Green Living

Capture indoor-outdoor flow with these expert tips

Connecting with nature is a shortcut to wellbeing, with natural light, fresh air and greenery proven to reduce stress and benefit physical and mental health

It’s no wonder indoor-outdoor flow has become the ultimate home selling point, blurring the boundaries between home and garden. It encourages us to wander outside while giving us the benefits of outdoor living, even when New Zealand’s keep-you-guessing weather forces us to stay undercover. Read on to learn the best ways to capture this concept at your place.

Window dressing

If a new-build or home renovation is on the cards, these boundary-blurring items should be on your must-have list. Architect Victoria Read of Aspect Architecture says, “There are several tools we have in our toolbox for a seamless flow between the interior and exterior.”

This includes generous glazing; with large windows and glass doors at the top of the list. “It is important for these openings to have sills at floor height or just above floor height so that they work when the occupants are seated or standing.” Consider what the windows and doors will reveal, too. “It is important to frame the views from the house carefully – this helps create focal points that draw the eye towards the outdoor landscape,” says Victoria.

Bigger is better when it comes to doorways – a structureless corner is the ultimate boundary-blurring option. But when it comes to the doors themselves, architectural designer James Mackie of Mackit Architecture suggests the flexibility of sliding doors wins out over the rest. “Sliding doors seem to work best as the break between the thermal envelope space and semi-outdoor or full outdoor spaces, giving the ability to control airflow and deal with conditions such as wind. Hinged doors and bi-folds can sometimes clutter spaces and can’t regulate airflow and wind effects as well,” he says.

This grey and black industrial-style interior extends to the garden area with its concrete stepping stones and grey pavers.

Transitional spaces

Hard boundaries are out, and spaces that ease the transition between home and garden are a must-have. “Extending the form and rooflines of the main spaces to create a gradual transition with semi-outdoor areas is sympathetic to how many people in this country like to live,” says James. A deck or patio area, semi-enclosed by a solid ceiling, blurs the boundaries between indoors and out.

To make the space even more enticing, add a fireplace or a built-in barbecue area, then continue the indoor kitchen cabinetry on a shared wall for a seamless transition. Add shelter and privacy with side walls; movable slat screens or louvres are a good compromise, so you’re not too enclosed and still feel like you’re out in nature.

Visual connection

Outdoor flow comes down to how a space is perceived, with matching materials working to create the illusion of infinite space. To blunt sharp boundaries, first look to the ceilings and the floors. On ceilings, continue any features from indoors, like shiplap boards or coffered detailing. And keep the same angles – if your indoor ceilings are pitched, continue the same angle on the outdoor overhang, so you get a seamless line from inside to out.

On the floor, opt for level-entry decking or pavers with grates to let water drain in the same material, or at least the same colour, indoors and out. Jane McAulay of Bespoke Interior Design says, it may have to be a different substrate but staining timber or specifying the same stone works wonders. Visually this creates a cohesive, endless look.”

Keep safety in mind – outdoor tiles need a greater slip resistance rating than interior finishes, but you can usually get a near-identical look.

If you’re starting from scratch, the desire for indoor-outdoor flow might influence your choice of finishes throughout the whole house, not just on the patio. “We use a lot of raw, honest materials – concrete, stone, wood and glass. These can be used indoors and outdoors and help build consistency between the spaces,” says Victoria.

Soak up nature by creating your own luxury spa at home with an open-air bathtub.

Bring the outdoors in

Echoing interior finishes outside is only half the story – if you take interior design cues from the natural environment, it will help to dull the division between indoor and outdoor zones, as well as lending your home a mood of nature-inspired calm. “Interior-wise, we like to create harmony with furniture that relates to the exterior finishes and by bringing in some of the natural colours from outside as accents with the accessories and art,” says Jane. She adds that these vary based on the location, and might range from a blaze of autumnal colour to greens from a lush garden, or the soft blue of a summer sky.

Keep sightlines in mind, aiming to position conversation corners and dining settings where people can appreciate the view. Maximise window space by minimising window treatments – where possible, eliminate heavy drapes and pelmets in favour of sheers or recessed blinds. Potted plants are the ultimate simple solution. Look outdoors for inspiration and match the foliage shapes in the garden with similarly lush and leafy or spiky architectural indoor plants.

Maximise window and door space to fully appreciate the view outside.

Every room with a view

Living areas tend to get the most attention when we talk about indoor-outdoor flow, but private spaces can also benefit from a little natural connection. James suggests floor-to-ceiling glazed walkways bordered by thoughtful plantings as it makes walking down the hall feel like a tranquil stroll through the garden.

Spa-style bathrooms are a long-term trend and nothing captures that feeling of tranquillity like a dose of nature. “A large sliding door that opens up along a wall allows you to feel like you are bathing outdoors,” says Victoria. A screened courtyard or garden area adjoining the bathroom is a great way to get that outdoor connection without sacrificing privacy – and why not make the most of this intimate garden by adding an outdoor shower or bath?

Include external doors in bedrooms and angle the bed to appreciate the garden view. “Throwing open the doors to let the morning sun in is a ritual much loved by those who enjoy a Sunday morning in bed. Allowing a connection to the outdoors from your bedroom makes the room feel more like a sanctuary,” says Victoria. And what better way to start the day than with a dose of fresh air and birdsong?

Text Shelley Tustin


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