Real Estate

Indoor/outdoor living

What goes outside impacts how we live inside

Checking the weather across the globe helps me think about my family and friends in their daily lives. A quick scroll and I know that Copenhagen ranges from chilly to chillier, Kauai is very warm and raining, Bangalore is having torrential rains and lightning, Chapel Hill is steamy with thunder, and our Peninsula is having glorious moderate temperatures with clear skies.

It is no wonder that indoor/outdoor living is central to our lifestyle. Many cafes and restaurants include outdoor service.

Businesses and medical centers have outdoor gardens for employees and customers. School curriculum includes outdoor classes and activities.

Our homes often blend the indoors with the outdoors. Visibility of landscaping from large-paned windows or sliding-glass doors highlights the garden outside. For those too busy or unable to venture outside, much of the outdoors can be admired from within. Creating a focal point with a sculpture or colorful plant or tree, particularly one that changes with the seasons, is like creating art within the window frame. Placing a bench in the view can entice one outside, or simply be a metaphor for the experience of relaxation.

Transition areas are decks and patios. They are the favorite living spaces because they share the best elements of the garden with the comforts of indoor living. Chairs and tables, lounges, and even rugs and accessories make these spaces special. There are many options of sun-resistant fabrics that can be used on cushions, accent pillows and curtains to contain the spaces during very sunny days or evenings.

Outdoor kitchens have become very popular. Whether a simple barbecue and a table, or a more elaborate entertainment center, many people enjoy spending as much time as they want outside. An outdoor cooking center makes it easier to have meals with family and guests without the constant traffic in and out of the house. The cabinetry needs to be weather resistant to protect appliances and cooking supplies.

A seasonal, fabric-covered pavilion extends the times the outdoors can be enjoyed, out of the sun or light rain. An outdoor heater can provide thermal comfort and expand the enjoyment to evening hours or a cool fall, even some winter days.

Creating separate rooms within the garden is particularly enjoyable. Some years ago I found an antique metal garden pavilion frame that spans 12 feet and has a tall domed top. It is open above and on all sides. I had it placed on a low octagonal base of the same size at one side of the garden.

Between each of the eight arches I planted table grapes. They have grown over the years to cover much of the space. A wagon wheel glass-top table and six to eight chairs complete the small dining "room." For dinner I light candles in the chandelier.

Perhaps the most delightful part of outdoor rooms or transition areas is the scent of plantings. Star jasmine, wisteria, roses, fruit trees and citrus blossoms are a few fragrant choices that are not only aromatic, but attract bumblebees and hummingbirds.

While studying for my LEED AP test last year, I learned that city planning offices could award points for maximizing exterior visibility. There are many health benefits from fresh air and sunshine as well as the inspiration of the outdoor environment.

There are many ways to create enjoyable indoor-outdoor living spaces for our daily lives. The recent Pacific Coast Building Conference in San Francisco had several displays that highlighted functional ideas. For example:

* An obelisk-shaped heater by Napoleon Fireplaces that functioned as a light and heat source could grace any area. The company also makes wall-mounted fireplaces and wall-mounted water features. Napoleon Fireplaces

* The Danver Company, which makes stainless-steel cabinets for outdoor kitchens, now offers wood tones and fun colors. Danver Company

* Belgard, an interlocking driveway paver company, has expanded its offering to include a stone-covered cook center with waterfalls on each side. Belgard

We have the best weather to enjoy our indoor/outdoor spaces all year. Make the most of it!

Risë Krag, ASID, associate AIA, IESGG, is founder of RKI Interior Design, a full-service interior-design firm. She can be reached at 650-854-9090 or RKI Interior Design. Design problems can be sent directly to

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