APLDWA Featured Designer:
Kryssie Maybay

Owner and Designer of Kismet Design
Member since 2016

Portrait of Kryssie Maybay, owner and designer of Kismet Design
Kryssie Maybay, owner and designer of Kismet Design. Photo: Jason Maybay
This quarter, Kryssie Maybay is telling us her story—from working as a draftsman in high school to now running her own boutique design firm and producing her own podcast.

When did you start designing gardens? Tell us about your path from then to now.

I started designing gardens as a freshman in college back in 2003. I started college in architecture because I had already learned drafting and AutoCAD in high school and worked as a draftsman. I thought I would become an architect, but once I found landscape architecture, I knew it was an even better fit for me. I hadn’t known the profession even existed prior. I interned for an architect and a few design+build landscape architecture firms, where I gained the majority of my knowledge and experience which set the foundation of my career. Shortly after graduating from WSU with my BSLA, I went through the licensure process to become a licensed landscape architect. After a few more years in design+build, I transitioned to the design only realm. I launched Kismet Design in 2019. Since starting my own company I have had the opportunity to not only provide design services, but also coaching and training for other design professionals. I feel very fortunate to be able to follow both of these passions.

Stone steps flanked by a raised planter featuring decorative stone spheres sitting among colorful perennials lead up to a seating area.
Bluestone patio and Valadez stone risers with raised planter that also serves as a seat wall with decorative spheres in Mercer Island. All garden photos: Kryssie Maybay

How would you describe your design style?
I do not think I have a specific design style, but I really love incorporating water features, boulders, and shady woodland plantings into my plans. I have a lot of passion and opinions about rock placement especially when it comes to water features containing streams and ponds. I really strive to enter each project with an open mind allowing the site, the client and the remaining framework of the garden to provide direction and to influence the style of the design.

A series of photos featuring stone used in different design styles.
Left: decorative planters provide visual separation from the new parking area to the entry walkway in Monroe, WA. Middle: Lupines emerge in this woodland garden in Shoreline surrounding the paver patio Right: Natural stone risers leading towards the fire pit patio Shoreline WA

Is your focus design? Or do you also manage installation, build, and maintain gardens?
I provide design services to a wide variety of clients ranging from DIY homeowners to builders, commercial developers, large custom estates, and other designers. A large portion of my work is focused on larger residential sites of 1-15 acres. After the design is complete, I offer construction oversight services with my partner contractors. Selecting and communicating with contractors can be a very daunting process for some clients. I find that a big part of the value I add to that process is providing consistent and trusted communication between the client and contractor. I strive to manage expectations and keep the process moving as efficiently as possible—ensuring both the client and the contractor get their questions answered in a timely manner. I love being on jobsites and seeing the design take shape.

A series of photos showing the construction process of a swimming pool, patio and wrap-around water feature.
Photos of the evolution of a pool patio and water feature in Lake Stevens.

What experiences as a designer have you found to be most challenging?
I find one of the most challenging parts is working with budgets. On the other hand, working within tight budgets also forces more creativity, which although challenging, adds to the satisfaction of a project. I work continuously to keep as up-to-date as I can on material pricing. More and more I have clients who are more interested in the final outcome and would rather phase their project rather than compromise because of budget. That presents its own challenges, as I prefer to phase projects to create completed sections, so nothing looks incomplete while we wait for the next phase. Often this means creating artificial boundaries around phases and installing transition areas to better blend the new with the old. I also find it challenging to leave clients alone ha-ha. I get so invested in their project and truly enjoy interacting with them on a regular basis. It can be sad sometimes when the project is complete, and I won’t hear from them or see the garden for a while. Though, some of my clients tend to check in more often, even after their 12-month check-in is complete.

Describe a typical design project and your process.
I could talk about process for days…I’ll try to keep this short. My design process, just like all of my business processes, focuses on efficiency and effectiveness. I start my clients with an online questionnaire to get to know more about them, their preferences and the project scope. After an introductory phone consultation, I meet with them on-site to review the scope and process. I present my design contract at that initial on-site consultation so that I can stay that same day and take measurements. That initial meeting is the design kick-off. Three weeks later, I will meet with them again to review two design concept plans, including idea photos and a plant palette. After getting their feedback, the landscape layout is revised and sent back for approval. Another three weeks after layout approval the final meeting in the design process is to review the planting plan and lighting layout. I provide all of my clients with clear expectations on timelines, and I schedule my initial consultation meetings so that I can start their project right away. I find that by scheduling my clients when I have the bandwidth to work on their design, I am able to deliver better designs. The conversations and inspiration are fresh in my mind when I am sketching out my ideas. Once the design is complete, I give them the option to have me facilitate the bid and installation of the design. That has its own process and systems as well to keep everything clear, concise and moving efficiently. By following a clearly defined process I am able to manage client expectations and I get the opportunity to work with more clients. I really strive to provide a fun design experience and find that the more clarity around the process and timelines I can provide, the more trust the client is able to put in me. The more they trust me, the more they can relax and enjoy the process, and that provides me with more creative freedom.

Image of a woodland-style garden featuring a flagstone patio and large natural water feature that flows down a slope between the plantings.
Flagstone patio and natural water feature in Granite Falls.

Do you collaborate with other designers?
Yes! I love collaborating with other designers. With the foundation of my career built in larger offices where collaboration was part of my day-to-day experience, I find myself seeking out opportunities to collaborate. My favorite collaborator is Colleen Hanzen. Her work and support allow me to focus so much more on the creative aspects of design because she focuses on the production part of the process.

A series of photos featuring bluestone used in various design styles and applications.
Left: Bluestone patio tucked into a small garden in Kirkland, WA. Middle: Carex softens the geometric bluestone hardscape flanking the new entry walkway in Mercer Island. Right: Allium blooms repeat the form of the decorative spheres in a concrete planter with bluestone cap in Mercer Island.

What changes would you like to see in the green industry as a whole? How do your talents or your approach to design support the change you envision?
I would really like to see the career opportunities in the green industry become more prevalent. There are many professionals that come into the industry as a 2nd or 3rd career. That is great and I know they are so happy they found it. But imagine if they had the opportunity to find this career earlier in life. As a landscape architect, I had many opportunities to work for large design firms right out of school, but those opportunities are more limited for designers without a 4-to-5 year degree. That means that creating their own opportunities by becoming a business owner is often their best path to creating the career they want. I strive to share the knowledge and experiences I’ve had and by providing a platform for others to share their knowledge as well. Through classes and the podcast I help bridge the knowledge-gap and help emerging designers find success.

Kryssie Maybay
Kismet Design

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Podcast: Spotify or Apple Podcast