Bringing the outside in is a common phrase these days; but what does it really mean, and how do you achieve it?
Not surprisingly, the general idea is that you should see the outdoors from indoors; but you could do that from your kitchen window. No; for the outside to feel part of the inside, it needs to be seamless; from your armchair or dining table, you should be able to see plants, flowers, bushes and shrubs.
Glass extensions, garden rooms and orangeries
A common way of bringing the outside in is to build a garden room of some description. This may be a glass extension or a conservatory. Ideally, it should form part of the existing house. Cheaper conservatories tend to be added on to a house beyond partition doors, whereas a glass extension is enjoyed through a permanent opening, usually in the side or end of the original property. Below, we designed this glazed side extension with views over the garden.
folding sliding doors and bifold doors
A knock through with full-width, folding-sliding or bifold doors offers a broad view of the estate. It makes the dining experience that much more pleasurable and, with the kitchen nearby, you can spill out onto the patio for al fresco entertaining. You’ll notice here that we achieved level access from inside to out.
A cheaper option to bi-fold doors is a pair of french doors. UPVC models are the cheapest, but consider timber too as in our design below. If budget allows, look to install side lights (full-height windows) to widen the view.
Large Sliding doors
Another alternative is a set of sliding doors, as in this new build near Bath. Go for the largest glass panels possible for an uninterrupted view of the grounds.
One of our bugbears is an uneven threshold. Too many homes suffer from these because builders find them easier to install. In the photo below, not only do you need to step over the threshold from inside, you then immediately step down onto a surface below floor level. This presents a trip hazard. You can imagine senior clients and older visitors struggling here just to step into the garden.
With a bit of thought and effort, you can achieve a flush, or near flush, threshold. In the first example below, you can see that the levels are the same inside and out. You simply carry on walking as if the threshold isn’t there.
Builders will consider a possible downside being the reduction in weather-resistance, particularly if the doors face prevailing winds; they feel that rain may be driven under the doors. However, in practice, this has never been a problem in 10 years of use. Reputable fabricators actually produce specific flush-level door and frame options. There are sufficient rubber seals and other means to maintain the integrity of the doors. You do need to watch that stones and other debris don’t accumulate outside, as it is possible to snag the door when opening. However, in our experience, this has never proved to be a problem.
Our design below is an example of a near flush threshold, where the difference in levels is not noticeable (about 20mm). This design has the added advantage of a small upstand against which the doors close to provide additional weather resistance. But you can see that there is nothing to step over as such.
So before your builder measures up, tell them that you want a flush or near flush threshold with no frame to step over. It is very straightforward for them to construct a lower external surface on which the frame sits, so that the top of the frame is flush with the internal finished floor level, and close to flush with the external level.
Tiles to match inside and out
Choose matching tiles inside and out to make the outside feel part of the inside. There is an ever-increasing range of anti-slip external versions of internal tiles that provide a seamless transition across the threshold, as in our design below.
It is almost always possible to make the first outward step on the level. If you need to step down to the garden, do so clear of the threshold so you have a steady platform to start with before descending.
If you go to the trouble of a lovely glass extension and level access to the patio, make sure that the outside you bring in is actually worthwhile. We encourage our clients to accommodate stylish planters with architectural plants, and to light up their patios, trees and bushes.
Illuminated outdoor features allow you to enjoy bringing the outside in for more of the day, and particularly in the UK’s winter months.
bringing the outside in
If you are planning a renovation, look to bring the outside in. It is uplifting as well as convenient. To give you some idea of costs for the projects we used to illustrate these ideas, see our page on how much things cost.Back to blog