Four Strategies for Blending Indoor and Outdoor Design?quality=70&width=1500

Four Strategies for Blending Indoor and Outdoor Design

By Michael Buck / 7/16/2019

From rooflines to materials, architects explore different ways to design homes that seamlessly integrate exterior and interior living spaces. 

Outdoor living spaces can extend the footprint of a home and connect people with nature, which studies have shown help reduce anxiety and improve overall mental health.

Homeowners don't have to be outside to enjoy the outdoors. Innovative design firms like Texas-based Lake | Flato — which has won numerous national awards for creating functional interplay between structures and landscapes — can create designs to seamlessly blend the two spaces.

“Buildings, rooms, and spaces that leverage the outdoors are more successful spaces,” says Ted Flato, FAIA, partner and co-founder of Lake | Flato.

To bring more of the outdoors into your designs, here are some tactics that Lake | Flato architects suggest to help erase the line between nature and structures.


Extend Roofs to Create Outdoor Rooms

“A large overhang makes an outdoor space a semi-indoor space,” says Flato.
When it comes to extending roofs, he recommends a simple strategy: "The bigger the better." A long overhang or cantilevered roof can foster a sense of enclosure without shutting the outdoor “room” off from nature.

To encourage seamlessness between the spaces, indoor and outdoor flooring should be installed on the same plane, without steps or breaks. “This helps the space to flow outside and to not feel disconnected,” says Rebecca Comeaux, AIA, architect for Lake | Flato’s residential studio.

Use the Same Materials Indoors and Outdoors
“When you run a material from inside a space to the outside, you’re connecting the outdoor room to the indoors,” says Flato.

Consider installing cladding from an exterior wall through to an interior wall. Flat wall claddings, like several of the Artisan siding profiles found in the Aspyre Collection by James Hardie™, have a sleek aesthetic that transitions well from the outdoors to the indoors.

The shiplap profile is a particularly popular style for interior accent walls and offers visually striking horizontal lines that can help create uninterrupted transitions between inside and outside spaces.

Plus, Artisan siding's durability helps to keep the outdoor space looking pristine, and its low-maintenance properties reserve free time for relaxing in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Widen Windows and Doors
Tall, wide windows and doors are necessary to bring the outdoors in — and particularly effective for smaller homes and buildings. “Like magic, it feels like you’re in a more spacious place,” says Flato. 

Big sliding glass doors, exterior sliding pocket doors, and sliding screen doors also build a natural cooling system into the home, allowing owners to turn off the AC and let more fresh air in.

Avoid Competition Between Outside and In
“Sometimes when you’re in the indoor room, you can’t wait to go to the outdoor room,” says Flato. “What’s nice is being satisfied while still being inside, and not feeling like you have to immediately go outside.”

To avoid pitting indoor and outdoor spaces against each other, keep in mind how the outdoor space itself may impact the view from indoors. As much as possible, give indoor and outdoor spaces their own unobstructed views. One way is to design outdoor seating areas to the side of doors and windows, so that outdoor furniture doesn’t distract from indoor views.

“Think about what we are connecting to outside,” Comeaux says. “It’s a chance to enjoy and learn, and to be part of the experience.”

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