Mother Earth Living

Outdoor Living Design Tips from Jamie Durie

Designer Jamie Durie shares his tips for building the perfect outdoor room.
By Natural Home & Garden Staff
July/August 2011
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Designer Jamie Durie framed this outdoor dining room by incorporating a large backyard pine tree into a stone wall. The benches are made of simple fallen tree trunks, an easy, inexpensive way to create gorgeous outdoor seating.
Photo By Tonya McCahon

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Author, television host and environmentalist Jamie Durie pioneered the idea of outdoor rooms in his native Australia. Durie’s love of nature guides him in creating outdoor living spaces that expand homes to the outdoors. Trained as a Climate Project Presenter (with former Vice President Al Gore), Durie lectures about environmentalism around the world. He designed this outdoor space for a Wyoming family. His book, Jamie Durie’s The Outdoor Room, is available at

What was the inspiration for this space?  

I was inspired by a trip to the Amangani Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which features mountain architecture using lots of natural stone and wood. I was also inspired by the existing site and the large pine tree in the backyard, which we incorporated into the wall, and last but not least, by the family’s requests. The homeowners wanted a place for their young son to play, a breakfast deck and a large dining area.

What are some lessons readers could adapt at home?  

1. Build the most attractive gathering place farthest from the house. That way, the entire space between the house and the structure becomes more important and more frequently used, maximizing use of the entire backyard.

2. Be sure to offer a handful of “settings” within the garden: This family now has a breakfast deck with built-in seating; a children’s zone with a fort and a swing; a dining pavilion with a stone wall; and a wide open area for play.

What design tricks help this room work year-round? 

The position of the built-in seating and wall admits morning sun and shields afternoon sun. The wall also blocks cool breezes.

What are the most important things to consider when designing an outdoor space?  

Consider functional requirements, the existing site and environmental concerns such as what plants work best in the area. Harness the power of the sun and choose solar-powered lighting. Place shade structures in the right places to reduce heat in the garden (as well as indoors). Take a look around your shed and see what might be given new life in your garden with a coat of paint or a bit of work.

How do you tie outdoor rooms with the main home?  

Pull some of the colors, textures and materials from the house into the new space. Also, make sure the new and old structures flow well in terms of human traffic.

How do outdoor rooms influence life in the home?  

This is my favorite thing to say to all my clients: Your living room just got a lot bigger. When you extend a family’s living space outdoors, you’re allowing a greater opportunity to connect to nature. If they can be in nature while cooking, playing or lounging, what could be better?

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