As we re-emerge from the dark days of winter, our yearning for the sun is at its peak. There’s something about it that’s innate to our human sensibilities — we crave a connection to nature and thrive in spaces filled with light.
A strong relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces is a fundamental design concept that can be incorporated into homes of any size, style, and location. Whether you’re seeking greater flexibility for your entertaining capabilities, trying to expand the boundaries of a small footprint or salvaging an otherwise neglected corner — bridging the gap between the inside and outside will enhance the quality of your home (and probably make you really happy, too). Here are some suggestions for how to make it happen:
1. Make it reflective.
Mirrors, light-colored ceilings and surfaces with sheen help draw light into a space. Even if the size and availability of openings is limited, a strategically placed reflection can make it appear as though there are more windows in the space and emphasize the views outside.
2. Free the corner!
Eliminate a traditional visual barrier and create an immersive experience by surrounding yourself in the view outside. This will make any room feel as though it’s grown immensely.
3. Operable openings are “FUN-ctional.”
While views are nice, ventilation and circulation are necessary to a functional home. Operable openings provide an essential means to move and get air through your home. They can also be pleasant opportunities to enhance your hosting skills. Parties can expand beyond the limits of available indoor space and spill outside with just the push of a sliding glass door.
4. Maintain materials for smooth transitions.
Using consistent materials and patterns between indoor and outdoor spaces creates a seamless flow across them. Even if you can’t employ a resilient material like slate tile, which looks good and operates well in both domains, matching the orientation of hardwood and decking planks will strengthen the connection across the threshold.
5. Taller is better.
Limiting the vertical space above and below an opening will focus your vision more towards the view outside and less on the interior frame surrounding it. Add a transom, lower the sill height or just use a door in lieu of window to maintain a visual sightline to the ground outside from across the room.
6. When you can’t see, dig.
Grade often makes it infeasible to look at or walk outside, so excavate the site to allow for a place where light can filter in and create a focal point of your own. This is definitely a case where even a little can go a long way! Your window wells can do double-duty if they open to a space connected to other interior rooms — these glass doors allow natural light to stretch into the center of a basement buried underground.
7. Give the best views to the spaces that warrant them.
Frame openings around the views you enjoy most on your lot. Look to incorporate additional windows where you tend to linger for an extended period of time — like your desk, bathtub or sink, perhaps?
8. Plant a scene.
Plants can provide a living, dynamic focal point. While growing them inside isn’t always feasible, it’s possible to minimize the interior/exterior separation by planting immediately adjacent to openings. Even upper-story windows can feel more connected to the earth with planter boxes nestled below the sills.
9. Be smart with solar orientation.
Use the sun’s path to your advantage. Connected living spaces along the southern side of your home will maximize the consistency and intensity of light throughout each day and across the year as a whole.
How important is the indoor/outdoor connection in your home? Share some creative ways you’ve brought the outside in by leaving us a comment below.
Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.