To provide background and insight to the following passage, this is a brief introduction to Jordan Vainright Proctor- passionate observer and designer of the interior environment. Since graduating from East Carolina University in 2007 with a BS in Interior Design, there has been an ensuing curiosity and yearning to understand how proper interior design results in the betterment of the overall wellbeing of a dwelling’s inhabitants.

 “Interior Design”, is defined by the National Council for Interior Design as follows:

Interior Design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project….(

Before delving into advice about new designs for spring and summer, let us consider the differences between interior decoration and design, as this will set the stage for my advice. Decoration refers to the superficial elements of an environment—the adornment and embellishment; do not confuse decoration with design. Well conceived and executed interior design positively affects the function of the interior environment in a way that fundamentally influences the inhabitant’s state of mind. For example, a poorly designed interior environment with aesthetically pleasing decorations will still lack comfort and functionality. This sums up my approach as an Interior Designer…not decorator.

Along the line of interior design, do not stop at the word “interior”. I say with conviction that interior design has a responsibility to include the exterior “rooms” of a dwelling just as much as the interior. Through the ages, human patterns have been interconnected with nature.  As spring arrives and summer fast approaches, we are compelled to move outdoors. It is this time of year that we plan for reading in a sunny spot on the porch, sprucing up the potted plants on the terrace, and entertaining in the outdoor kitchen. This is evidence enough that the outdoor environment is an integral component of the human experience.

In “A Pattern Language”,a book on the study of design by Christopher Alexander, he and his team of researchers report that in order to have positive energies within a dwelling, its exterior environment must be considered. Alexander and his team state,

A building is most often thought of as something which turns inward–towards its rooms. People do not often think of a building as something which must also be oriented toward the outside.

A building should not be thought of as a shell cut off from the outside; there must be a blurred dividing line between the interior and the exterior. A home should have integrated porches, patios, terraces, and porticos. For the flow from the interior to the exterior to be uninhibited, the interior and exterior gathering spaces should be adjacent. One of the reasons for this is the natural flow between the interior and exterior when the respective gathering spaces are side by side. Another helpful aspect is that the walls of the building shell provide the perfect backdrop for a dweller to “lean” against resulting in a feeling of shelter. Alexander points out, that these gathering spaces should be on the south side of the building with a sunny spot. The south side gets continuous sun from sunrise to sunset that is not overwhelming but instead luminous. It is where the sun can touch and energize the outdoor room. It is common knowledge in this study that the north side of the dwelling is the “coldest” and gloomiest. The east side of the building shell gets the pleasing morning light, but often results in a shadowy space as noon comes and goes. Then, the west side is where the intense and feverish afternoon sunlight lands. It is often too intense and direct for pleasant living spaces.

 It would seem logical to assume that a well maintained yard or garden would be a sufficient location and solution to the outdoor space. Yet, Alexander and his researchers have argued to the contrary. The following is stated in “A Pattern Language”:

A garden is the place for lying in the grass, swinging, croquet, growing flowers, throwing a ball for the dog. But there is another way of being outdoors: and its needs are not met by the garden at all.

In order for an outdoor room or exterior living room to contribute to a well-rounded dwelling, it must be a continuation of the interior environment. The garden unintentionally ends up being a disconnected component. It takes effort to get out to the garden making it too much of a hassle to be an extension of the house. A porch or patio that is adjacent to an interior gathering space becomes a natural extension of the dwelling making for a fulfilled inhabitant. We need to sit in the sun, hear and see nature, and take in fresh air.

     Be inspired to establish an exterior room at your home. Embark on the design of your outdoor living room, and you will have a new love affair with your house.  To start, establish which side of your house is the south side. If there is no immediate entrance/exit from your interior dwelling to this side of your house, figure out a way to link an entrance through a walkway with a form of enclosure. Construct a covered trellis that leads to the south side. Make it visually interesting- allow ivy to meander up the trellis or create a water element that lures you along the path to the south side location. If you can sit with your back to the building shell, your line of sight will then be outward. Allow for privacy so that it becomes a protected continuation of the interior. Acquire furniture that is comfortable and enhances the outdoor experience. If you get outdoor cushions that are comfortable, you will end up sitting and staying as you enjoy the outdoors, instead of merely watching the cushions fade as you sit inside. From a decoration standpoint, purple is a wonderful color to choose for accents. Purple does not compete with the natural greens found in nature. It provides a pleasant contrast and allows for nature’s colors to shine.

Enjoy this beautiful time of year, and dream up some ideas for all that you can create in your outdoor rooms. Remember to plan wisely with your interior/exterior environment and it will result in healthy living.