Design Trend: Living Walls

Living walls add drama and color to indoor and outdoor spaces. Browse our favorite installations, big and small.

By: Robert DiGiacomo

Photo By: Design by Jason Lempieri of ReThinkTANK with City Planter

Lush Is More

For the ultimate in drama, an over-the-top design statement can speak volumes. GSky created this three-walled panel for the courtyard of an estate on Miami's exclusive Indian Creek Island. The installation is stocked with more than 19,000 ferns, philodendron, begonia, pothos and other plants that together comprise a lush "organized jungle," designer Debbie Kotalic says. Design by GSky Plant Systems

Ray of Light

How do you shine new light on a century-old red-brick row house? Architect Patrick Farley carved a central light well into the middle of this Richmond, Va., home, and anchored it with a 20-foot-high living wall. The wall brings together in one soaring space a variety of common tropical house plants that normally might be scattered around the house. Watering is made easy by a special drip-irrigation system. Design by Watershed Architects with SG Designs; Photo by Jeff Saxman

Hotel Chic

Bringing the outdoors in is especially important in urban settings, where a little green goes a long way to soften a city's hard surfaces. The Distrikt Hotel in New York is meant to evoke the lush landscapes of Central Park and Gotham's other iconic outdoor spaces, and provide a natural counterpart to the building's sleek lines, according to designer Debbie Kotalic. To replicate at home, keep the plants simple, use a random design and add lighting to make the greenery pop. Design by GSky Plant Systems

Living, Breathing Masterpiece

A living wall can look fabulous and still be functional. This design for a Philadelphia row home uses a modular product called Woolly Pockets that acts as a natural air freshener and sound dampener. The asparagus fern, English ivy and calathea in reddish and purple tones further soften the edges of the contemporary interior. Design by Jason Lempieri of ReThinkTANK with City Planter

Change Is in the Air

Why lock yourself into a single design for your living wall? With the Versa Tray System by GSky used at the West Elm store in Los Angeles, more than 1,300 plants can be mixed and matched for maximum design impact. Design by GSky Plant Systems

Picture Perfect

For urban dwellers with limited outdoor space, a table, chairs and a grill may not leave much room for plants. Designer Craig Jenkins-Sutton solves this space challenge by putting the greenery on the wall of this small courtyard in a condominium in Chicago. The all-natural "canvas" is filled out with hearty three-season specimens, while the frame allows the plants to be stored inside during the winter. The space gets a punch of color from the bright-red water feature. Design by Topiarius Urban Garden and Floral Design

Soft Focus

Back alleys are usually all work and no play. This simplified design adds a playful element to the alley linking this Chicago condominium with its main outdoor space, a deck located on top of the garage. The living wall is also practical, as its hearty sedum plants stand up well to the Windy City's bitter winters. Design by Topiarius Urban Garden and Floral Design

It's a Jungle in Here

Souvenirs from exotic travel may look out of place in the living room, but seem just right in the jungle-inspired living wall of a townhouse in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood. The design incorporates statuary from the owner's Asian travels. Although the wall appears to be outside, it's actually part of an indoor atrium that's viewable from the dining room and upstairs bedrooms. Design by GSky Plant Systems

Modern Traditions

Living walls can help bridge the gap between a traditional setting and a modern design sensibility. At The Coterie Room restaurant in Seattle, ferns, spider plants and other homey greenery evoke the building's early 20th-century beginnings, and act as a counterpart to its contemporary take on traditional Southern-style cuisine. Design by chef-owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough with SolTerra Systems

Green Dining

In an outdoor space, living walls can create the feeling of a real room. This dining area is surrounded by two walls of Wooly Pockets layered atop green-stained slats. Design by Jamie Durie

Heights of Green

For anyone trying to make their home more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint, a living wall is an essential component. The 78-foot-long green wall at Comcast Corp.'s headquarters in Philadelphia is part of a system to help cool the plaza of this LEED Gold-certified skyscraper. A scaled-down version can have a similar, natural cooling effect on your home patio. Design by OLIN

A Fence of a Different Color

When traditional fencing is too dull, try a living wall as a privacy screen. Designer Jamie Durie installed a dual-purpose fence and vertical garden to block his yard from prying eyes while still adding to the area's overall aesthetic.

More from:

At Home, Outside