At Ground Studio, we envision and craft contextual California landscapes, thoughtfully balancing the character of the land, the identity of the architecture, and the lifestyles of people who live there.
Designing in a range of scales from compact urban gardens to expansive rural sites, we listen and observe to ensure the spirit of the place is revealed. Our designs inspire a deep connection with the land.
At the core of Ground Studio’s designs is the exploration of each project’s unique narrative. Our path of design discovery is deeply rooted in existing site patterns that inform contextual, livable landscapes that connect people with nature.
Building on twenty-five years of internationally recognized landscape design, Bernard, along with Partners David and Ben, lead an accomplished team with offices in Monterey, Napa, and Santa Barbara. The three overseeing partners are working closely with each other and with Studio Directors in each office to thoughtfully assemble project teams that best meet the needs of each project’s specific opportunities.
We are deeply collaborative inside and outside the studio, accountable to do whatever it takes in every situation, and consistently striving to exceed expectations. These core values speak to our desire to listen well, reveal the essence of a site, and connect people to the land. We are truly grateful to help steward some of the most beautiful and complex sites in California.
In each project we begin by listening, observing, and exploring the connections between human, built, and natural systems. Within these complex relationships, we practice an ecological approach to design that encourages regeneration of the land and connection to the people who inhabit it. Revealing inherent value in the site and creating connection through a contextual materiality, we blur the distinction between architecture and landscape, heightening this interplay of structure and nature.
Existing site patterns are a repository of meaning; there are clues within this complexity both in presence and purpose. By celebrating and building upon the patterns of each place, rather than manipulating them, a true sense of belonging in the landscape is revealed. To express our ideas with clarity we develop a narrative flow to help tell the story of these patterns, beginning with images, sketches, and diagrams to illustrate functional relationships and important connections.
Communicating our intent from concept to construction documentation is critical, so that the design vision is carried out in every way, from large scale gestures to details experienced in everyday living.
Bernard arrived in Northern California in 1995 and soon after fell in love with this land. He is the founding principal and design director of Ground Studio, formerly Bernard Trainor + Associates. Drawing on thirty-five years of passionate commitment to the study and practice of landscape design, he is involved with his collaborative studio team on every landscape project from conception to completion. Throughout the years, he has completed four academic programs, practiced professionally in three countries, and continues to lecture extensively on the subject of Landscape Design throughout the world.
His award-winning projects range from small gardens to extensive rural properties, and have been featured in a wide range of books and publications throughout the world including the New York Times, Vogue Living, Garden Design, and the monograph Landprints solely devoted to the studio’s work published by Princeton Architectural Press.
Bernard was raised on the Mornington Peninsula along Australia’s rugged South Eastern Coast, not far from the city of Melbourne. It was here that he developed a lasting awareness and appreciation of the native landscape that led to horticultural and design studies. Following an apprenticeship, he was awarded a scholarship that allowed him to move to England and study under the famed plantswoman and garden designer Beth Chatto. Her regionally appropriate planting designs further developed Bernard’s design philosophy and subsequently the direction of his landscape designs that followed. Her influence was significant. In the years that followed Bernard then completed a Diploma of Landscape Design while studying at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
In practice, the geographical diversity of his educational and work experiences cultivated a deep appreciation for California’s unique regional qualities and culture. “Whilst traveling I soon discovered my favorite art, architecture and landscapes are deeply connected to the place from which they have ‘grown’ ”. This simple observation and a keen awareness of the regional context inform every design project.
David came to Ground Studio in 2006 with 15 years of experience designing and constructing award-winning landscapes in California. He holds an AS honors degree in Horticulture and a BS in Community Studies. David is the Lead Planting Designer and Director of Field Operations. His focus is uniting studio and field work by maintaining the firm’s philosophy and standards throughout the process of design, construction, and long-term involvement with gardens to ensure they reach their fullest potential after installation.
David has been instrumental in elevating some of the firm’s most adventurous projects and continues to lead Ground Studio in dynamic planting design.
Partner, PLA, ASLA
Ben joined Ground Studio in 2010. He holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture degree from University of North Texas. This fine arts background shapes his creative approach on a wide range of projects, and years of hands-on experience in masonry, landscape construction, drawing, and sculpture contribute to a deep understanding of the crucial relationship between form and context in his work.
Partner, PLA, ASLA
Senior Designer / Studio Director – Santa Barbara
Chris has been with Ground Studio for nearly a decade. As Senior Designer at the firm, he oversees the design, documentation and implementation of complex projects that demand a high level of collaboration and communication. He earned his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and helps lead Ground Studio projects in contextual design solutions with a deep sense of place. Chris is the Studio Director for our Santa Barbara office and continues to imbue the Ground Studio philosophy in our projects in Southern California.
Senior Designer / Studio Director – Santa Barbara
Senior Designer / Studio Director – Monterey
Johnson joined the Monterey office in 2019, coming from Nashville, Tennessee. He has designed and managed numerous award-winning public and private sector projects at a variety of scales, with a particular focus on native plant community and habitat restoration. Johnson is the Studio Director for the Monterey office and leads the team with perpetual optimism and constant sketching.
Johnson holds a Bachelor of Ornamental Horticulture degree from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Landscape Architecture from NC State University.
Senior Designer / Studio Director – Monterey
Senior Designer, ASLA
Braden Patterson joined Ground Studio in 2013. A California native, he joins us from Los Angeles where he has a history of working and collaborating in various facets of design. His previous experience crafting environments as an art director and production designer in film has provided a direct translation to his practice in landscape architecture, as they both employ the built and natural environment to create personal experience and unique sense of place.
Braden earned a Bachelors of Science degree in landscape architecture from California Polytechnic University in Pomona. During and after his time at Cal Poly Braden travelled and studied throughout Europe and lived in a hilltop town in Tuscany, Italy. His keen interest in diverse sustainable design methods and practices resonates through his design work.
Senior Designer, ASLA
Richard enjoys botany and hiking the backcountry exploring rare and endemic species. As a student of taxonomy, he has developed an understanding for the aesthetic and ecology of natural plant communities as they apply to projects in the landscape. As an ISA certified arborist he has an understanding for tree physiology and proper pruning techniques in cultivating vigor and elegant structure in specimen trees.
Plant community diversity, ecology, and natural history can inform our process of design, in cultivating an intrinsic harmony for our landscapes that “just feels right”. In practice, he retains these ideas that inform field operations for a sustainable aesthetic in the garden.
Richard holds two AS degrees with Honors in both Horticulture and Spanish and a BS in Business Psychology.
Max joined Ground Studio in 2019. His rural midwestern background has informed and shaped his design philosophy and appreciation of the native landscape. Previous experience in construction and hands-on implementation has created an appreciation for the craft and quality of materials and how they relate to one another.
Max earned his Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois. His respect and interest in native flora heavily influences his design methods with the aim of creating a more ecologically robust future landscape.
Sam joined Ground Studio in 2019. He grew up in Illinois, where a decade of involvement in a family-owned landscape design/build firm has provided a wide range of experiences, from residential landscape design and project management to native habitat restoration. He has a passion for creating landscapes that respond to the nature of a place and connect people to the environment.
Sam holds a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Elaine Shaw joined Ground Studio Landscape Architecture in 2021 and is a licensed Landscape Architect in the State of California. She brings to her work a passion for craftsmanship and technical precision, as well as a focus on sustainability. Her clean, versatile design aesthetic translates well in a wide range of applications. She has experience in a wide range of project types and scales, contributing to many award-winning and internationally recognized projects. Her passion for the California landscape and water conservation led her to the impressive work at Ground Studio.
With over thirty years of senior management experience, Elaine is committed to facilitating excellence in design and implementation and the successful partnerships with the design team and client. Elaine has a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
Darren joined the Santa Barbara office in Spring of 2021. A native to Ventura County, he grew up on the edge of suburbia with the wild and rugged Santa Monica Mountains as his childhood playground. His passion for the natural world and background in horticulture led him to landscape architecture where he strives to create beautiful, sustainable landscapes that connect people to place. He brings to Ground Studio over 18 years of landscape design experience and 23 years of horticultural expertise.
Darren holds a BA and MA in Anthropology from California State University, Northridge and a Master’s with honors from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Growing up with a family landscape business in Southern California, Nathan came to Ground Studio with over a decade’s worth of residential design, implementation, and maintenance experience. Desiring to push his landscape career further, he attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he fell in love with the Central Coast and received a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture in 2019.
He held two design research positions at Cal Poly which greatly influenced his design philosophy of achieving ecologically resilient and regenerative designs. Furthermore, his keen interest in photography and cinematography informs a robust understanding of user experience that translates into every design decision.
The California sunshine and an interest in landscape architecture drew Larissa to the Central Coast from her home state of Ohio. After earning her degree in Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly SLO, she joined Ground Studio’s Napa office in 2020. Her minor in sustainable environments and interest in habitat restoration align well with Ground Studio’s extensive work in California’s native landscapes.
Larissa brings with her experiences working in the landscapes of Ohio, Colorado, and Central California, enriching her awareness of regional biodiversity and distinct microclimates. Her adventurous spirit and avid eye for aesthetics is reflected in her design work.
Kyle joined Ground Studio in the summer of 2020. Growing up in suburban northeast Oklahoma on a mixed landscape of forest and tallgrass prairie, his interest in landscape architecture stems from time spent at the interface of the built and natural worlds. His work aims to use diverse native plant communities and regional materials to generate a designed landscape that connects everyday life with local ecology.
Kyle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Oklahoma State University.
Mel joined Ground Studio in 2020 after a year of working as a landscape designer in Seattle, WA. There she worked on various project scopes, from waterfront revitalization to designing paving patterns. She graduated from the Ohio State University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture. While in Ohio, she worked as a landscape designer for a regional playground company where she practiced both the graphic and technical sides of the profession. She loves the sustainability and impact of landscape architecture and is thrilled to implement her skills in the residential market.
Shaine joined Ground Studio’s Monterey office in the summer of 2020 after completing her Master’s in Ecological Design at the Conway School in Massachusetts. She studied film and media at Stanford University, supported environmental advocacy at the NRDC through media, and more recently, worked on an organic farm on the California coast, where her love of native plants began in earnest. She brings to the studio a passion for improving ecological health and harmony in residential landscapes.
Inki joined Ground Studio in the summer of 2021 after completing his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at Virginia Tech. His passion for regional placemaking and evaluating the distinctive character of a site drew him to the thoughtful approach and work of Ground Studio. Although thousands of miles away from his familiarity of the East Coast, Inki seeks to refine this process of site-specific design, develop a more wholistic view of the practice and enhance the beautiful California landscape within the ethos of the Ground Studio philosophy.
Conner joined Ground Studio in 2021 as part of the Santa Barbara office. After completing an undergraduate degree in political science and environmental studies from Kenyon College he received his MLA from Kent State University. Conner’s passion for the field derives from his academic and professional experience in legacy city landscapes. His design work celebrates and is inspired by the ecological and cultural history of a place, and he strives to create a more harmonious balance between the built environment and the natural world.
Attracted to the scenic coastal landscape, Gabby joined Ground Studio’s Santa Barbara office in the summer of 2021. Her passion for artistic exploration and a love for the environment inspire her to create landscapes that are sympathetic with the existing natural environment.
Gabby holds a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Her interest in native landscapes along with minors in both sustainable environments and architecture greatly influence her design approach to create spaces that connect users to their surrounding ecology.
Rebecca joined Ground Studio in 2021 after starting her career on the East Coast in Norfolk, Virginia working on ecologically challenged waterfront sites and strengthening pedestrian opportunities in cities. Having a background in both interior architecture and landscape architecture allows her to think about projects on a variety of scales from big picture connections to the finer grain detail that enhances a person’s experience of place.
Rebecca has a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design and a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Architecture from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Sophia joined Ground Studio in the summer of 2021. Growing up in Marin County, California, she was immersed in the quintessential natural beauty of the Bay Area and all of the design inspiration encompassed therein; stimulating her interest in native California landscapes as a form of art. By aiming to use the design process to merge the gap of regional plant communities and the significance of space, she brings to the studio a passion to create beautiful spaces diverse in native plant culture.
Sophia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Colorado State University.
Accounting / Office Manager
Michelle came to Ground Studio with 25+ years of experience in Office Administration. After growing up in Portland, she moved to CA and worked for a Bay Area construction company, spending over 22 years in accounting, HR and customer service.
After running her own Bookkeeping business, she joined Ground Studio in 2014 and has proven invaluable to the office ever since. Her love of organization, communication, numbers, and a willingness to take on any task bring a tangible benefit to the office daily.
Accounting / Office Manager
Assistant Office Manager
With a Bachelor’s Degree from San Francisco State University, Jen comes to Ground Studio with 20 years of experience in Administration which have been acquired across a range of industries. Having been raised in Pacific Grove, she is delighted to return to the Peninsula after having lived up and down the coast of California as well as in Las Vegas, Chicago and, most recently, Cincinnati. Jen brings a strong administrative skill set to the team with a zest for solving mysteries alongside a passion for organizational systems and relationship building. We count on her to help keep the office running smoothly and efficiently on a daily basis.
Assistant Office Manager
Roxanne joined Ground Studio in the summer of 2021 after working in accounting for three years. It was there that she found enjoyment in administration and the impact it can have on an organization. As a self-proclaimed “generalist” she brings a range of administrative skills to Ground Studio.
Roxanne holds a bachelor’s degree in Management and Business Economics from the University of California, Merced.