logo of Howard Designs: Architecture for Home & Garden
photograph of Karen Howard photograph of Chris O'Brien

Principals Karen Howard
and Chris O’Brien are
trained as architects
and have expanded
their vision to integrate
the built environment
inside and out.


Howard Designs is a full-service residential architectural and landscape design firm. The architectural practice concentrates on residential services ranging from new construction to renovations, restorations, and additions. The landscape division provides landscape design, installation, and fine garden maintenance.


Karen comes from a long line of artists, including painters, a ceiling muralist, a furniture maker, and a garden designer. She followed in their footsteps. Howard Designs combines Karen’s interests in houses and gardens.

Prior to returning to her native Massachusetts to join Howard Designs, the landscape design firm her mother founded, Karen practiced architecture in New York City. She is a registered architect in New York and Massachusetts and has designed homes and gardens in New York and New England. She holds an M.A. in Architecture from Columbia University and a B.A. in Fine Arts from St. Lawrence University. Karen is a Massachusetts’ Certified Horticulturist.


Chris has had careers in architecture, economic development, and urban planning. He worked for the Department of Transportation in Chicago, the Transit Authority in New York, and the New York State Power Authority before relocating to Boston to start an energy supply and efficiency company.

He has a particular interest in green roofs, preserving structures, and older landscapes. He specializes in environmentally sound architectural and landscape design. He earned an M.A. in Architecture from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in Public Affairs from the University of Chicago. Chris is a Massachusetts’ Certified Horticulturist.