The undeniable allure of living with nature has never been more apparent. To discuss this top trend, we tapped four home industry tastemakers who bring the indoor/outdoor theme to life through their incredible work. Architect Jonathan Feldman creates award-winning structures in the Bay Area and beyond that embody environmentally and ethically responsible design. Farther down the coastline, interior designer Becki Owens brings beachy cool vibes to each of her spaces. Baltimore-based stylist Hilton Carter is breaking down indoor/outdoor barriers with his junglified plant styling. And Twin Cities builder Bob Appert’s latest project celebrates the beauty of Minnesota all year long. Discover how each of these experts puts their signature style on our connection to the outdoors through thoughtfulness and intentionality.
In true Palo Alto fashion, Jonathan Feldman’s business started in a basement. The architect has come a long way since then, now with a 28-person team that designs award-winning residential and commercial spaces in his native Bay Area. Highly visual with a knack for spatial relations, he felt the itch to create from a young age. After college, he enrolled in an immersive architectural program and discovered an affinity for the studio process.
Then, a surprise detour into filmmaking, where he pitched scripts and worked in the tumultuous world of movie production. “It wasn’t long before I was disillusioned,” he notes. Feldman returned to architecture, eager to revisit the purity of studio work in contrast to the Hollywood grind. “But I learned a lot from filmmaking that I apply to my work today,” he says. “I came to appreciate how movement through space tells a story.”
Those stories are shaped by the spaces we inhabit. He explains how simply incorporating more natural light into a structure can make its dweller happier. That cohesion between indoors and out, complemented by a thoughtful floor plan, encourages togetherness. Feldman carves out those storied moments within his own home, too.
He often collaborates with his wife, designer Lisa Lougee, enjoys learning challenging songs on acoustic guitar, and frees his mind during Draw with Dad time with his two teen daughters. “We’ll get out our sketchbooks, put objects on the table and draw together,” he shares. (It’s his secret — and now not-so-secret — wish that his girls follow in his footsteps.)
He didn’t set out to establish an architectural firm, but business grew naturally. His own fixer-upper served as proof of concept for his talent, while side projects eventually led him to partner with another local architect. Sketch by sketch, Feldman got closer to his dream of designing warm, modern homes in the Bay Area.
His first ground-up house was nestled in a San Francisco nature preserve. Building in such a beautiful location, his team was careful about the global footprint. This set the tone for the milestones to come, including a net-zero energy home and the first LEED Platinum custom home on California’s Central Coast, crafted in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Feldman has always been passionate about the environment, and attending graduate school at the University of Oregon gave structure to that passion. “Through the green design program, I received the tools needed to continue the environmentally conscious conversation,” he explains.
Designing spaces in the Bay Area’s challenging terrain excites Feldman, who gravitates toward work that demands focus. But a few Los Angeles and Santa Barbara projects have him eager to find solves for new geography. “Good design comes from reading the cues of the client and the site,” he says. “Nothing is preconceived.” The same can be said of his path to renowned success.
Everyone is familiar with the wide-eyed wonder of a kid in a candy store — but how about a kid in a paint store? Becki Owens discovered an appreciation for design at a young age, thanks to her father’s paint shop. “I loved going to work with him and watching him mix colors,” she shares. Those colorful moments, along with her parents’ penchant for flipping their family homes (five in their Utah neighborhood), instilled in her a can-do attitude and set the stage for an impressive career.
Now based in Southern California with her family of six, she runs a thriving design and lifestyle business. On her website, you’ll find coastal cool inspiration for everything from interiors to furnishings to fashion, as well as shoppable products curated and designed by Owens herself.
Her success started with small projects within her own network. “I feel like aspiring designers are hesitant to start a project because they don’t have enough experience,” she notes. “But I say work on as many projects for friends and family as you can so you get really comfortable.”
Her Instagram profile — where she boasts 1.3 million followers — is filled with light, bright interiors and offers the perfect inspiration for anyone drawn to utterly livable design. “My goal is to create spaces where people want to gather and stay a while,” she explains.
She chose her own abode for its proximity to the ocean and its flexibility to grow with her family. “It’s definitely an indoor/outdoor home,” she says. To wit: The oversize yard backs up to a large field, providing extra room for her kids to roam. Inside, she added a touch of the outdoors with light oak flooring that complements the crisp white finishes.
Organic details, pops of greenery and a connection to the outdoors are all key, she points out: “They’re so important in making a space feel alive.” Owens gravitates toward natural materials like stone and hardwood that are as suitable for exteriors as they are interiors. These earthy finishes create a common thread from one room to the next, with each area feeling like a natural extension of itself.
Family continues to be an influential driver for Owens. Her four children are the biggest motivations — and accomplishments — in her life. “Time with them is a must in keeping me grounded,” she explains. “I love unwinding at the end of the day. All we need is good food and good music.”
In fact, many of her projects reflect her family-first approach, including a special 2018 venture in which she teamed up with her brother, Brett Boyce of Split Rock Custom Homes. Together, they crafted a modern Mediterranean-style abode featured in the Utah Valley Parade of Homes. Aptly titled Family Ties, the custom build highlights the fun, livable style of a sibling collaboration, proving that the best laid plans start with family.
Hilton Carter is chasing the light. “I made the choice to live in happiness — and that’s changed everything for me,” the Baltimore-based creative declares. He first drew attention from plant lovers in 2017, sharing photos of his beautifully curated apartment and its junglified aesthetic on Instagram.
A career in filmmaking proved his natural affinity for creating environments. When it came time to style his own home, he brought in each piece and plant with intention, making sure it said something. As it turns out, a fiddle-leaf fig has a lot to say. Carter’s first plant purchase led to 60 more within a year. And now? More than 250 plants thrive in that same apartment, with 480,000 Instagram followers reveling in every monstera and philodendron.
Carter’s passion for botanicals began a decade ago, while visiting a small Pennsylvania town. “I found myself in a renovated greenhouse that was part garden center, part boutique, part cafe,” he recalls. “I thought, If this can exist here, it can exist in my own home.”
So when he returned to his hometown of Baltimore, he was on a mission to find an apartment with high ceilings and large windows. The lushness quickly grew, inspired by his time living in Los Angeles and New Orleans as well as his travels to tropical destinations. “I wanted to bottle up how I felt in Costa Rica: creative, relaxed, in tune with myself,” he muses. “Those are the benefits plants bring me.”
Flora is indeed having its moment in the sun, with an appreciation for #PlantParenthood growing as quickly as the greenery itself. “I think people simply want to feel more connected to nature, especially when you’re living in a city,” Carter says of the trend. “You want to create these natural moments of mindfulness.”
Carter and his wife, Fiona Vismans, just purchased their first house — a 1916 fixer-upper — that has all the makings of mindfulness. He gushes over the south-facing windows, the limitless views from the sunroom and an in-floor planter where a Meyer lemon tree will grow directly from the ground into the kitchen. “I just dart from room to room, chasing the sunlight and planning out spots for plants,” he laughs.
The renovation has been a huge learning process, but that’s a space where Carter is comfortable. “Every day for me is a moment to learn something,” he notes. His plant expertise comes not from a botanist background, but one of patience and respect.
Today, he writes best-selling books and designs propagation vessels. His tomes give a tour of his urban jungle apartment and showcase flora-driven interiors around the world. Wild Creations, which was just released in April, takes it a step further with instructions for DIY projects. Carter says his goal will always be to inspire — not with a number of plants or even a certain look, but in putting your own fingerprint on something and creating lasting light.
Bob Appert is in the business of meaningful connection. The cofounder of Redstone Architectural Homes grew up in a Twin Cities suburb in a “Brady Bunch–style” family with 11 siblings. “So much of my life revolves around them,” he shares, recalling trips to their fifth generation family cabin in central Wisconsin. That time together gave him an appreciation for special places connecting family and nature.
Appert settled his own brood of five near the St. Croix River Valley in Stillwater, where dozens of independent restaurants, boutiques and art galleries dot the edge of the water. “I’m always telling people they should move east,” he notes. “It’s half the price — and half the pace.”
So when an iconic farmstead went on the market just four miles north, he immediately knew he wanted to create something special. Rather than work within the confines of a market-rate development, he and cofounder David Washburn had bigger dreams for the land. “Other professionals in the industry thought we were crazy,” Appert says of the project’s beginnings. But they had a long-term vision: an architecturally driven community offering a stunning backdrop for living in harmony with nature and spending time with family.
That vision became a reality with the 2018 debut of White Oaks Savanna, a 320-acre luxury development nestled within a lush prairie landscape. The site’s location, met with Appert’s hard-earned industry knowledge in land acquisition, entitlement and development, made this passion project an attainable one.
Appert’s success as a homebuilder started from the ground up. He spent college summers working construction, literally laying the foundation for his life’s work. His creative brain found homebuilding rewarding, and he felt an immense satisfaction seeing projects through from start to finish. He didn’t mind the tan either, he laughs.
His methodical approach is one to marvel. “Nothing goes unconsidered,” he says, explaining that the siting for each home is what makes White Oaks Savanna so unique. Everything is digitally modeled to show how a structure communicates with and preserves outdoor space. And each of the 30 lots is an organic prairie parcel, tucked off the road in restored native grasses and landforms. The effect both in and outside the abode is an infinite scene of what makes the North beautiful all year round.
Expansive windows and doors are the primary communication tools to the outside. “If it’s -40 degrees, you still want to enjoy the view, but as soon as it hits 50 degrees, you know those windows are flying open,” he notes. “I believe people live in Minnesota because we fundamentally appreciate the seasons and what the outdoors have to offer.” As for Appert, he enjoys boating in the summer as much as kids’ snow fort building in the winter. It all comes back to the influence of family and nature — and that special place connecting the two.