Creating Indoor Comfort Outdoors
As a landscape architecture and construction firm, we create many different types of outdoor living spaces for our Northern Virginia clients. From time to time we are fortunate to collaborate with other design professionals such as residential architects and interiors designers. Leesburg interior designers Julie Hoffmann and Lori DuVal of J & L Interiors were kind enough to offer their perspective on designing outdoor rooms and adding the finishing touches that express style and personality. Here are their answers to our questions.
1 What are the practical requirements of planning an outdoor living space?
Julie: The first thing is durability. Outdoor furniture fabrics must be treated to be weather and mildew resistant. Iron furniture should be powder coated to be rust resistant. If the home is near salt water, we have to be careful about what type of metals we use so they don’t pit. Also, outdoor furniture must have weight to it so that it won’t be overturned on a windy day.
Lori: So many people are enjoying outdoor living now that the variety of available products on the market has become vast compared to what it once was.
2 What resources are available to you when designing an outdoor environment?
Lori: The accessory market in my opinion has become the most exciting area in outdoor design because you have the ability to make outdoor spaces more usable more of the time. In many ways, they can be as comfortable as indoor rooms. There are outdoor heaters, outdoor televisions, candle sticks that are made of stone so they can’t easily be knocked over. There are vast choices for colorful pillows and area rugs
Julie: The other thing that is becoming popular for outdoor living spaces is the ‘zen’ feeling. We are getting more requests for fountains, and cleaner, more serene fabrics.
The outdoors talks to all the senses. Julie DuVal, J & L Interiors
3 How much control of design elements do you have outdoors as compared to indoors?
Lori: It depends on the landscape architect we are working with. With some we just do the furniture.
Julie: One of the things the furniture placement does is it creates different environments, different rooms within the same space.
Lori: And if we want the space to feel a little more luxurious, we may add draperies to create atmosphere for them.
4 What’s your working relationship with the landscape architect?
Julie: We’d like to be there early on, but generally we come in towards the tail end where the landscape design is mostly done and they need the finishing touches of furniture and accessories. It depends on the size of the project.
Lori: We help them understand how to use the space. It’s one thing to have it be very beautiful to look at—but how are you going to live in it? So, having the architect and the designer work together to make sure that aesthetics and functionality work really well is I think a great relationship.
5 How do you think about lighting an outdoor living room?
Julie: I like to see how the landscape architect is going to light an area so that I can plan how I will accentuate it.
Lori: I am a big advocate for any kind of candle light, and for mood lighting. I like string lights for the romantic and twinkly effect. For the majority of the lighting, though, I rely on the landscape designer.
6 How do you approach selection of decorative elements and art?
Julie: What a lot of people love about their outdoor environments is that they are not over stimulating. So less is more.
Lori: I find that people want to add sculptural or water elements outdoors more than art. If there is a covered patio with a hearth, we may hang a piece of art over the fireplace. More often we use concrete statuary and planters. There is also a lot of great ironwork—lanterns and candle holders that function well outdoors.
7 Do you see a difference in the terms “furnishing” and “finishing” as they pertain to designing outdoor living spaces?
Lori: Yes. There is definitely a difference. Furnishing is your structure.
Julie: And finishing is what gives it style and personality. In outdoor environments, furnishing might just be the furniture. And the finishing could be accessory pillows, additional cushions, planters, a rug, or candles.
Lori: One is the functionality and one is the pretty.
Thanks again to Julie and Lori for sharing their thoughts and experience with us. At Surrounds, we are committed to making your experience of “home” complete by extending the pleasures of the indoors into the outdoors. If you’d like to see some possibilities for creating different types of outdoor living spaces to complement your home, browse our landscape design portfolio. Then give a call to speak with one of our landscape architects.