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Coordinating Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

A decade ago, outdoor living spaces were often an afterthought. The typical patio might have a plain concrete deck with aluminum-framed chairs, a white metal table and a round kettle-like grill. Today, of course, there are many more options for outdoor living, and designers have embraced the trend.

Coordinating Indoor and Outdoor Spaces 

"The outdoor room is now our primary entertaining space," says interior designer Bruce Goff, principal of Domus Design Group in Reno and San Francisco. The reason, he says, is that "more people are traveling to gorgeous places like Hawaii, where the outdoors is the primary living environment."

But here's the rub: How do you create a seamless flow between the inside and the outside -- making color, texture, form and design seem as effortless as possible?

Repetition as unifier
The answer is to use some of the same construction materials, colors and textures outside that you used inside the house. "Don't look at the interior separately from the outdoors," says Goff. "Think of the outside as the area that unifies."

An obvious place to start this unification is with surfaces. If the patio is made from concrete, coloring it to match the interior flooring is very effective and doesn't raise the cost much. "We did that with a condo project by suggesting that all the patios be a color or tone that brought the color of the home's hardwood flooring outside. It created a flow between to the two areas."

With outside kitchens so popular, Goff also recommends countertops that have the same or similar color and texture as those used inside. "Most materials now are usable both inside and out, like granite and many different types of stone," he says.

Vertical surfaces can be coordinated too. Gabriele Campbell, an accredited home staging professional in Alberta, Canada, says that if you have a river-rock fireplace inside, consider surrounding the patio with a short wall made from materials with the same color or texture.

Framing the view
How effectively interior and exterior are unified has a lot to do with how outside views are framed. "Windows and doors function as large picture frames that focus our view," says Goff. To achieve a smooth transition, choose a window-frame color and molding based on the materials next to them and what you see through them.

If you have French doors separating the kitchen from the patio, Campbell says to spend a little time considering the visual interplay between the two spaces. You may gain an entirely new perspective that will make it easier to stage the home effectively. "Because the outdoor space is intended as an extension of the house, it shouldn't be treated as an afterthought," she says. "Clutter is out. As is anything that is mismatched or in need of repair."

Campbell says that the best fabrics to use when staging an outdoor room are easy to maintain and have calming, soothing patterns and colors. "Colors that people find generally pleasing are cream, beige and tan -- all restful and earthy tones." For accent, you can use more brightly colored pillows, lanterns, and chair or couch cushions.

The big thing, says Campbell, is to treat outdoor rooms not as add-ons but as luxury spaces -- an extension of the living space that adds square footage to a home.