Debra Prinzing

Get the Email Newsletter!

Archive for the ‘interior design’ Category

The Flowering of Detroit, with Lisa Waud of Pot & Box (Episode 181)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

After the crazy week of Valentine’s Day, I’m shifting my thoughts to springtime, aren’t you? That’s a little easier for me to say here in Seattle, where the thermometers climbed above 60 degrees last week and flowers are popping up everywhere. But someone reminded me today that spring is only 30 days away. Hold on, everyone!

3babc748-d1e7-406b-a891-00ab62a436c1 1b43d032-4611-42bd-b9e9-a10ae276a89b











The Slow Flowers Movement and attracted major media attention last week – on wire services, television, radio, print and blogs. I am so grateful for the attention that is turning to American flowers, the passionate farmers who grow our favorite varieties and the talented designers who create magic with each local and seasonal stem they choose. Here is a sampling of some of the headlines we saw last week:

75f22c5e-82af-42fb-a9ac-caaa5955e940 0a648ac7-07d4-48c0-83a5-1e59c3a6e972










“Slow Flowers Movement Pushes Local, U.S.-Grown Cut Flowers” (that story was written by Associated Press agriculture reporter Margery Beck and it literally went viral — appearing in media outlets large and small – from the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune to member Megan Hird of Farmstead Flowers in Bruning, Nebraska was also featured in this piece.

7558fd31-720b-47bf-a676-95b386e6c44a b5d671d9-fe9d-4ea7-bdcc-d49fa03a3b25








“Slow Flowers’ Movement Champions Sustainable Blooms,” by Indiana Public Radio’s Sarah Fentem. member Harvest Moon Flower Farm of Spencer, Indiana was also featured in this piece.

“About those flowers you’re buying today; Where did they come from? ask Oregon Growers” from Janet Eastman of The Oregonian. member Oregon Flowers was also featured in this story.

“Just in Time for Valentine’s Day: Introducing Farm-to-Table’s Pretty, Flowery Cousin,” by Sarah McColl on the sustainability blog which also featured Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers in Brooklyn, a member.

Denver Post reporter Elizabeth Hernandez wrote: “Colorado farmers, florists seek renaissance for local flower scene,” featuring member Chet Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co.

And Reuters writer P.J. Huffstutter’s piece “Exotic US Blooms Flourish amid roses in Cupid’s bouquet,” featuring the “slow flower” movement, as well as the CCFC and ASCFG.

We can’t even tally the tens of thousands of impressions that came from this great media coverage – but suffice it to say that, according to Kasey Cronquist, CEO/Ambassador of the CCFC, “In my tenure at the Commission, I can confidently say that this past week of media attention and interest was greater than all of the my other years of doing interviews and monitoring Valentine’s Day coverage.”

He went on to say: “I can also quickly point to the three things that made the difference this year.

  • Debra Prinzing’s
  • Launch of Certified American Grown
  • Increasing Awareness of Caring Consumers, Designers and Buyers” is growing with our 500th member! is growing with our 500th member!

On top of all of that excitement, I want to celebrate a major milestone! This week marks the addition of the 500th member to the web site. Please welcome Shelly DeJong of Home Grown Flowers in Lynden, Washington. Shelly’s tagline is “Flowers as fresh and local as possible,” and she specializes in ball-jar bouquets delivered to customers in her community, throughout the year and for special occasions. Welcome to, Shelly!

We can already feel that 2015 might be THE year when the story of American grown flowers hits an important inflection point. As we witness a critical shift in consumer mindset at the cash register, I believe we’ll also see a change — in a good way — in the behavior of wholesalers and retailers who make those important flower sourcing decisions.


One of the things I’m most excited about this year is a series of flower farm dinners that celebrate American grown flowers, as well as the farms and florists who bring them to life. To hear more about this cool project, called the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, I’ve asked special events manager Kathleen Williford to share details.

As I mentioned, you are invited to take part as a guest at one or more of the flower farm venues. The promo code for a $25 discount is DREAM, so be sure to use it when you order your seat at the flower-laden table.


The Flower House logo, designed by Lily Stotz

Speaking of being flower-laden, our featured guest today has flowers on her brain in a big way. I am so pleased to introduce you to Lisa Waud of Pot and Box, a flower shop and floral and event studio with two Michigan locations – in Detroit and Ann Arbor. Lisa is a member of, but I think we originally met when Jill Rizzo of SF’s Studio Choo suggested to Lisa to reach out and tell me about her ambitious project called The Flower House.

Here’s the scoop:

Beginning over the first weekend of MAY, Lisa will host a preview event for an innovative art installation in Detroit.

Imagine this abandoned storefront - filled with Lisa's floral dreams. (c) Heather Saunders Photography

Imagine this abandoned storefront – filled with Lisa’s floral dreams. (c) Heather Saunders Photography

There, potential sponsors, partners, friends and volunteers will get a whiff of the “big project” on a smaller scale. In a tiny storefront, they will install a breathtaking floral display, just next door to a once-abandoned urban property where Lisa and fellow designers ultimately hope to transform an aging, 11-room duplex into The Flower House.

“We’ll generally work our future audience into a flower frenzy,” Lisa says of the kickoff event.

When October 16th-18th rolls around, cutting-edge florists from Michigan and across the country will fill the walls and ceilings of an abandoned Detroit house with American-grown fresh flowers and living plants for a weekend installation.

The project will be featured in local, national, and worldwide media for innovation in floral design and repurposing forgotten structures in the city of Detroit.  

Visitors will be welcomed to an opening reception and a weekend of exploration, and a few reserved times will be offered to couples to hold their wedding ceremonies in The Flower House.  

Re-flowering an abandoned home in Detroit - a glimpse of Lisa Waud's grand idea (c) Heather Saunders Photography.

Re-flowering an abandoned home in Detroit – a glimpse of Lisa Waud’s grand idea (c) Heather Saunders Photography.

When the installation weekend has passed, the structures on The Flower House property will be responsibly deconstructed and their materials repurposed. The land will be converted into a flower farm and design education center on a formerly neglected property. 

For more details on The Flower House, follow these links:

The Flower House on Facebook

The Flower House Inspiration on Pinterest

The Flower House on Twitter

The Flower House on Instagram

I feel like I’m saying this week after week, but today’s conversations, with Kathleen and Lisa, are so truly encouraging.

This IS the Year of the American Grown Flower. Please join efforts like the Field to Vase Dinner Tour and Detroit’s The Flower House to get in on the excitement. Both projects are community focused, with the potential for engaging huge numbers of people.

By exposing lovers of local food and floral design to the immense creativity that comes from sourcing our flowers locally, in season and from American farms, we are deepening the conversation, connecting people with their flowers in a visceral way. All the senses are stimulated, as well as our imaginations.

Thank you for downloading and listening to the Slow Flowers Podcast! Each week I share with you our “download” count and we have hit 35,000 downloads to date. I’m encouraged to know more people are learning about the farmers and florists who keeping American-grown flowers flourishing.

So I thank you!!! If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Media entrepreneur Margot Shaw, creator of flower magazine (Episode 147)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Before we get started with today’s awesome guest, I’ve got a little self-promotion to share. The Slow Flowers “brand” is a lovely bouquet with several unique blooms in the vase.

PodcastLogo There is this podcast, of course, and we’re coming up on our one-year anniversary on July 23rd (we’ll have an exciting announcement from a special guest to celebrate our 52nd episode!).


And there is the online directory, which is growing every day – up to 325 vendors on the site as of this week.

600_600_SLOWFLOWERSFrtCvrrev But it all started with the book: Slow Flowers, four seasons of locally-grown bouquets, from the garden, meadow and farm. St. Lynn’s Press published this little gem in early 2013 and it has been the creative inspiration to launch the Slow Flowers Movement.

14-silver-logo We just got word that Garden Writers Association has awarded Slow Flowers with one of two Silver Medals of Achievement for Overall Book product this year. I couldn’t be happier and I’m so pleased to receive the recognition because it reflects what together our American grown floral community has achieved in changing the dialogue and changing the relationship consumers have with their flowers. Congratulations to the entire St. Lynn’s Press creative team for making my words and images into such a beautiful little book: Paul Kelly (Publisher), Catherine Dees (Editor) and Holly Rosborough (Art Director). They are the dream team! 

TODAY’S GUEST: MARGOT SHAW, flower magazine

Margot Shaw, "flower magazine" founder and editor-in-chief

Margot Shaw, “flower magazine” founder and editor-in-chief  

"To Flower" ~ the definition embodies the spirit of this magazine.

“To Flower” ~ the definition embodies the spirit of this magazine.

Now, it is entirely fitting that I introduce you to Margot Shaw of flower magazine, my interview subject today. Margot has coined the phrase “a floral lifestyle,” a term I thoroughly embrace – and I know you will, too.


Margot calls herself a “late bloomer” when it comes to the art of floral design. A self-proclaimed “call-and-order-flowers girl,” Margot’s “a ha moment,” her view of flowers, changed when planning her daughter’s at-home wedding.

Working alongside the floral and event designer, she recognized the artistry and inspiration involved in “flowering” and soon began apprenticing with that same designer.

After a few years, enamored with all things floral but unable to locate a publication that spoke to her passion, she set about creating one. 

With a clear vision, a deep appreciation for beauty, a facility with words, a hometown uniquely geared towards publishing, and the advice and counsel of generous industry professionals, Margot launched flower in March of 2007. 

I snapped this photo of the flower magazine staff back in January 2011 when I visited Birmingham, Alabama, for a get-to-know meeting. That's Margot, second from the left.

I snapped this photo of the flower magazine staff back in January 2011 when I visited Birmingham, Alabama, for a get-to-know meeting. That’s Margot, second from the left.

Originally filled with floral, garden, and event design, the niche publication has gradually broadened to include content that trumpets a floral lifestyle—interiors, art, travel, fashion, jewelry, and entertaining.

“It has something for everyone who likes flowers—and who doesn’t like flowers?!” Shaw proclaims.

Since its debut, flower has continued to grow at a steady pace, recently moving from quarterly to bimonthly, and available in all 50 U.S. states and 17 countries.

Here’s some more information on the publication and its influence on our floral community:

Here's what you'll find on the pages of flower magazine ~

Here’s what you’ll find on the pages of flower magazine ~


Here's who reads the magazine.

Here’s who reads the magazine.


Here's more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Here’s more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Want to check out the current issue of flower magazine? Margot has generously shared the “secret” log-in password with listeners of the SLOW FLOWERS Podcast. Click here to read the digital edition and use TUBEROSE as the password. 

Next week’s guests are Heidi Joynt and Molly Kobelt, partners in Field & Florist of Chicago. You won’t want to miss it!

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded 13,700 times.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

The slow flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at

Floral design in Tuscany

Friday, September 27th, 2013
The approach to Montisi, a small Tuscan village that has been our home this week.

The approach to Montisi, a small Tuscan village that has been our home this week.


Detail: An autumn bouquet from a Tuscan garden. Olives, roses, hydrangeas, scented pelargonium leaves, Rex begonia leaves - seen here.

Detail: An autumn bouquet from a Tuscan garden. Olives, roses, hydrangeas, scented pelargonium leaves, Rex begonia leaves – seen here.

This morning at the villa, two friends went off for watercolor lessons with resident expat artist Liz Cochrane.

After walking down to Il Barrino for hot tea and a croissant, I came back totally determined to make a bouquet for our group’s last night together.

We have a dinner coming in from Allesandro, the local chef (Marty organized the menu, which includes Ribollita, a Tuscan soup; sliced pork with balsalmic vinegar; zucchini flan; and that popular italian desert, Apple Pie!)

The Flower Arrangers’ Guild of Tuscany commenced its first session.

This garden is in its waning moments of late summer-early autumn. But it does not disappoint. So much to work with and we judiciously snipped, without hurting or denuding a single plant.

I had spotted a copper urn, weathered and slightly dented, sitting on the floor in the Lemonaio (the garden room). It inspired my palette – faded, tarnished and of the moment.

A rustic wooden garden bench, a perfect place to display and photograph my Tuscan bouquet in a timeworn copper vessel.

A rustic wooden garden bench, a perfect place to display and photograph my Tuscan bouquet in a timeworn copper vessel.

Here are the ingredients I began with:

1. Scented pelargonium foliage

2. Papyrus stems from the water pond

3. Hydrangeas – two types

4. Roses – two types

5. Olives branches w/fruit

6. Marguerite daisy foliage

7. Rex begonia foliage

Mary Watson joined me in the garden, eager to make something beautiful. She made two adorable bouquets:

Mary Watson, a new friend who I met through Marty Wingate. She is an art educator and bon vivant! Right when I started arranging this morning, Mary jumped into the fun.

Mary Watson, a new friend who I met through Marty Wingate. She is an art educator and bon vivant! Right when I started arranging this morning, Mary jumped into the fun.




Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Fresh and Fragrant

Lilacs and more

A yummy spring bouquet – straight from local farms and fields

Beautiful blooms

Another closeup – I can’t resist!



10 stems purple lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), grown by Oregon Coastal Flowers

10 stems garden hellebores (Helleborus orientalis), grown by Jello Mold Farm

10 stems Fritillaria assyriaca, a spring-flowering bulb, grown by Choice Bulb Farms


17-inch tall x 7-inch diameter cream urn

From the Farmer

Hellebore how-to: Anyone who grows hellebores in their garden knows how frustrating it is to cut a few blooms and bring them inside, only to watch them wilt in a vase of water. Now I enjoy success when I use hellebores in my bouquets, thanks to an important lesson shared by Diane Szukovathy, co-owner of Jello Mold Farm. “Harvest hellebores after they have matured past the flower stage and the seed pods are beginning to form,” she advises. “By then, the petals have started to leather up and those hellebores will be rock solid in an arrangement for ten days.”


Floral urns that earn my admiration

Friday, April 5th, 2013
Two types of Vivian's delicious anemones

Two types of Vivian’s delicious anemones

With the arrival of spring here in Seattle, we flower lovers have lots to celebrate! That’s because the wistful beauty coming from our local flower fields, meadows and farms are simply sublime.

When I stepped inside the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market two days ago, I was stopped in my tracks. The botanical abundance in each stall made me catch my breath with happiness~ A new season is upon us – hurrah!!!

I brought home arm-loads of goodies, enough to make three lovely arrangements of three different sizes. The common threads are these blooms, including some clipped from my own garden. and the style of vase. I cannot resist a footed urn!

  •  Three bunches of anemones, including 2 clusers of a luscious, velvety maroon variety and one bunch of the coveted black-centered/white petaled variety, grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, Washington.
  • One bunch of the *first-of-the-season* snowball viburnum, grown by Patrick Zweifel of Oregon Coastal Flowers in Tillamook, Oregon
  • One bunch of the *first-of-the-season* bridal wreath spirea, grown by Charles and Bethany Little of Charles Little & Co. in Eugene, Oregon
  • One bunch of Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ and one bunch of garden hellebores, grown by Dennis Westphall and Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington
  • From my garden: salmon pink tulips, grape hyacinths, delicate and pale-yellow flowers from epimedium (a ground-cover) and camellia foliage.
More yummy flower details

Hellebores play so nicely with snowball viburnums, anemones and more.

As noted above, my vase(s) of choice are footed urns or bowls. All three used here are vintage and quite dear to me.

I hope that seeing how I used them inspires you to snatch up a footed vase or bowl, an urn or anything with a pedestal base – they are indeed the superior vessels for showcasing flowers. If you frequent vintage sites online, flea markets or garage sales . . . maybe you’ll be just as lucky as I have been. I’ve used vintage metal flower frogs inside each. The frogs are like half-dome cages and because they are metal, they’re heavy enough to just sink to the bottom of the vessel (no tape or stickum required).

Constance Spry wrote about one of her favorite vases — a footed marble bowl — in her 1933 book Flower Decoration. I can only imagine how pricey one of these vases would be today! Here’s what she had to say:

“This vase is beautiful to look at whether empty or filled with flowers. It is so heavy that it is not disturbed by the heaviest branches of fruit or blossom, and its soft, pale-brown colour enhances whatever one chooses to put in it.”

Here are the designs that gave me so much pleasure:

Bouquet One

Green Floraline Pedestal Bowl

A Green Floraline Pedestal Bowl, featuring snowball viburnum, hellebores, anemones, Anthriscus foliage and bridal wreath spirea.

After I created and photographed this arrangement, I decided to see how it looked WITHOUT those spikey branches. So here’s version 2 of the same bouquet:


Green Pedestal Bowl and Turquoise Bud Vase

The spirea moved into the teal blue Haegar (vintage) bud vase, while the green Floraline footed bowl contains the remaining blooms.

Bouquet Two

Olive Glass Urn

With hellebores, white and burgundy anemones, salmon pink tulips, Anthriscus foliage, camellia foliage and bridal wreath spirea.

 Bouquet Three

Bronze Flea Market Pedestal Bowl

With Anthriscus foliage, hellebores, epimedium flowers, grape hyacinth, anemones and bridal wreath spirea.

Coming to Southern California

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Thank you, Constance Spry

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Yes, I have her signature in my used copy of "Flowers in House and Garden," published in 1937.  Signed in pencil, the inscription is dated February 1939.

Yes, I have her signature in my used copy of “Flowers in House and Garden,” published in 1937. Signed in pencil, the inscription is dated February 1939.


Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the first celebrity floral designer, Constance Spry.

The famous Mrs. Constance Spry

The famous Mrs. Constance Spry

If you haven’t heard about her, check out the newish biography called The Surprising Life of Constance Spry, by Sue Shephard (2011). Mrs. Spry was at her peak of popularity between the two World Wars, and I loved reading about her magnificent cutting garden that supplied her London studio and shop called Flower Decoration in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

Speaking of Flower Decoration, that is the name of a volume that Mrs. Spry wrote in 1933. Re-issued in 1993, you can find it online used, filled with her strong opinions, witticisms, and black-and-white photographs of floral arrangements. These are a little dated, of course, but what stands out to me is the eclectic lineup of ingredients, which includes many flowers, foliage and edibles that today’s hip floral designers think they’ve popularized.

Guess what? Mrs. Spry did it first!

The rest of us have just discovered the ingredients with which she created lush, naturalistic, unfussy bouquets. Cherry tomatoes, grape clusters, gourds, fig leaves, sea-kale, agapanthus seed heads, amaranth, rhubarb and artichokes are wonderful floral elements showing up in couture bouquets and magazine spreads. But Constance Spry used them first – and that’s quite fun to RE-discover.


Great plates

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Here’s a photo of my dining room wall, where I’ve organized a medley of rounded objects, mostly plates and one vintage mirror that I inherited as a girl in the 1960s:

Debra’s dining room wall. The paint color is aptly named “Pod,” chosen by my design guru, Jean Zaputil.

This is what you do when a large wall needs to be filled and one does not own large artwork! Each of the pieces has a back-story. Clockwise, from left:

  1. Round gold-framed mirror, given to my parents and migrated to my possession since the 1960s.
  2. Dark purple pottery plate, a gift from my college roommate and her former girlfriend.
  3. Celadon plate, imprinted with a real lotus leaf, gift from same college roommate, who purchased it for me when we visited Lotusland.
  4. Red-and-teal platter, a gift from the owner of Fireworks Gallery, years ago, as a thank you after I wrote a story about her Pioneer Square shop.
  5. Another wonderful celadon plate, a gift from my friends Kathleen Brown and Sara Anderson when they visited us from DC years ago.
  6. Teal, white and purple platter, hand-formed and painted by the Berkeley artist Keeyla Meadows. I purchased it from her on a visit to her garden in 2008.
  7. Tiny vintage Majolica plate, purchased from an antique shop in Madison Park.

Let’s just say the men in my household were less than excited to see this installation. The day after I created my plate-platter vignette, my spouse left for work, saying: Please do NOT hammer any more nails into the wall today!

So the following weekend, we were in Chicago visiting our college-aged son for family weekend. We had breakfast at a cool neighborhood spot and what do you think I noticed on the wall there?! Check it out: 

Nice plates!
Many small plates add up to one large work of art!

I am definitely onto something. You can be, too. Plates or dishes, inexpensive plate hangers & a few nails. Voila! 

Julius pot from Potted gets its groove back

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Pot-ted's JULIUS Pot

The Julius pot is back — and with it a tale about just how hard it’s becoming for California designers to manufacture their latest looks locally. 

In 2009 Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray, owners of Potted in Atwater Village, introduced the Julius — “a modern, sexy pot with a curve and a little pedestal,” Gutierrez said, and a tribute to the late architectural photographer Julius Shulman. Back then, Potted worked with a small, local ceramics factory to produce the planter. “We did a couple runs, and then he went out of business,” Gutierrez said.

In its short life, the retro planter was popular with landscape designers who liked how it graced the poolside and the patio. The Julius was used at the Geffen Playhouse and in the model residences at the W in Hollywood.

“It was our best seller, but suddenly we couldn’t find anyone locally to make it,” Gutierrez said.

Pot-ted's Circle Pot, inspired by a mid-century hanging ashtray!

So the Julius was shelved as Gutierrez and Gray looked for another local manufacturer who could turn out consistent colors and forms in small quantities. “Every year, the number of Los Angeles ceramics factories has dwindled,” Gutierrez said. “And because of its size, the larger Julius design doesn’t even fit into most local kilns, so that made it even more difficult.”

Potted recently teamed up with Steve Gainey to reintroduce the Julius in aqua, avocado and matte or glossy white ($149 for a 16-inch-diameter pot, $89 for a 12-inch). Gainey is a third-generation California ceramics maker and president of LaVerne-based Gainey Ceramics, a 60-year-old venture that is one of the last ceramics factories in Southern California. He said he recently changed his business strategy after losing a large percentage of his commercial customers.

“My established banking, real estate and shopping mall market has gone away, but we’re a versatile facility that’s able to change,” Gainey said. “I decided we needed to focus on consumer products and reach out to artists in the ceramics community who have no ability to produce their designs otherwise.”

The Potted partnership is one of several similar arrangements with local artists who appreciate that Gainey is high-quality and homegrown. Gainey said he also has started producing his own designs, including a vase called X-Factor, which the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona recently added to its permanent collection.

Gainey’s embrace of the consumer market follows the national success of Janek Boniecki, who in 1998 acquired the original Bauer Pottery facility in Highland, reissuing classic Bauer pieces for the tabletop and garden, as well as the work of other artists.

A rainbow of retro colors for the Circle Pot.

I am seriously in love with the Wedding Cake Planter!

Gainey Ceramics also produces Potted’s 12-inch Circle pot ($89), right, inspired by a 1960s hanging ashtray that Gray found at a flea market. Suspended from an 18-inch stainless-steel cable, “it’s perfect for displaying succulents like burrow tails, string-of-pearls or an echeveria,” Gutierrez says.

Earlier this year, Potted and Gainey introduced a matte-white Wedding Cake planter, a three-piece, stacking flowerpot, below. The bottom piece serves as a saucer, while the top and middle “layers” are deep enough to hold plants. The set ($125) measures 11 inches in diameter and is 9.25 inches tall.

“This is our take on the cake platter as a tabletop planter,” Gutierrez says. “Whenever you can lift something up slightly with a pedestal, it looks lighter and fresher.”

Potted plans to develop more products that will be produced by Gainey Ceramics. But Gutierrez is circumspect about the challenge of remaining local while facing the inevitable competition of less expensive knockoffs. “We can’t compete with China on price,” she said. “We can only compete with our originality.”

Potted, 3158 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 665-3801.

Gainey Ceramics retail operations, 1200 Arrow Highway, La Verne; (909) 593-3533 or (800) 451-8155.

Link to LA Times @Home story 
— Debra Prinzing

On location with Jamie Durie for Better Homes & Gardens

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

On location in Los Angeles with Jamie Durie - photographed by Edmund Barr

On his popular HGTV show The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie, stylemaker Jamie Durie uses interior and architectural design tricks to amp up dreary backyards.

By the end of a whirlwind 30-minute episode, you’re energized and inspired. Of course, nimble edits have compressed a couple of days of dirt, sweat and (possibly) tears into a dreamy landscape for the small screen. But still, there’s always a takeaway, a “lesson” that catches the viewer’s imagination. “I could try that,” you say to yourself. “Oh, what a simple way to disguise that ugly wall,” or “That’s brilliant!”

Some of the projects conjured by Jamie and his design team are complicated and require professional assistance to execute. But many others fall into the DIY mode: affordable and requiring only a discerning eye to add polish, such as using color, texture or materials to unify otherwise disparate objects.

That’s one reason why I really wanted to see Jamie’s garden firsthand. When I visited his Los Angeles outdoor design laboratory (aka his humble backyard) last spring I loved what I saw.

My assignment was to interview Jamie and help produce the Better Homes & Gardens “Stylemaker” story that appears in the September issue – out on newsstands right now.

Art director Scott Johnson and I both flew into Los Angeles to work on the story. We were very fortunate to team up with LA photographer Edmund Barr and LA videographer Adam Grossman for the shoot. You can see my article and Edmund’s photos in the September issue; you can watch a fabulous how-to video with Jamie shot by Adam on BH&G’s digital edition. And a special thanks to Edmund for snapping this cozy portrait of Jamie and me, lounging in his outdoor living room. Fun, huh?

Many of Jamie’s best design concepts are ones he previously tried out for clients of Durie Design, his studio in Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles. Some have been executed on previous episodes of The Outdoor Room, or in the pages of his new book by the same name.

We zeroed in on the ideas that move plants away from the obvious “ground plane” and onto other surfaces, such as living walls, green roofs and in the unexpected niches of garden structures. Jamie’s passion for plants is contagious – and you can see it spill over onto BH&G’s pages. Here’s an excerpt:

Outer Sanctum: HGTV star Jamie Durie uses unexpected designs to turn the barest backyards into green oases. 

“Once you create an outdoor room, you’ll fall in love with your backyard again,” says Jamie Durie, the star of HGTV’s The Outdoor Room.

A popular designer and TV personality in his native Australia as well as North America, Jamie encourages everyone who has a small patch of earth — or even just a patio or deck– to re-imagine their exterior environment as a functional, eco-friendly living space.

Jamie combines a passion for plants, sustainability, and the outdoors into a zeal for landscaping. He grounds his designs in green practices, using local materials, plants that tolerate the region’s climate, and clever techniques to put plants in almost every imaginable nook and cranny. Hanging planters cover his fences and walls, and pergolas support green roofs. Surrounding yourself with nature this way “can improve your health and inspire positive thinking,” says Jamie, who meditates every morning on the patio outside his bedroom.

Check out Jamie's new book for more tips and ideas.

Recently settled in Los Angeles, Jamie used the same advice he offers clients: Increase living space by creating more rooms outdoors rather than indoors. Instead of enlarging his modest 1950s house, he coaxed his once-ordinary backyard to live larger, with outdoor spaces variously designed for cooking, dining, lounging, and chatting. “Your spaces should accommodate your life,” he says. “Not the other way around.”

 “I have a new outlook when I open the doors,” Jamie says. “This house feels bigger than it is, since the lush garden is part of my home.”

The popular HGTV host and landscape designer shares his ideas, techniques and recent projects in Jamie Durie’s The Outdoor Room (Harper Collins, $25.99), a guidebook to creating beautiful exterior spaces.