Kohler Chats: Creating the Perfect Indoor/Outdoor Space

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. For many of us, this is a time when we leave the front door open, uncover the patio furniture and heat up the pool. Our inside lives seamlessly blend with the great outdoors, and our home suddenly plays double duty: part shelter, part oasis.

To help craft that perfect indoor/outdoor space, we spoke with our very own Kohler Senior Designer Leigh Salem, ASID at The KOHLER Store in Glenview, Illinois for some words of wisdom.

What does indoor/outdoor living mean to you?

I’m originally from Del Mar, California and I also spend much of my time in Colorado, so for me, indoor/outdoor living is just a natural part of my life. It’s all about beauty and surroundings—the vistas, the landscapes—and bringing that into your living space. In parts of the country where it’s sunny year round, outdoor kitchens and showers are quite popular. If you’re limited with outdoor living spaces to certain months of the year, you might opt for something like a screened porch with a fireplace or a covered outdoor kitchen.

How do you bring the outside indoors?

The easiest way is with windows. Take advantage of the natural surroundings; let the natural views and sunlight color your space wherever possible. You might incorporate French doors or large accordion doors into your home. This allows you to really open up your space and let the warm breezes flow in. And don’t forget about flow. Think about how the outdoor environment flows into your home. For example, you might consider using the same sconces from your garden in your foyer. Or you can carry the same wood you use on your porch into your home flooring. Using the same colors and materials helps tie the indoor and outdoor spaces together and creates a cohesive look and feel. And last but not least, pepper your space with potted plants. Who doesn’t love a little greenery?

What types of materials work well in both indoor and outdoor environments?

I used to do a lot of resort work in the desert areas of Arizona and Palm Springs, and I used a lot of rusted metal. The beauty of it is that it’s imperfect. I like the juxtaposition of rugged and rustic with very contemporary pieces of glass and stone. It makes the space more eclectic; Ipe wood, teak, slate, limestone, granite, concrete and sandstone are great options that work in both environments. Brushed bronze would be beautiful with slate or more rustic materials. Glass tile and glass sinks would mix very well with stone or bronze. Another good combination is nickel and limestone. It’s that blend of warm and cool, rough and smooth.

Now for the reverse: how do you bring the indoors outside?

Location makes a huge difference when it comes to designing your outside space. No matter what part of the country you live in, you need to consider the elements, be it sun, rain, or snow. Bringing something like a big comfortable chair or an area rug—things you don’t typically find outside—can really help create a cozy, comfortable atmosphere, just do the research to make sure it can handle the elements in your area. One thing that really gives an outdoor space a more personal feel is an artifact. It can be anything from a candle holder to a vintage stone sculpture. In my home, I have an old marble sink that I use as a planter. It creates a conversation piece and gives the outdoor space some personality. When it comes to outdoor kitchens, more and more people are adding designer details, like pot fillers, trough sinks, apron-front sinks, even drapery to help soften the space. It’s an easy way to help the indoors flow comfortably to the outside environment.

For those looking to create an outdoor space—where should they start?

Talk to a designer. I know it sounds self-gratifying, but creating an outdoor space can be tricky. Space planning is the most important, not to mention building codes, material selection, and of course, overall look and feel. A designer can help you determine your footprint and create the right scale and proportion of your space. Of course, that’s not to say let the designer do it all! Creating your indoor/outdoor space means designing a space that’s right for you. People always tell me “it looks like we’ve lived here forever.” As a designer, that is the best compliment I can receive, and when creating your indoor/outdoor space, that’s exactly what you should be aiming for.

Looking for more indoor/outdoor inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board!

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