Landscape Designer Bernard Trainor and Swatt | Miers Architects Collaborate on a Sublime Modernist Site

The south side of the home capitalizes on stunning vistas of the pinot noir vineyard.One of the guiding principles of California modernist architecture is that the built and natural landscapes relate. When Bernard Trainor, one of the Bay Area’s leading landscape designers, visited a 20-acre Sonoma County vineyard, he saw terrain that could be brought into perfect dialogue with the property’s new private home. The sleek, sculptural residence, designed by San Francisco’s Swatt | Miers Architects, was perched high upon a knoll, surrounded by majestic blue oaks and pinot noir vineyards. Trainor and his firm created a dynamic landscape in which hardscaping and softscaping intersect, artfully framing the modernist structure: Here, stone and gravel, sky and grass meet to create an artful setting.

The 5,000-square-foot residence was designed by Swatt | Miers principal Robert Swatt and his team for a client in the tech industry who wanted a home that was as sharp and clean as an Apple laptop—a spatially exciting property where they could soak up the natural beauty around them. Swatt, who studied with Los Angeles modernist master Ray Kappe, notes, “We decided to keep it crisp and modern—this white building set in the landscape.” Composed of white planes of indigenous stone and plaster, the house’s elongated “T” shape creates a private entry courtyard on the north side, while the south side is entirely glass, capitalizing on the breathtaking vineyard views.

A concrete stairway designed by Trainor winds through native fescue grasses and connects to a gravel courtyard with bocce court, fire pit and seating area.Trainor had a clear vision for the landscape: to create a unified flow in which modern architecture meets natural terrain, and to utilize indigenous materials to provide a deep connection with the region. “When Bernard sees the architecture, he understands what we are trying to say,” says Swatt. “He’s really perceptive about place and landscape. He wants to make the architecture better.”

At the front of the property, Trainor created a courtyard of poured-in-place concrete pavers that mirrors the shape of the home and creates a meditative approach to the entrance. Low, slender, white walls also frame a small courtyard of native fescue grass, their long, rustling leaves brushing up against the stone. “There is a quietness that resembles a Japanese garden­—it’s very restful and understated,” he notes.

At the back of the home, just beyond the infinity-edge pool, a mixed meadow of native grasses extends for an acre, with wildflowers providing pops of color. “What was cool was that we sculpted the land,” says Trainor. “There’s a beautiful knoll that floats above the vineyards—a rare topography—and we subtly regraded it to support the house and create the elegant slope.” Trainor also designed a dramatic, terraced concrete stairway that slices through the grassland to the lower part of the property. There, a gravel courtyard framed in stone contains a bocce court, fire pit and a serene seating area. From there, the vineyards can be seen rolling out into the distance, a visual feast of cultivated nature.

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Prairie House.

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Designer Spotlight

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A Shaded Garden, Perennial Border, Children’s Corner and a Pool Setting with a Perfect Manicured Lawn Define this Serene Landscape Design.
Distinct garden spaces consisting of a birch grove, formal rose garden, gravel pathways, and over 1,300 perennials and ornamental grasses contribute to this tranquil setting. The grounds, conceived and maintained by The LaurelRock Company, require a 46-zone irrigation system. An in-ground trampoline provides a safe, outdoor activity for the entire family; while the sunken pool area embraces integrated stone steps and a sculpted lawn area.

The LaurelRock Company

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For over 50 years the Deane family has created custom rooms that are carefully designed and meticulously handcrafted. We’re not in the custom cabinetry or kitchen business. We’re in the wish-fulfillment business. We are an experienced group of design professionals dedicated to enriching our clients’ lives. DEANE, Inc. provides the highest-quality custom cabinetry, innovative and compelling interior design, superior craftsmanship and outstanding customer service. Visit us at our Stamford or New Canaan showrooms or online at

Deane, Inc.
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