How to create a seamless flow for indoor/outdoor living
by Michelle Humphrey
As a state that boasts 300 days of sunshine, and 58 mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet in elevation, it’s no surprise people are packing up and heading toward the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Many of the clients we work with tell us that nature is what they would best describe as their “happy place.” This is why, as a Colorado custom homebuilder, indoor-outdoor living is a familiar concept that is integrated into just about every home we build. At the end of the day, it’s never the Viking stove or the marble countertops that our clients tell us they love most about their home; it’s being able to connect with nature and enjoy the views surrounding their property.
Science demonstrates that the human-nature relationship is hardwired into our brain, and there is a direct link between time spent in nature and happiness. Nature reduces stress, increases creativity, improves attention spans, and releases endorphins. In Finland, public health officials recommend that citizens spend at least five hours a month, minimum, in the woods, to preserve mental health. Other studies have shown that the mental health benefits of being amongst nature for just 15 minutes can last for seven hours. Knowing this, it’s important we create sustainable, well-designed homes that incorporate indoor/outdoor living to promote the health and wellbeing of residents.
Showers, fireplaces, fully equipped kitchens, and even cinematic theatres with surround sound are making their way to the backyard. We love being able to make indoor amenities function in an outdoor setting, but it’s not the only way to achieve a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor living. Being able to create a mood within the home that carries to the outdoors forms a harmony that makes two spaces feel like one.
The right type of windows and doors can erase the boundary between the outdoors and indoors, making a patio or deck into an extension of the living room. Today’s operable glass walls and sliding and folding doors are more beautiful, weather resistant, and energy-efficient than ever, creating a seamless transition and allowing in surrounding views, natural light, and ventilation. There’s nothing better than a cool mountain breeze and the smell of fresh Ponderosa Pine right inside your home.
Utilizing organic materials found in nature, such as wood and stone, is another way to blend the outdoors and indoors. Timber construction dates back thousands of years, before the history of mankind was even recorded. When building homes on mountain sites, we frequently incorporate exposed timber frame post and beam construction, replicating what it might feel like to live under a canopy of trees. Other materials, such as clay, can be used to replace traditional drywall. Not only are clay walls beautiful, but the organic earth plaster is a sustainable and non-toxic alternative to traditional drywall. Derived from naturally sourced composites, earth plaster offers the lowest carbon footprint per pound of any interior wall finish.
Most of the time these natural substances are literally right in front of us. We recently built a custom stone fireplace out of ‘moss rock’ granite harvested from a client’s property during excavation and site work. Not only does reusing and recycling materials reduce environmental impact, it saved our client a significant amount of money. And now, a small piece of their land that they fell so much in love with is the focal point in their new home.
Wood, clay, and stone are some of the earth’s natural resources that we use in the construction of our homes, but we also utilize the sun’s energy, the ground’s natural heating and cooling, and rainwater to passively irrigate plantings. The homes we are building in the new master-planned, net zero community GEOs Neighborhood are laid out to optimally use the unique Colorado climate and environment. This means the highest solar gains for the winter, lowest sun exposure for the summer, and maximum water retention for the heavy rains and snow melt.
Many of the homes we build are inspired and determined by the unique environmental characteristics of the land. This could be an arrangement of rocky outcroppings, a site with rolling topography, or a southwest facing view of a snow-capped peak. They become the inspiration for the design. Blending a home into the natural topography and surrounding environment, as if the building has grown from the site, provides a connection to the earth.