If you’re renovating, chances are a smooth indoor-outdoor transition is high on your wish list. And it’s easy to see why; connecting these two areas expands your useable living space and draws you outside so you can enjoy those long summer nights. But does your plan make the most of what you’ve got? Here are the biggest blunders people make when connecting their interior and exterior spaces – and how not to make these mistakes yourself.
1. Neglecting upper-level views
Many people hem in their openings with low beams, verandahs and other structures that cut out the upward view to the sky. But it’s the higher-level vista that gives the sense of loftiness and true connection with the outside.
There are three easy ways to maximise upper-level views:
- Design high level glass above door height.
- Lift the outdoor roof height.
- Reduce structural clutter, such as beams that block the visual connection to the outdoors.
2. Thinking glass is just for doors
Many homeowners think that opening up the rear of a home is the only way to achieve inside-outside continuity. But glass can be used for more than just doors; use it in the roof, for example, to expand your view upwards. This is a particularly effective design tool in compact homes where space is tight.
There are many ways to get inside-outside continuity other than opening the rear of a home. For example, we had a house that had to be extended to the side boundary which was only 1.5m wide, so in addition to installing glass doors, we also designed a glass roof that runs the full length of the extension. This overhead glass brings in sky and treetop views, light to the living room, and a dynamic experience of the weather and seasons.
3. Not connecting with the environment
Many homeowners will plan windows and exterior doors without factoring in what they connect to or overlook. As a result, they don’t make the most of the assets available to them.
When planning the openings of your home, look to maximise what you’ve got. Take a look at your outside environment and consider its best features. Do you have a beautiful garden, lovely district views, tall trees in the distance or a bushland setting? A good design will enhance the outdoor environment and play up these assets.
4. Too-small openings
Often, people don’t make the openings between their indoor and outdoor areas big enough to create a real sense of connection between the two. A tight opening between your indoor and outdoor area can prevent smooth traffic flow too.
Poor furniture placement can add to the problem; having bulky furniture blocking the way of these too-small openings makes it difficult for people to move between the two spaces.
When planning your indoor-outdoor connections, consider traffic flow. From a design perspective, ask yourself if the opening is big enough to allow multiple people to walk through comfortably. And from a furniture-placement perspective, are there any hazards in the way, such as a large dining table that people have to manoeuvre around? What about window coverings such as blinds or curtains – do they give you the privacy or light-blocking qualities you want while still allowing people to walk through the doors when opened?
It is essential that both structural and moveable elements allow for a visual and physical flow from one space to the next.
5. Not designing the outdoor area as an extension of the interior space
Sometimes, renovators look at their outdoor space the same way they do their backyard, rather than seeing it as an extra living space that should complement the style of their home and add value to their lifestyle. This means they often forget to consider things such as weather-proofing, furniture and styling.
The other disadvantage of not planning the renovation through a holistic indoor-outdoor lens is that you lose a sense of continuity throughout the property, which can impact flow and how often you use your outdoor space.
A well-designed outdoor area takes its cues from the indoor area immediately adjacent to it. As a result, it draws you outside and means you’re more likely to spend time there – far more than a poorly designed area with uncomfortable furniture that only gets used once a month for a family barbecue.
Consider how you want to use your outdoor space, then ask yourself what needs to stay or change to achieve it.
Use a similar palette and finishes inside and out (or at the very least, have a few connecting elements) to create a sense of flow between the two areas.
If you’re building or renovating your home, consider having open plan spaces on the inside that flow to the outside.
Also consider factors such as flooring levels and windows – ideally, the floor levels inside and out will be the same, and windows will be big enough to maximise the view. If not, add them to your plan.
6. Forgetting the view
A beautiful view through your window draws nature inside your home, and can be a particular boon in hot summers or the winter months when you probably won’t be comfortable spending as much time outdoors.
Many people don’t design to maximise their views. Or they believe that only a huge garden or sea view will provide a worthy vista. This isn’t true; even a small pocket of outdoor space, such as a sliver of greenery between the kitchen window and fence or a tiny outdoor terrace, can be an opportunity to create an appealing vista. The key is to plan for it.
Go room to room and take a photo of the window view. Revisit these images and ask yourself what you see. Are you making the most of the view? What could you do to improve it? Fresh plantings, updated fencing, larger windows and new window furnishings are all options that can help.
7. Playing by the ‘rules’
When it comes to glazing, many homeowners think they need to play by the so-called ‘rules’ – for example, you can’t put a fireplace in front of a window or you must use opaque glass for privacy in a bathroom. Forget the rules and instead consider the look and feel you want to create in your home.
When planning windows and doors, be led by your home’s architecture and design, and not by the so-called ‘rules’. For example, don’t be afraid to use clear glass in a bathroom in a secluded area if it’s going to give you the indoor-outdoor connection you desire.
8. Too much glazing
Going overboard on glazing can overheat your interior and restrict the placement of furniture and artwork.
Rather than oversize glazing, it can be better to have smaller well-placed windows that capture and frame key views. This also allows some spaces to feel cosy and provides wall space to hang art on or place furniture against.