based on your feedback. Following this meeting, we transfer the finalized design to the computer for final refinement, then prepare construction drawings that will be used to build the new landscape.

Plans

Once everyone is in sync with the proposed design, we prepare landscape plans (construction drawings) in CAD. These plans communicate the design intent, dimensions, plant species, lighting fixtures and other information to contractors so they can bring the design to life.  

The profession & the community

Although we attend an occasional event with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), of which Annette is a member, our interests lie more in art and ecology.  

Annette

Active in the local arts community, she exhibits her art in various venues. You might see her painting plein air on the American River Parkway, or run into her at a gallery. She switches between watercolor and acrylics, typically carrying a French easel and wearing a French lab coat, formerly white but now artistically spotted with paint.

In the past, she served on the ASLA Sierra Chapter’s board of directors, volunteered at the American River Water Education Center (ARWEC) in Folsom and participated in community charrettes sponsored by the ASLA.

Mike 

Although he might get out and throw together a painting from time to time, Mike is more involved with local ecology. He’s the president of the Sacramento Valley Native Plant Garden Club, a group who meets once per month to compare notes on growing native plants and occasionally exchange seedlings. Having direct experience helps us evaluate how we’re doing to support monarch butterfly populations and create bird habitat.

Ages ago, Mike was the webmaster ASLA web site (they’re now using a template). Mike was ASLA chapter president in 2007 and was briefly a member of the APLD.  He sketched at charrettes, too. 

Public Speaking

Mike and Annette frequently give public presentations to educate people in various aspects of sustainable design, including basic principles, planting design and maintenance. If you would like us to speak at your event, please contact us.

We've spoken to large audiences at the Modesto Architectural Festival, and at the national American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting in Phoenix and Boston.

Where we work

Our office is located in Sacramento, in California's Central Valley. We'll go wherever we're wanted, however. We've worked on projects all around Northern California, with some fun in Central California on the coast, some more tropical designs in Southern California and even farther away, from France to Ethiopia.

Since we've lived and worked in a variety of climates (and cultures) there's no reason we couldn't create something wonderful far from Sacramento.

We speak French, Spanish, a little German and of course, English - something that definitely facilitates interaction both here and abroad.

Where we've been

We both lived and worked in France. Contemporary design in France might not be what you think: imagine flower-filled meadows for bees and rain gardens. They’re going sustainable and low maintenance, although they’re still building their fair share of avant-gardens.

Although Mike lived and worked in France, his main projects were elsewhere: a planning study in Jordan, lighting design for the Bâtiment des forces motrices in Geneva, a historic site in Beirut, Taman Suropati in Jakarta, sketches for the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Abeba, with some studies in Mexico and Eastern Europe.

Mexico has a great landscape architecture society that meets every other year. We've attended two of their conferences - in Mexico City and Monterrery and both were great experiences full of new technology and innovative design ideas.

Training 

Annette and Mike have masters degrees in landscape architecture from Cal Poly, Pomona and are licensed landscape architects in the state of California. In addition to these degrees, Annette has a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from ESAJ in Paris, France. Mike has a degree in environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz (and almost an AA in culinary arts from ARC).

As far as we know, we’re the only Sacramento area landscape design team with education, training and experience in France.

We’ve lectured at UC Davis in the landscape architecture department and at ARC and occassionally speak at community events, garden clubs and festivals.

Our workflow

Generally, we move from rough concepts to developed ideas. A design may start as a search for a solution, a quest to bring an indoor style outside, harmonize with interesting architecture, create a style, work from a functional framework or a combination of everything.

We develop design ideas and develop concepts on tracing paper. This is one place where computers have not made things more efficient. It's still faster, easier to change a line by scribbling over the old one, and it's more fun, too.

Once we have something that works, we scan it into the computer, set it to scale and refine the design with 3D modeling and CAD.

We can present from the original paper sketches, once they've been scanned into the computer and cleaned up. Tracing them and transforming them into 3D models is another possibility, kind of magic to see the design emerge from the surface of the "paper".

Tools of the trade

Designing and communicating landscapes takes quite a bit of software, and there's no single application that works for everything.

 

Here's what we're using now:

On site documentation:

Notability (iOS). Combine notes and photos into documents for future reference.

Photo & image processing:

On1 Photo RAW

Affinity Photo

Page Layout:

VectorWorks

Web Site Authoring

Sparkle.  

This program lets us put this site together like graphic designers instead of forcing us to code like geeks.

We use WordPress for our blog.

Vector Illustration:

Affinity Designer (and others on iOS).

Raster Illustration:

Affinity Photo (and others on iOS).

CAD:

VectorWorks for just about everything. Includes database (“worksheets”) for quick generation of schedules and calculations, does 3D renderings and has a lot of workflow automation.

(we no longer use SketchUp. Their 2017 release broke made controlling views impossible to manage, and they seem to have slowed their development cycle - if not their fees!)

On iOS: Morpholio Trace (concept development sketching), ArcSite and sometimes AutoCAD for entering base info on site.

Database:

FileMaker Pro.  Quick access to data streamlines operations.

 

copyright 2017 Luciole Design inc. All rights reserved.

Information given in this web site is for advice only, and is subject to change without notice. Consult with us or another qualified professional if you have specific questions.