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Hearth & Home August 2016

Secret Garden

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Jamie Durie acts as curator on the Dwell Outdoor exhibit in LA.

Photos Courtesy: ©2016 Corporate Close Ups. Brian McCarthy.

Joining the ranks of celebrity chefs, celebrity home-makeover experts, and celebrity pitmasters, Jamie Durie has joined the ranks of celebrity outdoor designers. The Australian native first introduced Americans to his take on indoor-outdoor living a decade ago when he began appearing as a regular on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” Since then, he has garnered fame and acclaim for his award-winning interior and exterior designs; indoor-outdoor furniture; environmental activism; books such as “Jamie Durie’s Outdoor Room,” “Outside with Jamie Durie,” “Outdoor Kids,” and “Edible Garden Design;” and television shows including “The Outdoor Room,” “Green Home,” and “Outback Nation.”

Jamie Durie.

He recently curated the Dwell Outdoor exhibit at Dwell on Design LA, the largest design expo in the country, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center this past June. The 30,000 sq. ft. outdoor living showcase featured Durie’s hand-picked selection of companies displaying their outdoor kitchens; patio furniture; sustainable and energy-efficient products; and even full-size modular homes, amid a lush oasis of plants, trees and flowers.

“The goal was to show the innovation, excitement and freshness in outdoor design today, and educate trade professionals, design enthusiasts and consumers about what is possible in the outdoor space,” says Durie. He designed the space like a “secret garden” with different sections highlighting current trends in outdoor living. The exhibit brings to life what Durie calls “Transterior Design,” a term he recently trademarked and uses to describe the increasingly seamless transition between indoor and outdoor living spaces.

“For a long time, architects only focused on the inside of a home,” Durie says. “But now, people want their interior spaces to connect with nature outdoors. The indoor living space extends into the landscape, and the landscape extends into the interior living space.”

Clockwise from L: String of Pearls Infused Veneer by Jamie Durie for B&N Industries; overview of the Dwell Outdoor exhibit at Dwell on Design Los Angeles; Champagne Cork table and stools; shelters designed by Cardborigami for disaster relief and homeless aid.

Small is Big

According to Durie, one of the biggest trends in consumer lifestyles today is an interest in downsizing. In fact, the compact, prefab, modular houses displayed by LivingHomes and Cocoon9 were among the most popular exhibits on the Dwell Outdoor show floor.

“People want to own their own homes, but land and building costs are so expensive, many can’t afford them,” he says. “The ’80s and ’90s were indulgent years in the U.S. We are now getting a lot smarter with our space and our money and we’re scaling back.”

One of the homes displayed was a two-story, modular house by LivingHomes. Bigger than a “tiny home” but considerably smaller than an average U.S. house, the design blends the contemporary styling, warm elements and old-school craftsmanship that appeals to many of today’s consumers, particularly Millennials. The company keeps costs down by standardizing designs and building in high volume using prefab construction. The certified LEEDs homes also incorporate solar power and water-efficiency features to generate the smallest possible environmental footprint.

A Japanese garden pavilion inspired by the famed manicured Kyoto gardens was another nod to this less-is-more movement at the Dwell expo. According to Durie, the Kyoto gardens reflect a deep and sacred connection to nature, and are a lesson in restraint and discipline. “They are all about pairing back and living with less,” he says. “There’s a lot to be learned from that ancient philosophy.”


A vertical garden.

Vertical Gardens

French botanist Patrick Blanc may have revolutionized landscape design by developing the concept of the vertical garden (a.k.a. green wall or living wall) more than two decades ago, but no one has done as much to popularize it as Jamie Durie. Durie’s company manufactures and markets D-I-Y Vertical Greenwall Blankets, allowing homeowners to create an instant, turnkey green wall. The heavy-duty blankets, made from black, recycled PET fabric, come in three sizes, mount on a wall or fence, and have pockets to hold soil and plantings. A built-in drip irrigation system waters the plants, while a waterproof backing protects the wall from moisture.

According to Durie, the blanket increases growing area by 40 percent – important given shrinking home and yard sizes – and enhances the view on the patio by putting beauty at eye level. He says the consumer response has been tremendous. “I can’t make them fast enough,” he says. (Retailers interested in carrying the Vertical Greenwall Blankets can find information on

Modern Indoor-Outdoor Decor

Contemporary looks are hot in outdoor living, according to Durie, who introduced his own line of modern furniture that is welcome in both outdoor or indoor spaces. He uses natural, sustainable materials in his pieces, offering clean lines and often pairing metals with warm wood finishes.

In fact, a modern aesthetic was the common denominator among nearly all of the outdoor furniture exhibitors in the Dwell Outdoor expo, including RAD Furniture, makers of semi-custom, colorful, commercial-grade, indoor-outdoor furniture made of steel.

Newcomer Groovebox Living launched its ingenious line of eco-friendly, minimalist outdoor planters, furniture, fire pits and grills. The products ship in flat panels that easily slip together for no-tools-required assembly.

Contemporary styling was also prominent in the outdoor kitchens featured at Dwell Outdoor, including Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens’ modular, stainless-steel cabinetry in unique colors and finishes. Hestan Outdoor showcased its premium 42-in. grill with sideburner in an attention-grabbing orange color.

“We chose to display a freestanding configuration (as opposed to built-in) because we were featured right outside of the Cocoon9 prefab home,” says Basil Larkin, vice president Sales. “Our customer demographic will often engage a designer and architect, so we hope to make those influencers aware, comfortable and positive about our products in the outdoor living space.”

Other exhibitors included Nana Wall Systems, window walls that slide open to remove the barriers between indoor and outdoor living. Sunbrella showcased outdoor fabrics with sophisticated styling, equally suitable for indoor use.

Living Home CK4.

“People are bringing the outdoors into their home décor,” says Durie. It’s not just about bringing in a potted plant, but using natural woods, leather and other sustainable materials. As design improves on these products, consumers are finding they look good inside or out.”

Rethinking Gardens

Durie notes there is a growing trend to integrate edible plantings, such as lettuces, vegetables, fruit trees, and herb plants, with traditional ornamental plantings. “I want to teach people that edibles have a place in landscape design,” says Durie. “And I don’t mean just looking at a veggie patch in the corner of the yard. For instance, rosemary and blueberry bushes make great borders.”

In addition, he says we need to focus on intelligent plant selection, choosing native and drought-resistant plants as a more sustainable approach to landscaping. In fire-prone areas, that might also mean avoiding plants that can turn dry and combustible, and opting for plants such as succulents that won’t burn as easily.

“We need to protect our most precious resource – water,” he says. “It’s incredible to think that we use potable drinking water for our gardens. We should be harvesting every drop of rainwater in rain barrels or tanks. Now, the excess water drains into sewer systems, which puts an unnecessary strain on them, and the chemical runoff goes to the rivers and oceans. Instead, the rainwater should be captured so these toxins could be absorbed by plants.”

Durie is also a proponent of organic growing techniques. “Every home should have a four-stack vermiculture (worm composting) system,” he says. “Worm poo is the future; their waste is a wonderful fertilizer.”

Clockwise from L: The other side of the Dwell Outdoor exhibit; Blush Tone Florals Infused Veneer shown in Maple; bocce ball court.

Informed Choices

According to Durie, manufacturers and retailers also must be aware that consumers are increasingly educated and are making more informed choices about the products they buy. “They are asking where the materials come from. They want natural and sustainable choices. They are becoming aware that old-growth teak comes directly from the rain forest, and when it’s harvested, it displaces the creatures that live there. So they want reassurances that the woods are coming from managed forests.”

Likewise, he says, the pebbles used in landscaping are often harvested from riverbeds in third-world countries, causing erosion and flooding. “There is a lot of information out there now on materials, and a lot of innovative options so designers and homeowners can make guilt-free choices,” he says.

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