Monday, May 27, 2013

Fields of Vision: Nature Glorified

Monterey landscape designer Bernard Trainor creates green dreamscapes of lush grasses, reflective pools, and sculpted terrain amid the drama of California grandeur. 

Bernard’s motto: sculpt and shape and plant but keep it natural. His footprint is discreet, his plant palette pure. Clients are lining up to commission him to create their gardens and landscapes. 

Read on and be inspired.

And you know I love to give you the inside scoop—and lots of insider and expert information. Read down to the end, and you’ll find Bernard’s Favorite Plant Selections. 

Now Bernard has a beautiful new book about his designs in print—and the world can see and experience his dramatic, original, and very beautiful landscapes.

Some of the images below are from his book, ‘Landprints The Landscape Designs of Bernard Trainor (Princeton). The book was written by the great Susan Heeger, a fantastic garden writer with whom I worked at GARDEN DESIGN magazine.

Some images are exclusive to THE STYLE SALONISTE.

Come with me for a visit—and dream of these California scenes. Note that they are very specific to the landscape, the weather patterns, the native plants and the magical and very subtle California color palette. 

I met Bernard Trainor some years ago when I was an editor with GARDEN DESIGN magazine (I was one of the founding editors, when the great Dorothy Kalins was the editor-in-chief).

I was researching the new California landscape designers, the ones who were updating and changing California gardens, and moving away from the Tommy Church aesthetic to a more vibrant and only-in-California approach.

Who was re-imagining California landscapes, and letting go of the English parterre, the French formalism, the riot-of-color flowers? Who was using native plants? Who was taking a ‘natural’ approach? The answer: Bernard Trainor, a trail-blazer. 

At a design seminar at California College of the Arts, I presented Bernard and his drifts of grasses, his swathes of meadow, his glassy pools, his glorification of the natural. The two hundred interior designers, landscape designers and architects present were entranced, and at the end of his humble and beautiful and beautifully illustrated lecture, everyone rose to give him an extended standing ovation. 

The natural California landscape is the enduring inspiration for Monterey-based landscape designer, Bernard Trainor.

His exquisitely fine-tuned work, with subtle gestures and an often almost invisible plan, pays homage to the craggy Big Sur coast, the undulating silhouettes of Carmel Valley forests, and the graduations of green of the Napa Valley hills and hidden valleys.

It’s important to know that this coastal region is a very specific climate and terroir. The soil can be rocky and inhospitable.

It’s stormy and exposed and rainy in winter.

I generally does not rain—at all—from around April—October when a glorius ‘Indian Summer’ arrives.

This is not a ‘floral’ region where landscape designers create flourishes of vivid blooms. Lavender does well, and ‘Iceberg’ roses and other rose varieties.

Bright color generally looks vulgar in the bright and ultra-bright Pacific coast light.

And in the wild there are voracious deer, gophers, and other critters.

And…there’s not a lot of water. Spending hours with a hose in these settings simply cannot happen.

Take these criteria and others in mind as you gaze in wonder at Bernard’s walled gardens (to protect from wine and marauding deer).

Olive trees are happy—and families harvest olives and make delicious organic olive oil.

Native manzanitas love it and are so at home, their blazing orange peeling trunks visible for miles.

The grandeur and California landscape endlessly encourages Australian-born Trainor to be even more creative, he said, but always to keep a very low profile.

Trainor lived in Melbourne and still carries traces of an Australian accent in his lilting voice. It’s interesting to note that the Australian East Coast landscapes and soil and weather and indigenous plants are rather similar to those in central coastal California. Early settlers in California brought over eucalyptus trees (which impart that wonderful resin/gum smell) as well as bottlebrush and other natives. From Provence we got many varieties of lavender.

Now Bernard is fully at home in Northern California—enhancing the groves, rocky coast, ranches and valleys and Manzanita-scented hillsides.

In Trainor’s gardens, you experience the fragrance of old oaks, the mysterious arrival of fog, clouds reflected in a pool, and always a sense of peace and tranquility.

In his concepts, handcrafted dry-stacked walls of indigenous stone curve sinuously to enclose a terrace, and manzanitas or olive trees offer gradations of green to frame a distant view of redwoods, madrones and ancient oaks. His goal is to form a simple and harmonious connection between the new planting and ancient groves and forests. 

“I love the natural hardscape of California and I’m always working to highlight the seasonal foliage, the rocks and boulders, and the handsome native trees,” said Trainor. “My goal is always to create and shape a new landscape that is entirely at home in its setting. I like to keep planting very simple and elegant, often using native grasses like carex and muhlenbergia that move gracefully in the wind.”

Bernard Trainor’s New Book

Ten of Trainor’s superbly focused and compelling designs are presented in his new book, 'Landprints: The Landscape Designs of Bernard Trainor', written by noted Los Angeles author, Susan Heeger, and published by Princeton Architectural Press, Included in his first book are a ridgetop landscape in the Santa Lucia Preserve and a rocky setting right on the Pacific edge.

“I’m so fortunate to work in this majestic region,” said Trainor, who is assisted by his seven-person staff at Bernard Trainor + Associates. 

A Berkeley garden with views of San Francisco across the Bay

Bernard Trainor designed this surprising garden for a young family in the Berkeley hills.

Look closely—in one image, framed in trees, you can see San Francisco Bay and a smudge of San Francisco in the far distance. 

Look at the simplicity and logic of the design. It’s all very understated, classical, timeless, with architecture by Craig Steely.

It is also built on an impossible site…so steep, so vertiginous.

BIOGRAPHY: Bernard Trainor 

Bernard arrived in Northern California in 1995 and soon after fell in love with this land. 

Originally, he was raised on the Mornington Peninsula along Australia's rugged South Eastern Coast below Melbourne. Here he developed a lasting awareness and appreciation of the native landscape that led to horticulture and design studies. Following his 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 design further developed Bernard's design philosophy and the direction of the designed landscapes 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.Drawing on thirty years of passionate commitment to the study and practice of landscape design. 

Bernard is the founding principal and design director of Bernard Trainor + Associates. 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.As founding principal and design director, he is involved with his collaborative studio team on every landscape project, from conception to completion. The studio's award winning projects, range from town-scaled gardens to extensive rural properties, have been featured in a wide range of books and publications throughout the world including the New York Times, Vogue Living, Garden Design. 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 informs every design project. 

A Chat with Bernard

DDS: Bernard, I'm delighted to be writing about you again. Let's talk plants. What are your favorite trees to plant in Northern California—and why?

Coastal Live Oak.

I love the architectural quality in the shape of this oak trunk and outspread arms. It’s deciduous, and in the spring it’s so vivid and fresh.

They are so durable and noble. I’ve seen these sturdy old oaks that are four hundred years old. They’re covered in moss, and they’ve found a spring, a source of water, and they are happy. Nothing compares to these natives in California.

BT: Pistache. It’s ornamental, and originally Chinese. Pistacia chinensis. Deciduous with lively green foliage

BT: Any fruit trees, from apples to peaches and pears, olives, and plums and all kinds of nut trees (walnuts, almonds). I enjoy bountiful gardens.

DDS: Grasses you like to use for a soft effect, abstract?

Dune sedge is beautiful and resilient

Deer grass has wands that wave in the wind — kinetic sculpture.

June grass makes a lovely lawn substitute. It’s common in the prairie as well, and in Texas. Koeleria macrantha. Alternate Names: Koeleria cristata; Mountain junegrass, junegrass.

DDS: Your designs don't rely on brightly-colored flowers for effect and impact. They are more natural, more tranquil and abstract. But if you were to plant flowering plants near a pool, for example, or beside a terrace, what might you select

Lavender, Rosemary, Yarrow, Sage, Cistus, Ceanothus.

I love the ambience these Mediterranean climate plants create. They are tough yet beautiful.

DDS: Fragrant plants you like?

Tough old climbing roses, thyme, chamomile, mint, rosemary, yerba buena. No fluff. I like durable plants that smell of the place — not too imported.

DDS: Flowering shrubs that butterflies love?

Buddleja and Asclepias

DDS: Bernard, thank you. I’m so inspired. A million thanks. 

Photography courtesy of Bernard Trainor, used here with express permission.

Berkeley garden photographed by Marion BrennerAll other images from the book by Jason Liske, 

Bernard Trainor + Associates

Monday, May 20, 2013

Invention and Delight: Designer Catherine Kwong Picks Her San Francisco Style Favorites

The latest and greatest: From fine art to wood-fired pizza trucks to chic tintypes and art furniture. The best. 

Shooting star designer Catherine Kwong burst onto the San Francisco design scene last year with her sleek and witty design for a ‘fashion blogger’s office’ at the prestigious San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Then she was published in House Beautiful. Wonderful recognition.

In January, Catherine was selected as one of the top designers for the 2013 San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which is open through May 27. Her living room images have gone viral. 

Now Catherine’s career is in overdrive. Clients are calling. And she is the nicest, prettiest, and most talented and charming young talent.

I first met Catherine a decade ago when she was a designer with The Wiseman Group in San Francisco. I was looking for a ‘next generation designer’ for an interiors feature I was planning. The great Suzanna Allen was kind enough to introduce her to me and show her portfolio. 

At this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase, Catherine is again one of the most buzzed-about attractions. Everyone’s talking about her glamorous and understated design for the living room. 

Newell Turner, editor-in-chief of House Beautiful and of the Hearst Design Group, described Catherine’s room as ‘beautifully restrained’ and ‘superbly edited’. Doretta Sperduto, the magazine’s Interiors Editor, also loved it. I agree. 

At this year’s stunningly successful San Francisco Decorator Showcase Catherine wowed design lovers with her ‘ living room for Bianca and Mick’ that featured Dior-worthy silk curtains at the bay windows. Also creating a dream scheme were a voluptuous and perfectly shaped taupe silk tufted sofa and a petite antique mirror above the mantel.

Getting lots of attention and admiration, too, was the oh-so-glam midnight blue floor with swirls of Twombly-esque graffiti by James Stancil. 

Thus, careers are launched.

This week, we’re getting a close look at Catherine’s glam showcase room (you can also see it live at showcase through May 27—see information below).

And Catherine—between meeting new clients, supervising her office, taking good care of her husband, Brian (an emergency physician) — has created a list of her San Francisco style favorites for us. It’s witty and inspiring.

Come and discover. 

Catherine's Style List

"Design is about creating beautiful spaces, and at its best it involves self-expression, discovery, experimentation, and curiosity,” said Catherine Kwong, known for her artful melding of interior glamour, and for combining the newest high-tech and web concepts with classical décor and architecture.

For Kwong, design and style inspiration come from sources as varied as a chic new ‘secret’ bar, a 'rebel' patisserie, a classic San Francisco museum, a tintype photo studio, or a European-style vintage gallery.

“Northern California constantly generates vivid new ideas that jostle accepted wisdom,” said Kwong. “I’m open to new invention, and fresh ways of seeing decor, color, food, furniture and design. It makes me a better designer and one with something to say." 

Catherine Kwong began her interior design education in New York, with degrees from Brown University and Parsons School of Design. She later worked for designer Bill Sofield and with Ralph Lauren. In 2008 she moved back home to San Francisco where she now lives with her husband, Brian Kwong, an emergency physician.

“Innovation is a way of life here in San Francisco. Businesses are not content with the status quo. Invention is in the air,” Catherine noted.”Twitter’s new headquarters is around the corner, Pinterest is across the street, Zynga is near here, and so is Instagram, and within brief distances we have the offices of Google and Facebook and One Kings Lane. That kind of creative energy is infectious,” said Kwong. She launched Catherine Kwong Design, based in San Francisco, last year, and her firm is growing apace. 

Catherine Kwong’s Top Picks:
Catherine has roamed through neighborhoods of San Francisco and beyond for her favorite places, people, art, design, style and inspiration.

Here she shares her favorite sources—with a few surprises. (Trick Dog! Superhot now.)


THENWBLK  is a cutting-edge concept that brings together craft and interior design and architecture . Situated in a former industrial building, it's a retail store and gallery showing new handcrafted or one-of-a-kind furniture designs. It’s also a collaborative space for artists, designers and artisans to develop and build new pieces together, celebrating craft. 415-621-2344. 


I like to look to the old, the ancient, and objects of my heritage, like centuries-old collections at the ASIAN ART MUSEUM. 415-581-3500. and the new art such as the collections at ELI RIDGWAY, a favorite contemporary gallery downtown. 415-777-1366.


Vogt Submerged 

May 11 - June 22, 2013

Opening Reception Saturday, May 11, 4-7pm

Markham Johnson: 3 Attempts in Red, Green and Blue 
Gallery Hallway Project 


PHOTOBOOTH TINTYPE STUDIOS is a new business specializing in an old craft. They take portraits using an old-school tintype method. In this age of Instagram and Facebook, sitting still to stare into a camera for several minutes seems almost revolutionary. Each eerily captures a moment, a lifetime, and a mysterious mood. Just wonderful.1193 Valencia Street @ 23rd Street, San Francisco, 415-824-1248,, 


TRICK DOG  Tucked away behind a nondescript white door with a pineapple on it is one of the city's coolest bars. The wait (there’s always a line at the door, even at 8pm) is worth it. Bartenders (artists) make highly original libations and the bar bites are enticing. I admire the subtle wit: you can order from a Pantone-inspired cocktail menu. 415-471-2999. It used to be ‘not cool’ to publish the address. It’s no longer a secret, so here it is: 

3010 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 
(415) 471-2999 


CRAFTSMAN + WOLVES  A new loft-like patisserie in the heart of the Mission that’s inventive and a little subversive.. Consider the following: chocolate croissant stack; cocoa carrot muffin; caramel, lavender, soft chocolate éclairs, and the crunchy apple and Gruyere scones. The bakery's admired "Rebel Within" is a must-try: a savory Asiago and Parmesan cheese muffin with Boccalone breakfast sausage, chives, black pepper, and a soft-poached egg. Afternoon tea calls for delicacies like chunky apple/ Gruyere scones, buckwheat crumpets, plus a brioche sandwich of duck confit with red wine and onion marmalade served on a mid-century modern 'tower'. The ‘rebel’ concept is inspiring--and is a reminder to a designer of the delight in engaging in wit, humor, and rebellion. 415-913-7713.


DEL POPOLO They take the food truck craze to the next level with their pizza truck, complete with wood-burning oven. Really. For our wedding, we had them cater our rehearsal dinner, and it was such a discovery for our guests. 415-967-1853.


MARCH is a compulsive pleasure for everything culinary-related. I like the gorgeous linens in rare and subtle colors, plus handmade ceramics, and the very architectural kitchen islands and worktables. The superbly styled shop is so well curated and styled; it feels like being in a gallery. 415-931-7433.

The above images were shot exclusively for THE STYLE SALONISTE by the great photographer Paulette Tavormina. 

MARCH is pleased to present Photographs, an exhibition of Paulette Tavormina's exquisite still lifes. The show continues through June 1.

Tavormina's dramatic images reflect the sumptuous detail of 17th century Old Master paintings. Using a contemporary medium and a modern approach, her vibrant photographs of food and flora are reminiscent of Dutch, Spanish, and Italian still-lifes of the Golden Age. Tavormina was the winner of the Grand Prix at the 2010 International Culinaire Photography Festival in Paris. She lives and works in New York City.


ALMOND HARTZOG  I like the exquisite quality of furniture here. This gallery is a reliable source for beautiful, mostly European vintage furnishings and artwork, with highly collectible pieces from designers such as Eileen Gray and Pierre Jeanneret. 415-355-1200.


HUDSON GRACE  Gary McNatton and Monelle Totah are the owners-generators-locomotives-spirit guides of this brilliant new ode to stylish tableware and décor. They opened it last year in time for Thanksgiving—and clients were double-parked up and down the block as they ran in for tureens, serving bowls, large-scale platters and aces of linens. 

It's the crisply edited one-stop shop for hostess gifts and entertaining. I dash in for exclusive Italian candles, large-scale serving pieces, and hand-selected style books you won’t find elsewhere. 415-440-7400.


CAVALLO POINT  In Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, this sprawling national park-turned-low-key resort feels like a hideaway from San Francisco's hustle and bustle. This location is especially important to me: it's where I got married. 415-339-4700.



PHOTOGRAPHY: All photography used with express permission. Decorator Showcase photography by David Duncan Livingston (  Photos from March by Paulette Tavormina.

S.F. Decorator Showcase
Known as Herbst Manor, 2800 Pacific Avenue is a beautiful Georgian mansion atop Pacific Heights at the corner of Divisadero and Pacific. Built in 1899 by Ernest Coxhead, this historically significant home features old-world craftsmanship and panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the city. The residence features formal rooms, a dramatic stairway, and a beautiful penthouse suite.

2800 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco

The showcase continues through May 27.

Proceeds benefit San Francisco University High School's financial aid program.