Creating Outdoor Rooms with Jamie Durie

Extend your life to the outdoors by transforming your backyard into a place for your family to thrive in nature.

| July/August 2013

  • A shaded hammock and dining area create distinct spaces for relaxation and eating in this small backyard. Tall plants enclose the space and create intimacy.
    Photo By Tonya McCahon
  • Complete with detailed site plans, zonal plant lists, and helpful eco-tips, "Jamie Durie's The Outdoor Room" covers everything from the basics of landscape design to practical, hands-on information, such as how to design your own private garden using Jamie's philosophy.
    Photo Courtesy Harper Design
  • Designer Jamie Durie created this built-in seating booth using rammed earth (essentially packed soil).
    Photo By Tonya McCahon

When it comes to living the good life, spending time in nature is a priority for many of us. If we can design gorgeous, outdoor living spaces, we’ve not only improved the value of our homes—we’ve improved our daily enjoyment living there, as well as our well-being. On the following pages, outdoor design expert Jamie Durie shares his best advice for creating livable, lovable outdoor spaces. These principles come alive in the gardens he creates, but this handy overview provides entry points for you to conceptualize your own outdoor room.

Jamie Durie's Design Principles

Jamie Durie explains the six principles that provide a framework for understanding and applying his approach to design.

1. How do you want to live? I’m passionate about creating outdoor spaces designed with people in mind. Your space should accommodate your life, not the other way around. Outdoor rooms are about living as comfortably outdoors as we do indoors, and the trick is to determine how best to  achieve this in your unique space. We are intrinsically connected to gardens—the human spirit lights up in the presence of natural beauty. Creating a garden that is lived in, not simply looked at, allows us to reconnect with nature in a whole new way.

Think about how and where you want to live, play and work in the space. If you like entertaining indoors, for example, roll the bar and grill outside. If you like napping on weekend afternoons or doing yoga every morning at sunrise, move the meditation space outside. Plants and flowers aren’t the only things that grow in a garden. The human spirit is nurtured, too.

2. Get started. The next step is to construct your outdoor room’s parameters with hard construction, living plants or a mixture of both. First, though, take a moment to consider how spaces are arranged inside your house. Consider the sizes of the rooms and how the light hits at different times of day. Perhaps changes in level create sunken rooms, or risen areas allow strong vantage points with exciting views. Use these ideas as a starting point to conceptualize your garden. You may include low interior walls that act as dividers or simply direct traffic. You may elevate an area or add a bench to make the most of sweeping views, or you may create walls to hide less-than-stellar sights. Never give away all of the garden. Instead, pull people into the outdoors with intrigue; let them discover hidden areas as they walk through room after room.

Choose construction and planting options best suited for your environment and your lifestyle. The materials you select, and where you place them, will not only add to the overall aesthetics of your outdoor room but will also play a huge role in directing traffic and establishing social areas.

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