Feature Designer: The work of Bernard Trainor

The former capital of California, Monterey, is a quiet, laid back tourist town on the Pacific Coast. It’s the place Australian garden designer Bernard Trainor now calls home, where he has established a bustling garden design practice.

I recently met up with Bernard in his studio so we could swap stories on the landscape design scene in our respective countries.

Bernard works from the first conception of a project, helping the architect site the house in the landscape. This is his real talent – blending the existing natural landscape with the new garden. Edges are harmoniously blurred into the context of the surrounding Monterey wilderness.

Bernard’s gardens are gracefully restrained. He uses walls that graduate from retaining to free-standing blade walls. It’s one of his most powerful elements, and Bernard admits that it is his ‘# 1 trick’.

The walls determine the outdoor living spaces such as lounging terraces and fire courts. There are no big outdoor kitchen arrangements, the BBQ is in the background, and most of his gardens don’t feature lawns.


He activates entry courts with understated, elegant water features that are never flashy. The hot tub courtyards are inviting – you just want to jump in. They are located where they are snug and intimate with a view out that always is impressive.MB_BT_5

Bernard does a good pool. I mean excellent. The colours, size and how they sit in the landscape are always heroic.


The driveways that approach the house are considered curves. They lead to oversized parking courts for residents and guests who must arrive by car. By designating the parking, the wilderness is protected.


The dominant trees are native oaks, complete with wood-pecker holes. They are beautiful in the afternoon light before the mist rolls in from the coast to fill the valleys.


Contemporary Monterey architecture has moved on from the mission-style ranch and now has a more international flavor. You can see how the house and gardens would suit a family to entertain, but you can also imagine a more intimate arrangement. It’s a real skill to get the proportions right for both living styles, and Bernard has done this in spades.