2023 Landscape Design Award: Arterra Landscape Architects


On almost a half-acre in a quaint Northern California neighborhood sat an overgrown landscape surrounding a Spanish-revival home. “Several previous upgrades to the gardens were outdated and did not fit with the original architecture vernacular,” says Gretchen Whittier, partner at Bay Area landscape architecture firm Arterra. “The owners wanted to contemporize the existing elements that were in disrepair and create new features that would extend the interior views out into the garden and create spaces for gathering and entertaining.”

A custom stucco fireplace is flanked by cozy sofas. Photos by Marion Brenner.
The outdoor kitchen, constructed of Kalamazoo cabinetry, is surrounded by Vieux Monde Limestone. Photos by Marion Brenner.

The Arterra team got to work to develop a master plan that would accomplish four major goals: consider and enhance the microclimates, create distinct outdoor rooms and establish a production garden for growing food, and adapt old-world design principles into a modern landscape. “The comprehensive master plan addressed the challenge of bringing the landscape up to the quality and character of the architecture while creating a linked series of alluring outdoor rooms,” says Whittier. “The gravel courtyard off the arched formal loggia of the house features a metal fountain framed by olive trees. A stucco fireplace soars above the seating area as a terminus to the outdoor dining room. Informal pathways lead to a production garden enclosed by citrus trees, a fire pit lounge behind a low-mow grassy knoll and a heated bench retreat tucked under the redwood.”

Arterra created an intimate seating area with lantern lighting and a heated bench by Galanter & Jones.
Photos by Marion Brenner.

Aside from creating intimate spaces for a range of entertaining options, the client’s top request was an outdoor kitchen that was minimal in style but could provide maximum space for dinner parties. “We designed a cooking island to anchor the space,” Whittier says. “We customized off-the-shelf appliances to minimize bulk and reduce the reflectivity of the finishes. The Kalamazoo cabinets and the Caliber Social grill were refinished from stainless steel to blackened steel.”

A custom steel water feature rests in the middle of a gravel courtyard off the arched formal loggia of the house and includes a metal fountain framed by olive trees. Photos by Marion Brenner.

The best part about the entire process was that the clients, the builder and Arterra team worked closely together to achieve the desired direction. “The client was keenly involved in the design of the garden features, down to the detailing of the fireplace hearth,” says Whittier. “Bay West Builders, who worked on the house renovation, brought this attention to detail into their work building the garden elements. To underscore the client’s pride in the completed project, the client opened the garden to the public on the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden tour in 2022.”

Photos by Marion Brenner.