Margie Grace


Margie Grace is the founding principal and design director of Grace Design Associates based in Santa Barbara. As a licensed landscape contractor, her firm has the unique advantage of building the gardens she designs. Since 1982, her company has conceived and built more than 350 gardens in Southern California and the western states. Her work is in demand because her gardens strike a balance between beauty and fulfilling her clients’ practical needs.

Margie’s passion as a lifelong learner has earned her degrees in the life and earth sciences at UCSC and UCLA. Her work in Santa Barbara is influenced by her deep appreciation of California’s unique beauty and her extensive travels and landscape work in Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania.

Margie's award-winning projects range from intimate gardens to large estates, and have been featured in top publications throughout the world including Garden Design, Sunset Western Garden Book, Traditional Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Veranda and The Wall Street Journal.

Grace’s creations have an effortless elegance and restraint. Her designs range from gentle and naturalistic to bold and urban, traditional to contemporary; they may end up looking whimsical and sometimes romantic. Her imaginative and unique gardens truly embrace The Art of Outdoor Living.


Who We Are

Grace Design Associates is a collaborative landscape design studio and construction company based in Santa Barbara made up of talented designers and craftsmen committed to teamwork that results in exceptional gardens. Together we delight in designing and building the very best landscapes for our clients.

As a design-build firm, we take every project from concept to construction. This combination of abilities allows us to create designs with the intimate knowledge of construction requirements. Design and installation happen on a continuum. By building the gardens we design, we provide our clients with the unique advantage of getting a beautiful landscape while working with one firm.  Because the process is integrated, the finished garden is too.

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.