Designer of the Month ~ Mary Lou Sorrell

marylou sorrell santa barbara

Mary Lou and her husband Jon Sorrell have run a small firm in Montecito for over three decades.  Mary Lou is  dedicated to providing genuine reproductions of historic- styled home in and around Santa Barbara.  Mary Lou  and Jon have an exclusive clientele and collectively they have completed more than 100 extraordinary residences. Sorrell Design’s homes have a knack for integrating indoor-outdoor spaces and provide their clients with engaging architectural solutions that endure and do not compromise the historic proportion and scale of architecture of these grand estates.


Landscape by Mary Lou Sorrell

Mary Lou has won numerous awards, national and international, including three time winner of Montecito beautiful home award. Her specialties are architectural details, interior design, and landscape design. As you can see from her photos she give special attention to detail and a continuity that flows from the exterior into the interior.  “Our designs are predicated on outdoor living,” Mary Lou says. “[We build] seating, walking and dining areas outside, instead of just gardens to look at, which means more hard-scape and less plants.”

marylou sorrell

Mary Lou Sorrell Designs

In regards to landscaping design Mary Lou is very observant to the drought and concern for older trees counsels clients to incorporate regular feedings into irrigation schedules to help legacy trees that are struggling to survive in their yards. “When there’s very little water, there’s nothing to sustain these old trees,” she says. “A lot of people think you feed plants every six months, but the systems I work with feed them every time they’re watered, so they’re getting continuous nutrition, which helps them stay green.”  She also encourages homeowners to recycle household grey-water for use in irrigation lines, emphasizing that “it’s filtered, so it’s not harmful to the plants, and it provides quite a bit of water.”

mary lou sorrell water efficient garden

Water Conservation Garden by Mary Lou Sorrell

Photo credit Jim Barsch

“I think people are hopeful the drought is a temporary situation that’s just going to go away,” she muses. “But I think water will become more of an issue as time goes by, and we must conserve it, regardless of whether or not it’s a drought.” Through careful planning and plant selection we can have inviting gardens that are  filled  with indigenous plants will be the way we have to go in the future to sustain a glorious landscape and yes, wonderfully water-wise.  Which she stipulates in an article on “Glorious Gardens meet Water-wise design”

Mary Lou is one of the loveliest people to work with and has a pure vision of how to make a classic estate into a more modern day living space without jeopardizing the integrity of the architecture.