Margie Grace


Through an impressive career that has spanned over three decades and yielded more than 350 gardens around the world, Margie Grace has joined an elite echelon of garden and landscape designers whose work is celebrated both locally and internationally.

Whether designing gardens for historically significant estate properties, relaxed bungalows, or coastal family retreats, Margie takes her cues from her clients, their lifestyle, the architecture of the property, and the land itself. She has designed outdoor environments that are formal, casual, rustic, and coastal, but regardless of style, Margie creates spaces that bring people together to live in and enjoy the outdoors with nature at its finest.

Margie applies the principles of design to create a framework for her landscapes. She then sculpts the terrain to mimic nature and layers on essential elements– organic materials, stone and plantings – to create a dynamic, living ecosystem that supports the local biome and utilizes water in the most efficient and considered way. She programs the environment for the enjoyment of its inhabitants, creating moments for reflection, relaxation, and gathering with friends and family – with vistas, follies, destinations, outdoor rooms – spaces that bring people together in both planned and unexpected ways. Her creative vision extends to all facets of outdoor living, selecting plants from sources both local and exotic, as well as garden hardscape, outdoor furnishings, pots, art, objects, and accessories. Grace’s distinctive design is then meticulously executed with an emphasis on site-sensitive plantings, specialized sources, and quality construction grounded in the values of old-world craftsmanship.

Margie earned her degree in life and earth sciences from UCSC, supplemented by coursework at UCLA in Landscape Architecture. As an avid traveler, she is a perpetual student of gardens as well as natural landscapes, and has worked in far-away places such as Spain, Australia and New Zealand, learning principles and techniques that she masterfully employs in her native Southern California habitat. Her work based in Santa Barbara is influenced by her deep appreciation for California’s unique natural beauty and climate, and she is called upon as an expert for her understanding of the delicate balance of the region’s local ecosystems.

Margie’s work has been featured in top publications throughout the world including Garden Design, Traditional Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Veranda, Luxe, Sunset, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. She has been honored with numerous design awards including the prestigious International Landscape Designer of the Year award from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, which she was awarded for the second time in 2018.

Her work will be the subject of a monograph published by Gibbs Smith, to be released in early 2020.


Who We Are

Led by celebrated garden designer Margie Grace, Grace Design Associates is a collaborative landscape design studio and construction firm comprised of talented designers and craftsmen committed to creating exceptional gardens. Together, we delight in creating the very finest landscapes for our clients.

Each garden we create is individually designed and custom built. All materials – including plants, trees, stone, fountains, art, statuary, garden furniture, lighting and accessories – are hand-selected by the firm’s designers from the top growers and suppliers in the region. The result is a one-of-a-kind garden perfectly tailored to the client, the architecture, the site and the surrounding environment.

As a design-build firm, we take every project from concept through completion. Our considerable inhouse resources include a highly accomplished design team as well as a talented construction team trained to our discerning aesthetics and standards. The two teams work hand-in-glove throughout installation, fine tuning the design as it is being executed to perfectly fit the site without sacrificing schedule or budget. This unique process results in beautiful, well-built, cohesive gardens that delight and inspire.

With over 30 years of practice in Santa Barbara, our designs celebrate the beauty, diversity and subtle nuances of the California landscape. Grace Design has developed superior expertise in the design and construction of environmentally-sensitive landscapes, with particular attention paid to soil and water conservation, biodiversity and fire-smart landscaping.

Grace Design’s work has been featured in top publications throughout the world including Garden Design, Traditional Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Veranda, Luxe, Sunset, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. The firm has been honored with numerous design awards including the prestigious international Landscape Designer of the Year award from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, recognizing Margie Grace for the second time in 2018.

The firm’s work will be the subject of a monograph published by Gibbs Smith, to be released in February 2020.

Our Design/ Build Process

A great landscape is the result of great collaboration. We want to get to know you. We approach each project by listening and understanding who you are and how you want to live in your garden. With client collaboration at the forefront, our designs celebrate the unique personalities and interests of our clients with the inherent site conditions.

Our team oversees every aspect of the work, and benefits from close relationships with local nurseries and international vendors to hand pick the best plant materials, accessories, lighting and furnishings for your project. The expertise of our design team continues throughout installation for integrated, beautiful results.


Client Collaboration

Client Collaboration

Design Meeting with Staff

Design Meeting with Staff

Materials Selection

Materials Selection




Dawn Close, Principal

Dawn Close is the co-founding partner of Grace Design Associates, along with Lead Designer Margie Grace. Dawn serves as Chief of Operations, bringing her extensive expertise in business management to the company. In that capacity, she manages all aspects of company finance, marketing and administration. She is also responsible for charting the long-term strategic direction for the company, oversees daily operations, and works closely with the firm's talented staff of professional designers.

Prior to co-creating Grace Design, Dawn was an Instructor for Landmark Education's national "Team Management and Leadership Program" (TMLP), a year-long intensive leadership development program. She was also heavily involved as a Teacher in the Women's Economic Venture, also known as WEV, helping many women entrepreneurs find their passion and start their own business.

Raised in Chicago, she came to the West Coast to work in the elite world of Arabian horses. Over the years, Dawn's focus shifted from horses to the also-elite world of Cocker Spaniel breeding and showing, with one of her dogs winning Best of Breed at the highly lauded Westminster Dog Show in New York City.


John Oberholtzer, Superintendent

John Oberholtzer has been with Grace Design Associates since the firm first formed. He is Superintendent overseeing all construction, helping to bring the firm's landscapes to life. Along with his ability to develop long-lasting client relationships, John approaches the complexity and challenge of landscape construction with ease. The partnership of Lead Designer Margie Grace's vision and artistry, coupled with John's extraordinary craftsmanship and team management skills, has contributed greatly to the firm's many award-winning gardens.

John was born and raised in Altadena, California where he received his Associate's Degree from Pasadena City College, and went on to study geology at San Diego State University. He moved to the Santa Barbara area in 1985, and earned his Landscape Contractor's license in 1992.

John is the proud father of three. He spends much of his free time volunteering, going to the local farmers markets, and teaching dog training at area parks through the Department of Parks and Recreation.


Cesar Sanchez

Ceasar Sanchez was born and raised in Leon, Guanajuato Mexico. With his creative approach to unique construction challenges and deep knowledge of the craft, he can build anything! Ceasar began developing construction skills at the age of 14 with his grandfather in Mexico. His career in construction began in 1999 when he came to Santa Barbara. Ceasar has been an invaluable team member of GDA for more than three years.

Ceasar is the proud father of four daughters and has a deep love for his family. His free time and hobbies are centered around family life.


Eric Oberholtzer

Eric Oberholtzer has grown up in the world of landscape construction. He has been with the firm for 5 years. Eric's great eye for creating beauty and love of operating the heavy equipment makes him an invaluable crew leader. With his unique combination of skills he is involved from the start to detailed finish of construction.

Eric loves the outdoors, power lifting and restoring vintage trucks and suburbans from the 1970's and 80's.