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Bring the Outdoors In and the Indoors Out


The outdoors may appeal to us year round, but certainly the warmer months inspire to bring some of that loveliness to our interior spaces when we can’t be outside to enjoy it. The warmth of the earth, brightness of the sky, serenity of water and vitality of plants play important roles in our mood and overall quality of life. So how do we get these outside elements into our home?
1. Color & Pattern Inspiration.
Use colors and patterns on your walls, accessories and fabrics that are inspired by nature. Blues are refreshing like the sky and bodies of water. Greens infuse us with the vibrancy and life of grass and foliage. Yellows evoke a sense of freshness like flowers and sunlight. Neutral tones such as whites, tans and beiges make your home feel natural and clean. Patterns from nature can be found on fabrics and wall coverings. Look for pillows with botanical graphics, wallpaper with realistic birch tree images or framed nature photography.
2. Natural Materials.
Choose materials like rattan, jute, hemp and wicker. They bring a sense of organic comfort to your interior. You’ll find furniture, baskets, rugs and accessories in the textured finishes. Don’t worry, mixing these in with your more traditional or modern décor, it will only enhance the layering effect and make the natural elements stand out.
3. The Real Deal.
Man-made materials like porcelain tiles that appear to be slate or stone and vinyl or laminate products that look like wood have certainly come a long way in quality and have their place. However, there is nothing that compares to the real thing when coveting the feeling of bringing the outdoors into your home. Wood, cork and bamboo are all flooring choices that feel warm and inviting under foot. Your body will appeal to the organic elements of natural flooring over the coldness of manmade materials.
4. Found Objects.
Throughout the year I like to rotate objects found in nature around my house according to the season. During the fall, leaves, acorns and branches find their way onto shelves. Winter inspires pine boughs and pine cones. Summer and spring gather rocks, shells, sand, lemons and beach grass. The trick is all in the display. Gather the items together as a collection. Lay the shells on a nice tray in the middle of your coffee table. Find simple pieces of interesting foliage and place in different glass vases and jars, staggering the glassware according to shape and height on a fireplace mantel. Gather beach grass together and place in a tall vase for dramatic impact.
5. Let there be Light.
It seems obvious, but we don’t always make the conscious effort to allow the maximum amount of natural light into our spaces. Let it flow into your home daily and see how the outdoor energy pours into your interiors. Turn off the air conditioning and open the windows for fresh air. Replace heavy drapery panels with lighter fabric sheers.
When it’s time to head outside, one of the biggest trends has been the move towards creating finished outdoor living spaces with all the comforts and amenities of indoor sanctuaries. Whether it’s an evening watching movies on a screen in the backyard, dining alfresco or gathering for conversation around a fire pit or outdoor living room, we are turning our outdoors spaces into extensions of our interior rooms.
1. Copy your Living Room. 
Place an outdoor rug on the grass and set up furniture just like you would inside with a sofa and chairs facing one another and cocktail table in the middle. Place a floral arrangement and candles as a centerpiece. Bring out throw pillows and blankets for comfort.
2. Light up the Night.
To allow for longer stays through the evening, extend subtle lighting for soft ambiance, like you would do with a dimmer switch on the interior of the home. Hang lights strung from tree branches, set out LED lanterns around sitting areas and pathways and light candles where appropriate.
3. Outdoor Bar or Kitchen.
It is more of an investment, but taking the leap to build an outdoor kitchen area really hits the mark when wanting to take that next step in bringing the indoors outside. Since most of our gatherings revolve around food, why not have your prep area out where you can enjoy your guests at the same time? If a built-in kitchen isn’t in the budget, find a vintage rolling bar and stock it up with essentials for outdoor entertaining.
Ashley Cole is a professional interior designer based in Grand Rapids. Her work has been featured on HGTV as well as numerous publications, including Kitchen Trends and Home Magazine. Ashley’s passion is “creating environments that enliven the spirit”. www.ashleycoledesign.com



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