Debra Prinzing

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Jamie Durie’s very personal version of The Outdoor Room

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

This view takes in the two cabanas on the left and the dining pavilion at the opposite end of the pool

I joined Jamie Durie, of HGTV’s “The Outdoor Room,” for brunch and an interview in LA

I’ve been after celebrity garden designer Jamie Durie for more than a year to let me come and do a story about his personal Los Angeles backyard. I sensed he was stalling because, like many of us who make gardens (or write about them) for a living, our own outdoor environment is the LAST thing to receive our attention!

Turns out, Jamie and his producers of “The Outdoor Room” on HGTV  were cooking up big plans for his hillside property in Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon.

Jamie reimagined the long-neglected yard, dominated by a vintage 1950s swimming pool, into a gorgeous series of outdoor living spaces. The magical transformation occurred over a three week time, and became the debut episode of The Outdoor Room’s season three, which aired earlier this year (you can see a schedule of re-runs of this episode by following this link).

In late February, I received an out-of-the-blue phone call from Jamie, saying: “The garden is finished – you’re invited to come see it!” Wow – this guy is good to his word.

Here's a bird's-eye view of the transformed outside living space - photographed from Jamie's hillside deck

We had a narrow window of a couple week’s time in which I could get down to LA for a photo shoot and interview, since Jamie was about to fly back to Australia for several weeks to shoot another show there. Whew. That guy lives a marathon life and makes it all look effortless. But we made it work. Here is my profile of Jamie’s project, which appears in today’s print and online editions of The Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times sent one of its very best photographers, Irfan Khan, to document the beautiful landscape. You can check out his web gallery of gorgeous shots here. I also took lots of reference photos to use while writing the story, and thought I’d post some of my favorites below.

Jamie asked me to include the many great resources he used to pull together this extreme garden makeover. So in case you’re curious, here is that list:

Resources & Materials

Bath: “The Outdoor Room” craftsman Steve Zimpel created the bath using recycled cedar from Durie’s original design.

Decking: Fiberon composite decking

Doors: LaCantina bi-fold doors

Fire: Escea outdoor gas fireplace; Durie Design Fire Pit

Furniture: Walter Lamb for Brown and Jordan reproduction chairs and chaises from Design Within Reach; all-weather wicker sectional, Durie Design.

Kitchen: Fuego modular kitchen.

Plants: Monrovia

Vertical garden system: Woolly Pockets

Pool Makeover: Jamie worked with Aric Entwistle of Los Angeles-based H2o Development Inc. to replace a conventional chlorine system with Spectralight, which uses ultraviolet light to kill pathogens and waterborne bacteria. The renovated pool is solar heated with a system from Suntopia Solar. A new infinity edge was fabricated over the original coping using carbon fiberglass, resin, high-tensile adhesives and several coats of waterproofing. It’s finished with Bisazza glass mosaic tiles.  

Like a raft floating over the garden, the upper deck provides excellent glimpses of the garden below.

Here's a bird's-eye view of the transformed outside living space - photographed from Jamie's hillside deck

I love this view from above, which shows how the box-beams form planting channels, and how the Roman shades create a canopy roof for the cabanas.

Here's the exterior of two pivoting planted "walls." When opened, they connect Jamie's bedroom to the garden.

A gorgeous detail of the stacked stone contained by one of two 7-foot gabion tree planters that Jamie designed

Here's a nice detail shot from inside the dining pavilion. You can see how the concrete retaining walls hold the hillside back and also form the interior walls where planters are hung and pillow-backs are rested.

A dreamy morning shot of the outdoor living room, featuring Jamie's own all-weather sectionals and a custom fire pit.

Inside the dining pavilion.

A detail showing how the Woolly Pockets vertical wall system adds foliage and flower texture behind the cabana.

The full-size view of the gabion tree planter - one of two in the garden.

At the end of my interview with Jamie, he talks about how much he enjoys living here. And it’s a perfect way to sum up the feelings I also had being in the highly personal garden environment: 

“Life just seems a whole lot more hectic in Sydney,” Durie says. “You can’t say that about Laurel Canyon. All I ever hear are birds. I’ve got squirrels running along the top of my green wall. An owl moved in once I finished the garden, and we’re starting to be visited by a ton of hummingbirds. I may not have kangaroos and koalas, but it’s kind of fun telling my mates back home that I’ve got coyotes in the canyon.”

Thank you for sharing your garden, Jamie. It was a treat! I hope you slow down long enough to really enjoy it~

More from the 2010 Independent Garden Center Show

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Speaking at IGC was a great experience - with 2 talks in 2 days

Dateline CHICAGO: Another “first” this year was participating in the Independent Garden Center Show, which took place in Chicago, August 17-19th.

The fourth annual trade show for independent nursery owners and their staff gathers thousands under one roof for seminars, tours, a mega trade show, and serious networking.

The who’s who of the garden world comes to the IGC Show. I’ve wanted to check it out for a couple years, so when I was invited to make a presentation on the “Most Inspiring Garden Centers and Specialty Retailers,” I jumped at the chance to participate.

You can see some hightlights of that talk here. I had a wonderful audience of engaged and energized nursery owners. And I am encouraged by the response from these retailers interested in sharing my ideas and themes with their employees and staff.

I participated in a second presentation with Robin Avni, a friend and colleague who has invited me to be an associate in her Lifestyle Insights consultancy. I’m one of a group of like-minded “real women” experts who have come together to use our talents and knowledge to help corporate clients serving the female consumer.

For the IGC Show audience, Robin and I presented “The Female Gardener: Mommy to Maven.” Our presentation shared some of the research and insights collected by Lifestyle Insights in the past 12 months. We want garden center owners and garden-related companies to think about the female consumer not just by obvious demographics of age, ethnicity or economics but by her life stages. We’ll be sharing more about our research in the coming months, but suffice it to say, Robin and I both felt that the presentation was a good way to have a conversation with the gardening industry about who “she” is (and “she” is a powerful consumer to serve).

Magnetic and inspiring - Jamie Durie

There were other fun aspects to attending the IGC Show, including hearing from keynote speaker Jamie Durie of HGTV’s Outdoor Rooms. Jamie’s electrifying talk was not long enough – in fact, it’s a bummer that he was sort of cut short due to timing, since he had so many inspiring things to share with American nursery owners and outdoor living retailers.

Here are a few of his comments that resonated with me:

Luxe-scaping is one of Jamie’s design terms. He likes to start a landscape with Shapes First, Plants Second. Once you decide on the shape (“Embrace the plant’s architecture,” he explains), you can choose site-adaptable and regionally-appropriate plants to reflect the shape.

Jamie talked about “planting into the hard-scape,” an idea that helps to soften the architectural elements of a design. He showed images of one of the garden staircases designed by his firm Patio that caught my eye and nicely illustrated this concept. The wide stone-tread staircase has shallow risers that are planted to give a soft, green contrast to the hard-edged stone. This made me think of a succulent staircase at Ed and Susie Bealls’garden in Rancho Palos Verdes we saw recently (photo, below).

Here is a Southern California interpretation of "planting the steps" - from Ed and Susie Beall's garden.

It’s easy to get swept up in Jamie’s passion for enjoying the garden all year long. “Control your environment with built structures” and use new, technological and design features to do so (especially if you live in cooler climates). For example, Jamie uses overhead heaters as well as under-deck and under-patio warming systems. Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are de rigeur for all-season garden living.

Jamie shared some of the ways he has developed and expanded DurieDesign, his overall brand. His advice could apply to anyone interested in staking out a position in the horticultural industry. I certainly found it useful. This isn’t comprehensive since I wasn’t writing notes as quickly as Jamie was speaking, but are some highlights:

Be able to state clearly your business Description, Expression, Attributes, Promise and Theme.

Study your brand personality and strategy. For Durie Design, the theme of “well-being” represents lifestyle and balance. There is a spectrum that goes from the tangible (what you do) to the intangible (why you do it). In between are the How and Who of your brand personality.

DurieDesign’s brand attributes includebeing Inspiring, a Design Authority, Accessible and having a Positive Energy. Know and communicate your brand promise. For DurieDesign, that means “connecting design and innovation wi the mind, body and spirit.” His brand theme: Let’s Go Outside. “People are intrinsically connected to plants.” Yes, that’s so true!

In the coming weeks, garden and design writers and their publications will be obsessing about “what’s hot” for the 2011 gardening season. I venture a guess that many of those must-have products, plants and ideas were introduced at IGC. I’m going to share my favorite new products — my “picks” — very soon.