Bringing the Outside In: How to Design for Your Surroundings

How To..., Interior Design

Interior designers don’t only think about the inside of a home. We consider the outside too! Bringing the outside in is an essential component of interior design. 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.

If you live in a warmer climate, that connection to nature might be at the top of your design wish list. Gathering by the pool, BBQ with family and friends…these are the kinds of weekends I look forward to in hot Houston! I love having large windows so I can keep my eye on the party, and my girls, as I’m inside. 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.

Neutral colors and large windows bring the outdoors inside in this living room

Neutral colors and large windows bring the outdoors inside in this living room.

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 spaces. It may seem insignificant, but natural light influences everything from the color palette to the accessories we select.

Why Exposure Matters

Have you ever purchased a paint swatch, brought it home, and have it look 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:

  • Northern Exposure – Windows facing the north are the luckiest,receiving a consistent amount of light throughout the day. The blue of the sky dominates, so rooms with northern exposure will have a blue-ish 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 well as consistent care. If you prefer heartier plants, Good Housekeeping has a great list of indoor plants that are almost impossible to kill. However, adding plants isn’t the only way to bring the outdoors in. Here are my tips for how to design a home that brings the beauty of the outdoors into your home.

Relaxed, wood accented coastal inspired living room that brings the outdoors inside

Coral and light blue bring the coast indoors for this Galveston home.

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. Don’t be afraid to use natural elements found on the beach inside your home. Driftwood, sand, and glass recreate the ambiance of the beach and fill your home with a serene energy.

outdoors inside interior design for a mountain home with wood and industrial furnishings

The stunning views of this Aspen home are magnified by the rustic interior and contrasting maroon accents.

Bringing the Outside In: Mountain Homes

The lush mountains and clear blue skies are two of the best parts about the mountain scenery. Bringing the outside into your home highlights the beautiful surroundings and makes it 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 forrest, so wood elements, like flooring or exposed beams, are great for harnessing the lovely outdoors. Maximize the gorgeous views with large windows or doors. No art required.

Modern master bedroom suite with jewel tones brings the outside in: Laura U Interior Design

Urban retreats benefit from architectural elements, reflecting the skyline outside. In this home, we added Art Deco details.

Bringing the Outside In: Urban Living

Bring some of that beautiful skyline into your home’s interior design. Go industrial with mixed metals. Use rich, saturated jewel tones to add 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.

Contemporary master sitting room with large windows bring the outside in

Country estates and their never-ending horizons are versatile – I love the contrast of crisp white with the lush green outside.

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. 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. 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.

Serene living room with low gray sofa and stone accents bring the outside in

Desert landscapes vary in color from rust to gray rock. Neutral and minimal interiors allow the outdoors to breathe in.

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. I 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. Neautrals 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 because it stays cool and it’s easy to brush the sand away.

Coastal inspired master bedroom with built-ins bring the outside in

Coastal inspired master bedroom with incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico

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 outside your window inspire the color palette. Use natural textures like wood and stone to add visual depth and dimension. These textures provide 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.