Inside out, or outside in ????
As I write we’re into our second consecutive week of what these days passes for summer in this country, so I thought I ought to talk about something topical (that and the fact that the Editor asked me to, of course).
Even though, or perhaps especially because, our summer can be all too brief and a little watered down from what it used to be, we really need to make the most of it, prolonging and enlarging the experience to the max !!!
So what does this mean in terms of interiors? Well, the obvious way to join the inside to the out is with a conservatory. Just this spring I devoted a whole article to conservatories, so this time I’ll trim it back to the essentials.
I believe a successful conservatory is one that looks like it’s always been there, and it’s meant to be there. It blends in with the architecture of the house, both in style and proportion. It is thoughtfully situated with regards to both access from within the house, and its place in the garden. It doesn’t stick out like a huge blister, and its perimeters are softened by shrubs and plants, thus making it the perfect halfway house between indoor and out.
So how can we achieve this, and what are the pitfalls to look out for? If you are starting from scratch and planning to add a new conservatory, the first and fundamental point to consider is the function of your new room. Will it be an extension of a family area to provide extra all day space? Will it run off a kitchen to give an al fresco feel to dining? Or will it be a quiet bolt hole away from the hustle and bustle after a demanding day? Of course, you may want it to be all these and more, but be careful not to try to cram a quart into a pint pot (I wonder if we can go back to quarts and pints now we’re leaving the E.U. ????). A cluttered and over-furnished conservatory is a disaster, not only aesthetically but in practical terms too. As soon as the overall feeling of space and relaxation is lost, so is the desire to use it.
Supposing we haven’t got the room or the budget to add a conservatory, how can we cash in on our slice of summer? Easy peasy . . . just inject a splash of summer into your décor. Whether you have a dedicated morning/breakfast room, or like most folks these days an all-encompassing kitchen cum diner, there are some really fabulous summery wallpapers and fabrics around that naturally lead your eye from inside the room into the garden. Not only that, but they are almost guaranteed to make you smile each time you enter the room, and elongate the sense of summer way into the autumn and beyond. For me, the go-to design house for the “happy factor” is, as always, Designers Guild. Regular readers will know that they are one of my all-time favourite design companies, and won’t be surprised to learn that I’ll be covering their new season’s launch in greater detail next month.
That’s covered the inside out, so what about the outside in? Another great way to integrate the two areas is by looking on your patio as a room in itself. Don’t just plonk any old furniture from the local DIY shed on it, but dress it thoughtfully. There is some truly stunning garden furniture around now, but why not make it your own by adding seat and back cushions that really work with your interior décor, rather than sticking with the plain boring calico or canvas usually supplied? Several companies offer ranges of dedicated indoor/outdoor fabrics, whose fibre content makes them not only ideal for gardens and terraces as well as indoor use, but great for the poolside too (if you’re lucky enough to have one of course). There are some very jolly nautical themed offerings, but seeing as we don’t have a lot of sea around the Midlands, my favourite has to be the Sea Breeze collection from Osborne & Little. Although the title sounds nautical, the fabrics range from beautiful and extremely useable small prints and dobby weaves, through vibrant stripes to magnificent large florals.
Finally, let’s talk a little about lighting. Good lighting is as important in an outdoor room as in any other – perhaps even more so. We’re used to seeing concealed lighting or lighting posts on patios, but be prepared to push the boundaries. The exquisite Italian company Flos offer a wonderful range of contemporary and truly stylish outdoor floor lamps, while for the super-adventurous, how about one of Masiero’s stunning crystal and glass chandeliers? Now that’s what I call opulent !!!!!
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - August 2016
Sea Breeze images above or to the right courtesy of Osborne & Little
Images below courtesy of 1: Flos - Superarchimon Outdoor, 2: Astro - Oslo, 3: Masiero - Drylight Range, 4: Alec Steventon.