Interior designers not only think about the inside of a home when creating a livable space that makes sense in its environment. An interior designer will also consider the outdoor space that surrounds your home. Bringing the outside in is an essential component of interior design as it roots your home in the surrounding landscape. Connecting indoor and outdoor spaces creates continuity and provides context while capitalizing on some of the mental, physical and emotional health benefits of biophilic design. Plus, nature-inspired interior design is timeless due to the universal appeal of organic materials, earthy color palettes and other natural elements. Mature trees and lush landscaping give that curb appeal everyone loves coming home to after a long day. We want to extend that warm welcome from sidewalk to entry, thereby elevating your everyday life while honoring the outside world. Here’s how we create stunning indoor-outdoor spaces through nature-inspired interior design.
If you live in a warmer climate, then connecting your indoor living space to the natural environment might be at the top of your design wish list. Gathering by the pool or hosting a BBQ with family and friends makes our outdoor spaces feel more like interior spaces by adding that element of “home.” These are the kinds of weekends I look forward to in hot Houston, but a disconnected space can make entertaining between the interior and exterior of your home more complicated.
Thankfully, there are many ways to connect indoor and outdoor spaces through architecture, continuing materials, similar color palettes and more. For example, Laura loves having large windows so she can keep my eye on the party, and her girls, when inside. Plus, they let gorgeous natural light and delicious fresh air filter into indoor living areas.
If you live in cooler zones, large windows are another must, but maybe for exposing the snowy vistas instead. Curling up in a soft reading nook, wool socks on, great book in hand…all made cozier by the framed icy landscape.
How We Design for Your Surroundings
When we begin a project, we consider the acreage, the views, and the directional exposure of the home’s main indoor spaces. It may seem insignificant, but natural light influences everything from the color palette to the accessories we select.
We Consider Natural Light Exposure
Have you ever purchased a paint swatch and brought it home, only to notice that it looks completely different than in the store? A good reason for this is exposure. The sun’s rays bounce light against the items in the room, leaving a different-looking hue. In interior design, we can either embrace the light or mitigate it depending on the room.
Here’s a Quick Guide to Exposure
- Northern Exposure – Windows facing the north are the luckiest, receiving a consistent amount of natural light throughout the day. The blue of the sky dominates, so rooms with northern exposure will have a blue tinge to them.
- Eastern Exposure – With the sun rising in the east, these rooms will find themselves bathed with light in the AM. For the rest of the day, the color green dominates. If your bedroom has an eastern exposure and you’d prefer not to awaken with the sun, it’s important to invest in blackout drapery.
- Southern Exposure – Arguably the least favorite of the four, southern exposure can wash out color. Go with bold hues that are deeply pigmented and complementary with a wash of yellow over them. If you live in a hot climate, as I do, consider solar windows.
- Western Exposure – Expect a romantic, golden glow to consume your home as the sun sets. Steer clear of anything too reddish or orange. This exposure will only magnify that. Cooler hues will subdue the light.
Exposure also plays a role in the livelihood of your houseplants. It goes without saying that one of the easiest way to incorporate the outdoors into your design is to cultivate plants and flowers inside. Light certainly plays role — as does consistent care.
If you prefer heartier indoor plants, Good Housekeeping has a great list of indoor plants that are almost impossible to kill. The peace lily is one of our favorites, but it might not be right for homes with pets or small children. Thankfully, adding real or faux plants isn’t the only way to bring the outdoors in. Sustainable materials sourced locally, natural colors and more all contribute to biophilic interior design that connects your space to the environment.
We’ll get into all my tips for for designing a home that brings the beauty of the outdoors inside later on in this post.
We Let the Landscape Inspire Us
Our design team considers how the architecture and interior of a home can reflect and respond to the surrounding landscape. Nature-inspired interior design and architecture are timeless because they are rooted in the landscape rather than a certain period or trend.
As the years pass and materials age, a home rooted in its landscape becomes ever more enmeshed with its environment. This one-ness with the natural world is what makes nature-inspired interior design timeless.
It will never go out of style. Observe and respond to your home’s surroundings – natural light exposure included – to ensure both its architecture and interior are classic and enduring.
We Create Transitional Spaces
Connecting indoor and outdoor spaces often involves creating transitional spaces that share qualities of both interior and exterior. These spaces establish that connection between indoor and outdoor in a seamless, effortless way that never feels forced.
At Braeswood Place – for example – all outdoor spaces were intentionally designed as an extension of the indoor living space. The interior boasts large floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that open to a multi-level outdoor oasis. An expansive outdoor living space connects the main home to the pool house — complete with a full kitchen and guest-suite.
At Hedwig Village, we designed an outdoor loggia to reflect the home’s original 1920s architecture and improve the property’s flow for entertaining. Loggias are outdoor living spaces that create the perfect connection between indoor and outdoor areas by reflecting the home’s architecture in a fresh way.
Indoors, we added arched windows to the breakfast room and living room. These enormous windows provide a gorgeous view of the grounds, but they also line up to match the arch in the new loggia. In a previous article on the LUDC blog, we outline the home addition process at Hedwig Village. Read more here.
Connecting Indoor and Outdoor Spaces Through Interior Design and Architecture
Below are a few ways we connect indoor and outdoor spaces through interior design and architecture. From beach houses to desert oases and from country estates to high-rise apartments, every home can benefit from biophilic design.
Bringing the Outside In: Coastal Beach Houses
Using coastal colors that evoke the oceans and sunsets is a great way to bring the outdoors inside your beach house. The serene color palette instantly creates a relaxing environment that evokes the calming effect of the water. Corals, hearty woods, sandy neutrals, and lighter blues are just perfect.
If you prefer a less literal interpretation of coastal colors and materials, consider subtle ways to reference the outdoors in your home. Opt for metallic accents — like a grasscloth wallpaper or stunning backsplash — that throw light around the room. While not as obvious as a bowl of seashells or bright blue wall paint, this effect will remind you of the way sunlight sparkles on the ocean.
For an interior that feels more natural and less staged, consider decorating with found materials. Don’t be afraid to use locally-sourced natural materials. Bring the outdoors inside with fresh flowers (preferably native wildflowers), driftwood, natural fibers, sea shells, sand, and glass. Hanging plants like donkey’s tail and string of pearls or an indoor garden designed to replicate the bluffs visible through your window also work beautifully.
These and other outdoor elements help recreate the ambiance of the beach and fill your indoor space with a serene energy. They also reinforce that outdoors indoors connection, creating a stunning indoor oasis.
Bringing the Outside In: Mountain Homes
The lush mountains and clear blue skies are two of the best parts about mountain scenery. Bringing the outdoors indoors highlights these beautiful surroundings, making your home feel like an extension of the outdoors.
Select an earthy color palette and give it a rustic twist by adding stone accents. A mountain home is often surrounded by forest, so wood elements, like flooring or exposed beams, are great for harnessing the lovely outdoors.
Maximize the gorgeous views with large windows or doors. Reflect the mountains outside in the pitch of your home’s roof or the materials used in transitional spaces like the foyer pictured above. With expansive windows and dramatic architecture, minimal decor is needed.
Bringing the Outside In: Urban Living
Many homeowners find it difficult to bring the outside inside when decorating a high-rise apartment or other urban interior. We encourage you to take inspiration from both the natural world and the man-made marvels that surround your apartment. For example, you can bring some of that beautiful skyline into your home’s interior design by going industrial with mixed metals.
Contrast these metals with rich, saturated jewel tones that add texture and color. Pair modern furnishings with art collections and antique books to bring the culture of the surrounding museums into your home.
This combination of old world charm and modern decor is perfect for creating a Classically Current home.
Bringing the Outside In: Country Estates
Whenever someone is decorating a country estate, their number one priority is comfort. As a respite from the city, there’s a large emphasis on spaciousness and gathering places that encourage communion with nature — and with each other!
Your country estate should be a space that’s relaxed, yet sophisticated and elegant. Designing a country estate the brings the outdoors inside really depends on where it is. The surrounding landscape must inform the interior of your country estate. Your house must feel at home in its environment.
Take your design cues from what’s outside the door. Whether it’s green pastures and blue skies or the coastline, absorb whatever color palette exists outside and bring it indoors. I love the way crisp white contrasts with the rolling hillside.
Bringing the Outside In: Desert Oasis
Earthier tones like rich browns, soft creams, and energizing orange-reds are great for bringing the outdoors inside your desert oasis. We love cream against the rust color of the landscape, but ivory and bone work well too.
The warm hues radiate warmth and mirror the raw beauty of the jagged, mysterious outdoors. Neutrals also allow visual space for organic shapes and varied textures.
In terms of materials, it’s all about leather, concrete, terracotta, and clay. Tile is a must-have because it stays cool. Plus, it’s easy to brush the sand away.
Using Interior Design to Bring the Outdoors Inside
The key to bringing the outdoors in is to look to the area surrounding your home. Let the views and materials outside your window inspire the color palette.
Use natural textures like wood and stone to add visual depth and dimension. For example, the textural quality of natural flooring and stone tiles provides a beautiful, organic contrast to the sleek, structured industrial metals.
And of course, it never hurts to add a fresh bouquet of flowers and a live plant or two to your design!
For more ideas and inspiration for bringing the outside in, follow along on Instagram.