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Most design principles work indoors and out. Whether you have a sprawling backyard, tiny side patio, front porch, or condo balcony, there are plenty of ways to make your outdoor space seem like an extension of your home. Take a cue from the inspirations below where there are some definite parallels between indoors and outdoors.

This is designer Sharon Mimran’s private yard from our May 2010 issue, and a Tom Scheerer-designed hallway. Both showcase a formal yet welcoming approach to a space based on the classic centre hall plan. The round pedestal table is the key focal point that leads you into the space, and on the left, the fountain directs flow through to the spaces beyond. In Scheerer’s case, the pedestal is covered in that striking high-contrast pleated tablecloth, and in Mimran’s yard it is a large urn-style bird bath. I love how the trellis patterned block wallpaper mirrors the trellis fencing in Mimran’s yard in the same way that the arched clerestory window over the door reminds us of the circular mirror in the mansard roof of the storage shed.

Whether it’s inside or outside, I love it when you can find or create useable space where you never knew it existed. I transformed this neglected area (left) at the side of a house into a pretty dining area several years ago for my old TV show, the Style Dept. on HGTV. A little tree trimming, some limestone tilework, a few lanterns, a striking bench and table set-up and an overhead light hung from a nearby tree and it became a romantic dining area. To me, that always makes an outdoor dining area feel complete.

The space on the right, also by Tom Scheerer, works for the same reasons with benches instead of chairs for a more casual, contemporary vibe indoors. Where the side patio uses individual cushions upholstered in indoor/outdoor fabric, the dining room uses sleek, leather-covered benches.

For an alternate dining room approach, here are two examples of a classic round table set-up. The patio, by John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross, even looks like it could be an outdoor extension of the home on the right, by Erin Martin. Both showcase a breezy, slightly exotic feel as well as a pale monochromatic grey-beige colour scheme. Plus, the wrought iron furniture at the left could work as an indoor dining set while the causal dining chairs on the right could work just as well on a patio. The key to this patio, though, is how the potted plants and hedging soften and frame the furniture groupings.

Symmetrical floor plans are failsafe, and flanking a fireplace with two identical sofas to create an intimate conversation area is a classic living room set-up. In both examples above, the fireplace is the undisputed focal point, especially in the outdoor space where the concrete structure stands out against the lush foliage. Here designer Eric Hughes introduced interior accessories like large throw cushions as well as bright colours to warm up the concrete. In a very different style, the living room on the right has a low coffee table and grounding area rug to define the space in the same way that the large-scale concrete slabs on the left do. But both spaces are perfectly balanced and invoke a sense of calm.

Here are two great examples of how a tight nook can be turned into something special. On the left, Toronto designer and TV host Andrew Pike created a built-in bench in a corner of his urban back yard and added loads of cushions for a big hit of pattern. And on the right, designer Healing Barsanti also used every available square foot to create this cosy built-in window seat with the pattern hit coming from the seat cushion. I love the timberwork framing, which lends a cottage vibe. Both spaces incorporate horizontal wood siding, small-scale accent tables and a bull’s eye focal point (the mirror on the left and the window on the right).

Both Karen von Hahn’s backyard from the August 2010 issue of H&H and this kitchen dinette designed by Steven Gambrel showcase a comfy sectional set-up. Both are loaded up with cushions and wrap into a corner for a casual and inviting living space.

The untreated and greyed ipe wood planks to the left have a raw, unfinished feel like the wide plank floorboards to the right. I love the casing of rusting Cor-Ten steel that 3rd Uncle used for Karen von Hahn’s addition and the contemporary textural backdrop it creates. And if you look closely at the bench, you can see that it’s composed of one built-in and a separate outdoor wicker lounge for loads of flexibility. The room on the right, with its floral fabrics, mullioned windows and wrought iron fixtures, is more of a traditional take, but just as cosy.

For more inspiration, see our Indoor-Outdoor Spaces and Inspiring Backyards photo galleries.

Photo credits:
1a. House & Home May 2010 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
1b. House Beautiful, photography by Christopher Baker
2a. Wish Summer 2008, photography by George Whiteside
2b. Design by Tom Scheerer, House & Home December 2009 issue, photography by Pieter Estersohn
3a. Elle Decor January 2006 issue, photography by William Waldron

3b. Tin Roof Not Rusted, Erin Martin Design
4a. Elle Decor January 2008 issue, photography by Roger Davies
4b. House & Home March 2008 issue, photography by Kim Christie
5a. House & Home March 2009 issue, photography by Laura Arsie
5b. House Beautiful, photography by Douglas Freidman

6a. House & Home August 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
6b. Linden NY, Steven Gambrel

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