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Are You an 'Innie' or an 'Outie'?
by Vanessa Gardner Nagel, APLD

While contemplating my navel isn’t the first thing I think of when I ponder design issues, I do believe it’s important to resolve if you are an “innie” or an “outie” when you think of the design of your interior as it relates to the design of your exterior – or your garden.  You may favor one environment over the other and desire both to be more alike.  Marrying these two environments continues to be a popular design concept.  Why should we care if there is any relationship between the two environments?

Since I brought up the subject of belly buttons, consider what you wear above and below that landmark on your body.  Most people I know try to get the top and bottom to work together.  If you don’t, you feel like your top is out of synch with your bottom – it feels uncoordinated and out of balance.  Addressing your entire environment is a little like determining the clothing you combine to wear each day.  Don’t you just want to tell someone you see that has difficulty combining their clothes when ‘those colors just don’t go together’?  If the top doesn’t work with the bottom, it’s visually jarring.

Your architecture is to your home and garden as your body is to your clothing – it’s the bones of your design.  When you select your clothes you mull over whether that style will work on your shape and height, with your hair and eye color, match your personality, etc.  The architecture of your home should similarly dictate the style of your interior and garden.  If you are considering the installation of a Japanese-style garden around your Victorian home, please reconsider.  Country cottage style combined with mid-century Eames would be a push as well.  Victorian architecture is the epitome of ornate detail – Japanese style is anything but.  This doesn’t mean to say your garden can not be simple if your house has considerable detail.  It does mean that the details in the garden should reflect the style of the house.  Design continuity is what you are striving for here.  Look at the details of your architecture.  What do you see that makes your house unique?  The ubiquitous ranch style is a very simplistic style – typically.  Without a major style direction, you have more freedom with style inside and out.  I’ve seen designers stylishly add Balinese details to an average ranch style, add an interior and garden to match, and -voila – Bali vacation at home!

What kind of details transfer to either side of the threshold? Just about anything, really. Some cues are styles of art, colors, casual versus formal, wood versus wicker, building materials – especially what is on the outside of the house or on the fireplace, curvilinear versus rectilinear, etc. 

While working on a commercial cafeteria for a large high-tech firm, our design team looked at combining carpets into patterns and carried the patterns outside through the glass wall into the hardscape material.  We considered plant colors and translated them into wall, floor, and casework colors.  We looked at ceiling heights and details and took those outside into overhead shade structures. 

Today’s outdoor finishes and furnishings allow even greater latitude of creating the indoor environment outdoors.  More fabric companies are developing weather-resistant materials in fabulous colors and patterns that allow combinations to rival anything that can be done indoors.   Special construction materials for outdoor cushions allow them to be left outside in the rain and dry quickly.  Water-proofed lamps combined with outdoor furniture add to the indoor ambience of the garden.  Vertical portions of the siding of your house or a fence can accommodate wall-type art, while many garden areas can accommodate three-dimensional sculpture – often more dramatic than anything that could be typically placed indoors.  Trees can act as columns.  Vines on a wall become wallpaper.  Overhead shade structures can bring interior details found inside to the landscape.  Even kitchen equipment made for outdoor use can provide a kitchen that any indoor kitchen would envy.

As I sat in a gelato boutique the other day, I was aware that there was a large man-made tree that overhung the counter and lent considerable design impact to the entire room.  Walls were painted with a mural-style design of an exterior of a building.  The effect was that of a sidewalk café, inside.  Having outdoor style inside the house provides an obvious benefit – fair weather seating all year long. 

Especially appealing in an apartment with little to no garden nearby, bringing the garden setting inside can provide a peaceful retreat from hectic city life.  Think of a garden paradise inside with fan palms, electrically-outfitted garden lanterns, a small indoor water feature for the ‘splash-factor’, comfy garden lounge chairs, stone paving on tables and floor combined with green carpet.  (Leave the Astro-turf outdoors, the carpet feels better between bare toes.)  Getting your vitamin D from sunshine could be your next biggest challenge.

Innie or OutieA strikingly colorful bench that could be used indoors or out.


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