Wall

Emerg­ing in­door green trends OC­TO­BER 2013 SALES LEAD­ERS

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - COLLEEN ZACHARIAS

IN­NO­VA­TION is all around us and in­door gar­den­ing is no ex­cep­tion. Our adventures in gar­den­ing are about to get more in­ter­est­ing as a new gen­er­a­tion puts its own cre­ative stamp on bring­ing green­ery into home and of­fice en­vi­ron­ments with high-tech gar­den­ing so­lu­tions. It won’t her­ald the end of the ubiq­ui­tous African Vi­o­let pot­ted plant on the win­dowsill or desk­top, but it will mean a whole new way of in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple to mod­ern eco-habi­tats that will trans­form our in­door sur­round­ings in the 21st cen­tury.

Ni­co­las Rousseau, a 29-year-old Paris­born vi­sion­ary hor­ti­cul­tural engi­neer who now makes his home in Van­cou­ver, is redefin­ing in­door gar­den­ing with stylish prod­ucts de­signed to re­shape our liv­ing and work­ing spa­ces.

Rousseau is pres­i­dent and co-owner of a com­pany called By Na­ture De­sign. Spe­cial­iz­ing in the dis­tri­bu­tion of su­per-chic plant prod­ucts de­signed by in­ven­tors from coun­tries around the world, the goal of Rousseau and co-owner Fred Col­lay is to bring na­ture in­doors with ev­ery­day plant so­lu­tions that can be con­fig­ured to fit any space with­out clut­ter or tak­ing up pre­cious time in main­te­nance. Col­lay, 41, also hails from France, join­ing forces with Rousseau in 2007.

“It’s hu­man na­ture to have plants,” said Rousseau, “but cities are grey and we need more green in­side our liv­ing and work­ing en­vi­ron­ments so that ev­ery­one can have a small piece of na­ture.”

Rousseau, who has a mas­ter’s de­gree in plant phys­i­ol­ogy and an engineering de­gree in hor­ti­cul­ture, worked in Paris on two projects that in­volved liv­ing-wall tech­nol­ogy be­fore ac­cept­ing a re­search as­sis­tant po­si­tion in 2009 at the Cen­tre for Ar­chi­tec­tural Ecol­ogy at the Bri­tish Columbia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (BCIT). His at­ten­tion has turned full time to the com­pany he founded in 2011, al­though this fall he has been in­volved in the in­stal­la­tion of a large liv­ing wall at BCIT that will serve as a cut­ting-edge model for re­search and test­ing.

Rousseau de­signed and de­vel­oped the first liv­ing pic­ture frame in North Amer­ica for a pre­vi­ous com­pany he owned called Ur­ban Fo­liage. Us­ing lo­cal con­trac­tors proved cost pro­hib­i­tive for mass-mar­ket pro­duc­tion.

HE and Col­lay de­cided to mar­ket a sim­i­lar, more af­ford­able prod­uct called the Wall­flower Liv­ing Frame, de­vel­oped in the south of France.

The Wall­flower’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary liv­ing ecosys­tem con­cept con­sists of a pouch with mois­ture-re­ten­tive soil, a small but artis­tic se­lec­tion of plants, and a wick­ing sys­tem and wa­ter reser­voir in a wooden frame made from re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als. The wick­ing sys­tem guar­an­tees an even wa­ter­ing sys­tem with no risk of over­wa­ter­ing. Not a green thumb? No wor­ries. You only need to add wa­ter two or three times a month.

Unique nat­u­ral vignettes are cus­tom­iz­a­ble, suit­able for both res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial spa­ces, and can even be hol­i­day-themed. De­sign ac­cents in­clude dried mush­rooms, rein­deer moss and pine cones for a woodsy feel.

Ta­tiana Pen­ner, florist and owner of Oak & Lily, 1724 Co­ry­don Ave., is one of the 180 Cana­dian re­tail­ers who dis­trib­utes By Na­ture De­sign’s prod­ucts. “A lot of peo­ple come into the store and rec­og­nize the unique­ness of the prod­ucts,” said Pen­ner. “There is a wa­ter reser­voir at the top of the pic­ture frame,” said Pen­ner, “which can be ac­cessed di­rectly with­out tak­ing it off the wall.”

Pen­ner’s store also car­ries the Boskke Sky Planter, a whim­si­cal up­side­down planter that can be sus­pended from the ceil­ing.

Pen­ner likes that By Na­ture De­sign is a Cana­dian com­pany. “I also like the ma­te­ri­als used in the prod­ucts,” said Pen­ner. “The sky planters are made of re­cy­cled plas­tic and the frame of the Wall­flower Liv­ing Frame is made of re­claimed wood. They are cus­tom­iz­a­ble and you can get ones that are avail­able to self-plant but By Na­ture De­sign does such a good job with the pre-plant­ing. The frames come with all of the hard­ware for hang­ing on the wall or place them on a shelf or desk or other sta­tion­ary ob­ject.”

Plant se­lec­tion con­sists of fo­liage plants such as Ar­row­head fern, ivy, pothos vine, etc., that will do well in bright light or lower light en­vi­ron­ments. Over­all di­men­sions of the liv­ing frame range from 12 by 12 inches to 23 by 14.5 inches and prices start at $75. The sky planter starts at $25. De­signed to flour­ish with low main­te­nance, both of th­ese na­turescape sys­tems will add a sculp­tural el­e­ment to any decor. Just trim the plants as they grow.

Lap­top gar­den­ers may snatch a few mo­ments of im­ages of green in­spi­ra­tion dur­ing their work­day by brows­ing web­sites such as Pin­ter­est and Houzz but Rousseau and Col­lay hope to in­tro­duce a liv­ing botan­i­cal mi­cro­cosm to the daily lives of even the busiest of peo­ple, con­nect­ing them to the nat­u­ral world.

Mo­du­loGreen Liv­ing Walls have been de­signed to eas­ily in­te­grate into the in­te­rior de­sign so the plants are part of the at­mos­phere.

“The big dif­fer­ence,” said Rousseau, “is that we are try­ing to de­moc­ra­tize the liv­ing wall tech­nol­ogy and make it ac­ces­si­ble. Some peo­ple are in­tim­i­dated by green walls be­cause they may be too ex­pen­sive or dif­fi­cult to in­stall.” The Mo­du­loGreen sys­tem, ad­ver­tised as the most cost-ef­fec­tive green wall sys­tem avail­able, can be in­stalled and planted with­out hav­ing to hire a pro­fes­sional.

THE Mo­du­loGreen liv­ing wall brings a room to life with­out ap­pear­ing as a sep­a­rate book­case­type of struc­ture rest­ing against a wall. “Some of the ear­lier mod­els of liv­ing walls looked clumsy,” said Rousseau who was part of the team that de­signed and tested the Mo­du­loGreen Sys­tem in France six years ago.

“Many peo­ple want to de­sign liv­ing walls be­cause there is a de­mand for them,” said Rousseau, “but they are not hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists and that is bad for the in­dus­try. Not all sys­tems are good. You have to bring wa­ter to the plants and make sure it is well-dis­trib­uted. Do your home­work and make sure you know what you are buy­ing.”

Fas­tened to the wall with brack­ets, the light­weight wa­ter­proof Mo­du­loGreen sys­tem uses a low-wa­ter con­sump­tion drip-ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem and a spe­cially en­gi­neered mois­tur­ere­ten­tive soil medium. Over the space of a few months, healthy, lush fo­liage grows to com­pletely con­ceal the in­di­vid­ual mod­ules. The ef­fect is dra­matic. In­cor­po­rat­ing green­ery in our liv­ing and work­ing spa­ces has proven health ben­e­fits which are well doc­u­mented. Those ben­e­fits are mul­ti­plied ex­po­nen­tially with a liv­ing wall.

While liv­ing walls and liv­ing pic­ture frames will con­tinue to gain ground, there is another green in­no­va­tion that in­vites the in­door dweller to take a few mo­ments to pause and re­lax amid all the chaos of our daily lives. Mos­sart Still Na­ture De­sign Cre­ations, de­signed at By Na­ture De­sign and man­u­fac­tured in Que­bec, use nat­u­ral rein­deer moss that is in­te­grated into frames and even fur­ni­ture such as ta­bles and chairs.

“Rein­deer moss is a very unique moss,” said Rousseau, “and we use it in many dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions to il­lus­trate how moss can bring na­ture in­doors in many dif­fer­ent ways.” An al­ter­na­tive to liv­ing walls, the pre­served moss is very soft and does not need any wa­ter, trim­ming or light. Ever.

“We re­place the wa­ter in the moss with glyc­er­ine,” said Rousseau. “It is still green which has a huge im­pact on our well­ness.”

Col­lay de­scribes Mos­sart as a 3-D vi­sion of na­ture. “Pic­ture a green patch sim­i­lar to the Ama­zo­nian rain­for­est from an air­plane per­spec­tive. It’s ideal for any­one who wants green­ery but noth­ing to do with main­te­nance.

”The para­dox is that Canada is a big vast area with nat­u­ral re­sources, but Cana­di­ans spend a great deal of time in­doors. We would love to spend more time out­doors, but we don’t want to freeze to death.”

En­liven­ing our homes and of­fices with a touch of na­ture helps to make the long win­ter months more bear­able. We can an­tic­i­pate more new con­cepts from By Na­ture De­sign.

“We are look­ing for in­te­rior de­sign­ers to work on dif­fer­ent projects,” said Rousseau, who also works closely with lo­cal artists and de­sign­ers on not for profit ini­tia­tives in his com­mu­nity. Col­lard adds they are also keenly in­ter­ested in talk­ing di­rectly to con­sumers to learn more about their ideas and ex­pec­ta­tions.

For more in­for­ma­tion on where to find any of th­ese prod­ucts at lo­cal re­tail out­lets, email Manitoba@by­na­ture­design.ca.

Ni­co­las Rousseau, co-owner of By Na­ture De­sign, is a hor­ti­cul­tural engi­neer who is redefin­ing in­door gar­den­ing with stylish prod­ucts de­signed to re­shape our home and work en­vi­ron­ments. At left, take a few mo­ments from your busy sched­ule to re­lax in a set­ting that in­cor­po­rates green­ery. Proven ben­e­fits in­clude lower blood pres­sure and a greater sense of well­be­ing. At top, Rein­deer moss, pre­served with glyc­er­ine, is used in many dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions to bring a touch of na­ture to your home with­out any main­te­nance. This three-di­men­sional ex­am­ple of Mos­sart Still Na­ture De­sign Cre­ations makes a unique state­ment that is soft to the touch and stays green.

Plants in ev­ery room? Why not? The Wall­flower Liv­ing Frame, made from re­claimed wood and planted with low-main­te­nance plants is suit­able for al­most any room in your

house.

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