“Heaven is a house with porch lights,” the author Ray Bradbury famously wrote. Most Southerners would agree. In the South, transforming an outdoor area—a patio, screened porch, or landscaped veranda—into a functional “room” is a tradition nearly as old as this nation; just look at the romantic gardens at some of the great historic homes in Charleston, New Orleans, and Savannah. Similarly, inviting the sky, water, and greenery into a home’s interior is a time-honored way to brighten the mood.
For tips on taking full advantage of the fresh air, we consulted David Ivey of Ivey Custom Homes and interior designer Casey Fulton Shipley, who shared their wisdom.
1. Consider your space (and other) limitations.
“We like to begin with discovering a client’s primary needs and purpose to determine that there is ample space,” Shipley says. “Sun exposure, the property layout, and budget are also important factors.” Maybe you envision a broad deck for hosting movie nights for the neighborhood kids, a small courtyard for sipping coffee, or a seamless transition between basement kitchen and backyard pool. Once you have your vision mapped out, you can begin to realize it.
2. Design for comfort, even outside.
While the South’s warmer climate encourages spending time outdoors, you also need to protect your space from the elements. “Screened porches and covered patios provide great coverage from those rainy afternoons or the heat of a midsummer day,” Shipley says. “Pergolas can also be used and look charming with flowering vines or climbers. For those cooler autumn nights, outdoor fire pits and fireplaces provide ample warmth and ambiance.”
3. Glass is your friend.
Of course, sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate, even in the South. On those days, spacious windows and doors are a simple tool for joining the comfort of the indoors with the beauty of the outdoors. For example, Marvin’s scenic door styles—bi-fold, multi-slides, multi-panel sliding, and swinging—afford lush outdoor views.
4. Repeat interior elements on the outside.
“Some additional ways to create continuity may be achieved with flooring, roof extension, and furniture,” Shipley says. Extend the living space visually by choosing outdoor furnishings and accents that mirror the indoor style and color scheme.
5. Take advantage of “soft-scaping.”
Hardscapes—nonliving materials like stone pavers, brick walls, wooden fences, and iron gates—are foundational to an outdoor space and best installed prior to landscaping, Shipley says. But never underestimate the power of the plant. “Soft-scapes are living things such as perennials, trees, or shrubs. These elements can create a sense of connection by blending nature with functionality,” Shipley says. They can also define outdoor spaces and, with the help of Marvin’s scenic windows and doors, enhance a home’s interior.
6. Let there be (outdoor) light.
It can be easy to overlook, but lighting is a core element in an outdoor space. “We recommend layering lighting to set the mood and highlight designated areas,” Shipley says. Go for glow over glare. A combination of low-voltage landscape, string lights, gas lanterns, and outdoor chandeliers is a winning combination.
7. Maintenance matters.
While it might be tempting to skimp on materials for an exterior space, you’ll save yourself a headache by investing in a solid foundation outdoors as well as in. Says Ivey: “It’s best to mimic the architecture and materials of the home. Materials like sandstone, limestone, and unglazed porcelain tile make excellent choices for durable exterior flooring.” Hardy woods like redwood, cedar, and cypress support external structures and are often naturally immune to pests and other outdoor elements. If you want to take durability a step further, he suggests installing an exterior drain to mitigate standing water. And Marvin’s scenic doors are virtually maintenance free.
8. Invest in installation.
It may seem obvious, but enduring enjoyment of any space starts with the manufacturer’s proper installation of building products. For example, an incorrectly installed window or door spells leaking. Installation timing is also essential: “Outdoor products are typically installed when construction is approximately 50 to 65 percent complete,” Shipley says.
9. Prioritize privacy.
No one wants to converse over road traffic, barking dogs, or a loud next-door neighbor. Shipley says undesirable noise can be reduced with wooden fences, vine-covered stone walls, and rows of juniper trees. “Use various sources that work together functionally and aesthetically to blend into the environment,” Shipley says.
10. Give your outdoor space as much purpose as interior rooms.
“We encourage clients to create an outdoor haven that resembles what is inside,” Shipley says. “A limestone fireplace surrounded by comfortable outdoor furniture and gas lantern sconces is enticing to some, while others might prefer a couple of swing beds and a ceiling fan for summer napping. Lastly, do not forget the lawn as extra real estate. A bocce ball court provides entertainment and can be a nice addition to the space.”
Find more tips on blending indoors and out, visit Marvin.com.