Award-winning landscape designer Chad Norris launched his high-end firm High Desert Designs just a few months ago in March—but the company’s impressive pedigree represents decades of luxe landscape experience with an expertise in composing and creating sustainable vibrant settings that are right at home in desert environs.
Norris is a second-generation landscape designer/business owner/professional with his father and current business partner Brian having led the way. When Norris decided to finally strike out on his own after working for other prominent companies, there was no one better to have by his side than his dad.
His father had owned a landscape design business while Norris was growing up. He began getting hands-on experience from the age of 12, and spent his entire professional career in the industry.
High Desert Designs (HighDesertDesigns.com) is the union of his and his father’s passion for harnessing and highlighting nature’s attributes to enhance some of the Valley’s most stunning homes in its most elite zip codes.
Norris sources the majority of his plants from local and out-of-town growers, and buys in bulk to ensure the material needed for his designs is always accessible. At any given time, he’s able to access at least two-dozen different varieties, all mature for instant gratification and scale, so they are ready to awe once they are placed into the earth.
Word-of-mouth, coupled with his reputation, has sparked business, with much of his work coming from clients in Paradise Valley. About half of his work is on brand new construction or remodels, where both the house and yard are being done together. The rest are for established homes where the owner desires a pro’s touch to make the most of the land’s raw potential.
“The cool thing about Paradise Valley is that there are two groups. There’s the lush, English garden-type of setting, where there are hedges and lots of shades of green. On the other side, there is very extraordinary cactus and xeriscape with a combination of grass, palms, and big trees with a lush high-desert feel,” Norris says, citing the inspiration for his company’s name.
Norris talks about a current project in the Casa Blanca community. The homeowner’s property falls into the second category, and she was seeking someone who could do it justice. An interior designer passed along his contact information.
“She has some of the most stunning specimens and unique cactus I’ve ever seen. For her, she wanted to find someone who could accentuate this design and her love for the cactus species,” he says. “It’s interesting because there is a lot of grass and seasonal flowers around a lot of cactus. I enjoy being able to bridge the gap between lush garden and high desert settings.”
A native Phoenician, Norris was working on lawns and yards since he was a kid.
“Going from mowing lawns down the street for $10 to working on very large projects for high-end clients is really a blessing,” he says.
He became infatuated with the landscaping process and maintenance, and how they merge to improve someone’s quality of life.
“It’s something I really enjoy being part of,” he shares.
He also enjoys the aspect of helming a true family business. His dad oversees the technical irrigation and lighting systems, repairs, installation, maintenance, and quality control. Norris’s wife Bahia handles the finances, and Norris does the design work and everything else needed to make sure all runs smoothly.
“But the extended family within our team members and leaders is the real heart of the company. Having a team that has a unique passion for creating stunning outdoor environments, is the most important aspect. There is something special about working on a project for sometimes months on end, looking back at it when its complete, and knowing you were part of something great,” he says.
What gives him the edge is enjoyment of one facet of the process that is typically the least liked: the maintenance and blue-collar side of the job. This has improved his design applications.
“Nobody enjoys the labor-intensive portion. But over time, I learned to appreciate the fundamentals of landscape and maintenance. Having that understanding is important to creating a sustainable, low-water setting,” Norris says.
The altitude that High Desert Designs clients are accustomed to means that their expectations are also high. Norris and his team must rise to meet that and manage those expectations at that level. The fact that his business has grown exponentially in such a short time indicates he’s successful at it.
When you are passionate about something that has been your life’s work, it’s no surprise that he delivers. And what is always refreshing is the feedback he receives from past clients, especially during the perfect time of year.
“When the cactus are blooming and I get texts, emails, or calls from clients years after we did the install still enjoying and loving their outdoor living space it is always gratifying,” Norris says. “Just to be part of someone’s quality of life is pretty special.”