Inside out

John Law of Woodhouse and Law explains the importance of considering inside and out from the very beginning of a design process, in order to achieve a sense of cohesion from interior to exterior.

Over recent years it’s been pleasing to see that our clients are increasingly looking for a greater sense of cohesion between home and garden. For us, being able to look at inside and out as one from the very outset of the design process is definitely an advantage. It allows us to approach the project in a much more holistic manner, with greater flexibility in colours, materials and textures. Even though these links can be subtle and nuanced, they can really help break down visual barriers between inside and out.

To this end, we’d always advocate developing a mood and materials board for the home and garden as a whole, and at the very beginning of the design process. That way, you can then select colours and shades that will work across the two spaces. Start the board with materials you have to work with (for example, the brick or stone that the house is constructed in), and then identify what fabrics, plants or materials will sit comfortably with this.
When approaching a design from scratch, then every element of our design could potentially help link the spaces. For example, we often use a floor finish internally that either complements the materials used on an adjoining garden terrace or is the same; this can really help unify the look and feel of the spaces. Where this isn’t possible, a material in a complementary tone can be equally as successful. Millboard, for example, offer a wide range of composite timber-effect decking boards that can sit well with carpet, stone and timber flooring for interior schemes. For an instant fix, a similar connection to outdoors can be achieved by bringing in cuttings from the very beds and borders over which that room looks. Or introducing houseplants that reflect the colours, texture and tones of those plants.

Traditionally, clients have shown more of their personality in their home than they do in their adjoining garden – this is definitely being turned on its head at the minute. There is an ever-growing understanding of a garden’s potential to become an extension of the house and its character, rather than just another space. Clients are increasingly coming to us in search of outdoor spaces that take on similar functions to those once relegated to the house. That can take the form of outdoor kitchens or a pared-back bar and stools that double up as a break-out space for clients wishing to work outside on their laptops. When selecting outdoor furniture, we look to reference colours used in the interior design of the home in outdoor soft furnishings. Outdoor fabrics are finally offering more than the standard cream, green or taupe tones, becoming more colourful, bolder and fun. And technological advances mean the weaves and colours are much more sophisticated than they once were, so it’s not so difficult to find patterns and colours that will reflect your interior decoration. The same for outdoor rugs; the growing choice here is very much indicative of the blurring of boundaries between inside and out.

It’s important of course in this process to consider the overall size of the exterior space and the interaction with the property. For example, a courtyard garden which is small should closely reflect the interior style as they will be physically so close. Mirrors can be used here to great effect, reflecting the interior style immediately. In larger gardens, the interior colours and materials can be referenced in the foreground with planters and planting. As you move further away from the room/window you can be more adventurous and less constructed in your use of colour.
When designing a space, it’s important however not to become obsessive about linking the two spaces; and instead to hold back and know when to stop. If you are not careful, it can result in a scheme feeling uptight and overtly designed. We would advise starting with subtle references; for example, the warm hues in CorTen rusted steel could be reflected inside in the bronze frame of a mirror, or the colour of silk on lampshades, rather than direct repetition of the material. This is often enough and will result in a far more sophisticated and timeless result.

Here at Woodhouse and Law, we recently completed a project on the Dorset coast, where our client had the opportunity to purchase the property neighbouring their 19th-century coastguard cottage. With a view to creating guest accommodation and entertaining space for visiting friends and family, the brief was to create an understated Scandi coast feel, albeit with a glamourous vibe. Limestone flooring ran throughout the ground floor, continuing onto the dining and lounge terraces outside. Touches of metallic ran from inside to out – in the form of planters, light fittings and accessories – helping to lift the calming space. A pared-back palette of blues, creams, stone, natural wood and slate was also introduced, with touches of warm rust to reflect the seaside location, and that of the surrounding gardens.
Ensuring this referencing of materials, tones and finishes between spaces will not only offer a greater sense of cohesion, but can make your home feel bigger too, as it feels as if rooms extend beyond their physical parameters. More importantly, it will better reflect your own individuality through all spaces, making you instantly feel more comfortable and at ease in your own home.

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