Link your outdoor room with your interior living space and enjoy indoor-outdoor living
Words: Natalie Raad
Modern garden design has embraced the idea of indoor-outdoor spaces, and for very good reason. Not only does connecting the interior with the exterior extend the area of both spaces, it also invites the outdoors into the home and vice versa.
Outdoor rooms are essentially an extra “room” in a home and it makes sense for them to be connected in some way to the interior living space. Given we spend a lot of time in our outdoor rooms, it’s important we design them so they function as an extension of our homes.
When designing an indoor-outdoor space, it’s important first to consider the relationship between the two areas and how they will connect visually. Ideally, the two rooms should present almost as one, and the more you remove or minimise the elements that divide the spaces, such as doors and walls, the more free-flowing the space will appear.
A good way of ensuring a seamless connection between an indoor room and an outdoor room is by keeping the area around the doorway of the connecting spaces open; access should not be tucked away behind a table or couch.
A larger opening is going to give a better flow between the interior and exterior. Bifold doors that run the full length of the connecting wall are ideal. Double glass sliding doors also work well. If possible, you should also opt for plenty of floor to ceiling windows.
A significant benefit of establishing an indoor-outdoor connection is that the interior of the home can appear larger as the outdoor entertaining area extends the inside of the home out toward the garden. This indoor-outdoor connection can also bring the garden into the home so that the garden adds another dimension to the home, regardless of the time of year.
Unity is an important factor when establishing a seamless connection between the indoors and the outdoors. Creating a theme is one way of establishing unity between both spaces. This can be achieved by keeping similarity in style and colour, such as sticking to the same look, be it contemporary or classic, or furnishing the spaces with the same colour cushions or vases.
In order to ensure an easy flow between interior and exterior spaces, it’s important to introduce at least one material or item that is consistent to both areas. This is more effective when large surfaces are involved such as floors and walls. For example, an internal timber floor that adjoins a timber deck in your outdoor room provides material consistency that helps the space feel as one.
Flooring material is important when trying to connect your outdoor room with the inside. Although it doesn’t need to be a direct match, the flooring of both rooms need to harmonise in colour, size and texture. If the flooring is almost the same but not quite, it can often look like a mistake, in which case you’re better off making them deliberately different.
It’s also important to keep flooring on the same level. However, if you do need steps down to the outdoor room, you should make the treads wide (so they are more like a landing) and run them the full width of the connecting wall/door, or longer. A significant floor height difference will decrease the connection between your outdoor room and the inside of the house.
In situations where the house floor is higher, the floor of the outdoor room should be raised to match the interior floor or at least be within a one-step height difference. This will ensure both areas are better linked.
Other than flooring, introducing elements that are consistent to both the outdoor room and indoor room can be as simple as wall colours or furnishings. For example, using stainless steel as your material of choice both inside and out will create cohesion, as well the same colour wall paint.
Furnishings are the easiest way to create a seamless connection between your outdoor room and internal living space. Furnishings also offer the flexibility that more structural elements such as floors and walls don’t, as they are can be easily changed and updated as required.
There is an array of furniture suitable for the outdoors that has a real indoors look and feel to it, thus further enhancing the indoor-outdoor connection. Sofas that have traditionally been relegated to the indoors are now finding a home in outdoor rooms, as are dining tables and chairs. Don’t be afraid to decorate your outdoor room as you would your indoor living space. Very often than not, outdoor rooms are left bland. Adding accessories such as vases will not only liven up the space but also create that visual link with the indoors.
The key when creating a connection is to include items that help link the two areas visually. For example, furnishings may be quite different, but paint colour tones and incidental items such as urns and scatter cushions may be complementary to both areas and therefore will create cohesion.
Elements that connect through the adjoining wall as if the wall wasn’t there can also work really well. Things such as using the same colour on an interior wall as on the extension of the wall outside is one way of bringing the indoors out. A bench or counter that starts inside and continues outside is also another good way of creating a visual link.
Another helpful addition is to create a visual destination to the rear of the outdoor area. This can be done using simple items such as feature plants, pots and urns or more permanent elements such as water features and outdoor kitchens to help draw the eye through both spaces.
The line of sight from inside the house to the outdoor room is important, so avoid stopping the eye at incidental items or the connecting door. The placement and direction of furniture and objects is also crucial. The outdoor room needs to flow back into the house as much as the inside needs to flow out in order to make it feel like part of the house.
Colour is one of the easiest ways to provide a visual link between the indoor and outdoor areas. This use of colour need not be restricted to building materials; it can also be featured in plant material. Plants can be entrenched within the built environment by having them in tubs or planters. This will further enhance the connection between the home and the garden.
The room outside need not be a separate entity from your home. Rather, with careful planning and consideration, your outdoor room can function as part of you interior living space and work in unison to extend the indoors out and vice versa.
• Colour Keeping colour consistency inside and out will help establish a seamless flow between the interior and exterior. Consider the same wall colour paint for an inside wall and an outside wall, or the same colour cushions for the inside sofa and the outdoor lounge. A visual link is one of the easiest ways to establish coherence between the two spaces.
• Style Decorating both your outdoor room and indoor room in the same style is a simple way of ensuring both spaces function as one. If you have a modern, contemporary home, furnishing your outdoor room with the same bold, sleek designs will create a coherent theme and enable your outdoor room to function as an extension of your living space.
• Flooring Keeping the flooring of both the indoor space and the outdoor area level is important when establishing a connection between the two. If levels cannot be maintained, run the landing that leads to the outdoor room the same length as the connecting wall. The material used for flooring is also important, so consider extending your timber floor to the outdoor room.
• Materials Using the same materials inside and outside will set the tone for both areas and establish an obvious link between the two. If you have stainless steel furniture inside, why not use this material in your outdoor room as well? Or if your interior living space is furnished with wood or wicker furniture, then opt to repeat these materials in your outdoor room.
• Planting There’s no need to keep planting outdoors. Bringing plants inside will link the garden with the home and vice versa. Pot plants will liven up an interior living room while linking the space with the outdoors. Use the same plantings inside as outside to set the theme and create unity. Repetition of plantings will enable balance between your indoor room and the room outside.