Bringing the outside in

Home and styling magazines will tell you every year that ‘bringing the outside in’ is another key trend this year – but the reality is that with the exception of the ‘daylight robbery’ window tax era, people have always been bringing the outside in; it’s human nature.

You only have to look to the 17th century folk who invented garden rooms and orangeries to protect delicate citrus plants from the frost and to the Victorians who pioneered the conservatory in this country – and these are trends that haven’t gone away.

Why are we so drawn to nature and greenery?

A study led by University of Rochester psychologist, Netta Weinstein, and posted on miller-mccune.com has suggested that the presence of plants and even artwork depicting the natural environment can lower stress levels and promote healing. The study goes so far as to suggest that natural environments humanize us and make us better people.

Another study from the Netherlands found that people who live within 1km of a park or woodland area anxiety or depression, and with mental health being such a key issue at present, it’s hard to find a reason why you wouldn’t want as much of greenery surrounding you as possible .

A quick and easy way to bring the outside in

The quick and easy way to bring the outside in is to introduce more houseplants into your life, a trick which might be easier said than done for some of us. In a recent conversation with the Flowers and Plant Association, we were told “English people take the death of a houseplant very personally”. Apparently any failure on our part to keep a houseplant alive dents our confidence and tendency to buy more plants for the home. However, if you can bring yourself to tread the risky path of houseplant care and keep your self-worth intact, this is one of the most straightforward, space-efficient ways to bring the tranquility of nature into your home space.

Houseplant trends

Who isn’t instantly lifted by the sight of a vase of spring flowers that mark the end of winter’s clutches? Although traditionally we are accustomed to having the odd plant dotted about the home in attractive pots, the most recent trend has been to create ‘tabletop gardens’ by clustering several plants together and in some cases incorporating hanging planters into the scheme.

Whilst a notable visual trend of late is the use of succulents in stone planters, due to the number of domestic chemicals we bring into our homes, such as disinfectants, DIY products and car fumes, experts advise that we furnish our interior with house plants in order to purify the toxins in the air. Good examples include Garden Mum, Spider Plants, Dracaena, Ficus, Peace Lily, Boston Fern, Snake Plant and Bamboo Palm.

A lot more outside inside

But for some people, tabletop gardens and houseplants just aren’t enough, and at this point, structural changes start to happen around the house in order to let even more of the outside in.

People undertaking housebuilds or remodelling are more and more likely to ensure that the window schemes (fenestration) they incorporate into their designs provide a frame for the outside landscape, with apertures and glazing being lengthened to suit the placing of exterior elements such as trees and hills. Indeed, feature windows have become something of an art form, with architects increasingly using the exterior views to change the interior dynamics, and ultimately negating the need for interior artwork. It is for this reason that frameless glazing has become so popular in remodelling and self-build projects, as it doesn’t interrupt the flow between the outside and the inside.

Glazed extensions – the ultimate way to bring the outside in

A Westbury Orangery lets the outside in, even in the heart of an urban landscape.

The ultimate solution to bringing the outside in however, is the addition of the garden room/conservatory/orangery – glazed extensions combining dwarf walls, roof lanterns or glazed gables that add the drama of light and uninterrupted sight lines of the surrounding external views. Providing these are built using quality materials, these are additions that can add significant value to any house. Furthermore, with the ever-growing popularity of al fresco dining combined with the unpredictability of the English weather, such additions can provide a way for us to eat as close to the outside as often as possible.

Blurring the boundaries

Those clever enough to know what they are doing will also opt for a similar palette of materials in the garden to those which feature in the house, thus rendering the landscape a continuation of the interior scheme. The use of a level threshold and continuing the flooring across the border between inside and outside are also highly effective ways to blur the boundaries.

Everyone can bring the outside inside

With UK sales of plants and flowers exceeding 2.2 billion in 2017 and consumers becoming more attuned to the need to pay attention to their mental health, the reality is that most of us want to live in a house where the external surroundings are a prominent feature of the inside too. Whether you’re on a budget or living in luxury, there’s a solution for everyone to bring the outside in – but some solutions are just a bit more gorgeous than others.