Summer, the Great Equalizer

It’s easy for interior designers to focus on indoor spaces only. After all, these are the only spaces that can be inhabited year round.

But once the spring and summer months roll around, a property’s exterior spaces open up and the gap between indoors and out blurs.

Summer is the great equalizer for residential properties because it puts outdoor spaces on the same level as interiors. And savvy designers know that integrating interior and exterior spaces will not only unify, but also amplify their design.

The Importance of Cohesion

To appreciate the importance of unifying interior and exterior design, consider the difference between how residents and guests experience a property. Residents experience a home from the inside out, but for their guests, it is the exact opposite. Thus, even though residents are more familiar with their property, they may be less aware of how it may be perceived by others.

Rather than allow exterior spaces to appear disconnected to interiors, it makes sense to build connectivity between both spaces. This can be achieved architecturally to a degree, but the simplest and most effective way of bridging indoor and outdoor spaces is through the use of shared design materials such as stone or tile.

Regardless of whether a lanai or patio area is built-out to the extent that a kitchen or bathroom is, using the same surface materials in these areas is an easy way to forge a more cohesive design.

Outside In

Surprisingly, the best way to integrate exterior and interior spaces is the same way that guests experience them – from the outside in. This is due to the simple fact that exterior surfaces must stand up to forces of nature, in addition to human traffic, while interior surfaces generally have substantially lighter demands upon them. 

The beautiful slab of Carrara Marble you might choose for a countertop or backsplash simply isn’t equipped to withstand the elements in the way that the durable porcelain field tiles from our Landscape Collection can. Of course, you could choose to use the porcelain inside as well to unify the interior and exterior spaces, but you might prefer to simply unify the look instead by using the textured Carrara Landscape field tiles outside.

Swimming pools place perhaps the greatest environmental demands on surface materials, especially below the waterline. Porous or even semi-porous stone tiles can’t withstand the submersion or chlorine and other chemicals. However, glass mosaic tiles such as those in our Shimmer Collection will do so swimmingly. And, make no mistake, while glass products like Shimmer or Walker Zanger Studio’s Marble Impressions recycled glass mosaics are rated for use in swimming pools, they are every bit as lovely when used in interior spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms. Not only are they a great way to unify your interior and exterior designs, they’re an excellent design choice, period.

Never Sacrifice

The primary takeaway is that your interior design does not need to be diminished in any way by unifying interior and exterior spaces. Rather, it should substantially improve both.

While it makes sense to begin planning interior spaces after exterior ones, designers don’t need to limit interiors to only products that are rated for exterior use in order to make it happen. Interiors still need to resonate with their inhabitants, and designers are generally at their most creative when limitations are few. 

Walker Zanger offers an enormous variety of beautiful surface materials capable of standing up to the elements, and these can be integrated with interior-only products in a variety of creative ways, including matching shapes, colors, or aesthetic styles. 

For example, the porcelain field tiles in our Barcelona Collection can be used in a way that creates harmony between exterior and interior stones. Rated for outdoor use, and fabricated to look like various colored slabs of natural onyx, these large-format tiles can actually be bookmatched like natural stones. So, even if a designer specifies a different stone to bookmatch for an interior feature wall, simply bookmatching the Barcelona tiles in exterior spaces can go a long way toward creating a more cohesive overall design.

The best advice is to weave together elements that can live in both worlds, and allow them to become the common thread that bridges together both interior and exterior spaces to unify your design.