Bring the Outdoors In

Making the most of Australia’s temperate climate with an indoor/outdoor living area in an increasing trend. The key is to blur the lines between inside and outside, creating a seamless living area that is partly open to the elements. Here, we look at some of the items that help to create a successful indoor/outdoor living area including the kitchen, doors, floors, furniture and lighting…

Kitchen

The kitchen is the natural hub of any open-plan living area so its location is vital; you need to ensure it is easily accessible from both inside and out. Consider food preparation, cooking and washing up during the planning phase. Having the kitchen right on the barrier of the inside and outside is practical and effectively creates the feeling of a singular open room. Consulting an interior designer on the layout is a good idea if it is necessary to alter the floor plan.

Doors and windows

Windows and doors create the barrier between inside and out. The best way to make this junction as seamless as possible is with glass. Bi-fold doors are currently the most popular option as they fold back in a concertina fashion, eliminating all barriers. But before splashing out on bi-folds be aware they don’t suit all situations – they can warp in certain climates or may not suit the design of the house. Floor to ceiling or semi-frameless windows can create a similar feel if bi-folds are not suitable. French doors are a popular choice for more traditional homes. Keep in mind when selecting your doors and windows that it may be worthwhile consulting an expert.

Floor

A similar floor covering on both the inside and outside also helps to create the feeling of one large space. Timber is one suitable option, as you can install timber floorboards inside and timber decking in the alfresco area, effectively making a single wooden floor. If you’re not into floorboards, slate or tiles are other options that will work.

Colour

The number one rule with colour is to maintain continuity. Try and match the indoor colour scheme with the one outdoors. A clever idea is to make the colour of your outdoor plants match a feature wall inside. If you’re not feeling that brave, play it safe and go with a neutral palette as it’s such a large area. Then add splashes of colour through cushions, upholstery, furniture and knick-knacks. On the other extreme, a casual, open-plan area is the perfect canvas for bright and vibrant shades. Just remember to match inside with out.

Furniture

Inside/outside living is about creating a relaxed, casual atmosphere for dining. Place lounge-type furniture such as stools, garden seat swings and side tables outside to complement the dining table. You can position the table inside or outside but why not select a table that can be moved between the two? To maintain the flow from indoors to outdoors, keep the outdoor seating area in close proximity to inside and then have a cover or awning that stems from the roof. Outdoor furniture needs to be water proof unless it can be stored inside when not in use. Try and match all the upholstery to maintain continuity. Placing a mirror on an internal wall to reflect the outdoors can help bring the outdoors in.

Barbeque

The barbeque is often the centre of the indoor/outdoor living area. If possible, design the kitchen bench to continue on the outside so it accommodates the barbeque area and build the barbeque into the bench rather than using a portable one. This will create the illusion of one food preparation area and one seamless entertaining zone. When planning the placement of your barbeque, make sure the possibility of smoke is considered.

Lighting

Lighting is an important element to consider, especially for people who are keen on twilight dining. Soft lighting is key: use up-lights placed in trees or bushes or down-lights placed sporadically around a courtyard. Avoid harsh spot lights. In keeping with the integration of inside and out, automate the lighting system so the flick of one switch will light the entire open-plan area.

Ceiling / Roof

When considering the ceiling of the indoor/outdoor area, be aware there are complementing materials that are suitable for indoor-outdoor living. Materials include timber, thatch, cedar, pine and marine-ply, all of which can be used inside and out. If the outdoor room is protected from the elements, the same ceiling plaster can be used for both areas to create the continuity essential in indoor/outdoor areas. The area will also be well protected from the elements – a real outdoor room.