How to connect your kitchen and living room to gardens and green spaces

Linking internal spaces with the outside achieves two things: it makes rooms feel bigger and more expansive than they really are, and adds an interesting view that changes throughout the day. The question is, how do you do it well and in a way that works with the flow of the whole house? 

If space is limited, it’s probably best to reserve this inside-outside link for the most special, communal rooms like the living room and the kitchen, these are spaces where families spend most of their time or that work well for entertaining guests. However, if you have enough space other rooms would equally benefit, for example, a child’s play den or a study.

It’s easy to assume that a strong connection with the outside simply requires lots of glazing, but that isn’t necessarily true. Some glazing will be required, but your architect will help you to balance the need for views with the budget available and the orientation of your property. 

Too much glazing can increase the risk of overheating which has knock-on effects on the need for ventilation or shading. As well as the cost of the glazing itself this can cause the project costs to grow quite quickly. A better aim than ‘lots of glazing’ is to frame the views well.

Ideally, your designer will look for ways to ensure you can walk right out from your home into the outdoors; whether that’s into a garden or a small courtyard. Biparting or sliding doors are the most popular ways of doing this because they don’t need a lot of space when fully opened and owing to the floor-to-ceiling expanse of glazing the boundary between inside and outside is almost completely dissolved. 

As well as these types of doors though, you may want to consider bi-folding doors, Crittall-style doors, or even French doors. They each bring a very particular character to your interior. In a more classically-styled heritage home, the timber framing of French doors can be a subtle nod to the painted timber frame windows of Victorian and Georgian homes. If you are seeking a more contemporary contrast, then slimline aluminium-framed panes can be part of achieving that look. 

It’s important to think ahead about how each of these options will age in the future, whereas timber can be repainted in a colour of your choice or even sanded down and finished with a translucent stain, you’re usually stuck with the colour of the aluminium powder coating. On the other hand, aluminium is relatively maintenance-free and doesn’t suffer the warping that can happen with softwood timber frames. 

With a considerable budget – there are further options: instead of having glazed openings within a wall, sliding glazing can be positioned on a track such that when opened, the corner of the room is fully open to the elements – and the glazed doors slide out of sight. While visually impressive, this route will create added complexity, so it’s important to work with well-trained subcontractors and structural engineers. In order to remove the visual clutter of a column where the doors meet, loads will need to be carefully distributed. Oversailing roofs are often used with this type of opening to prevent rain being driven inside – the design and positioning of these also need careful judgement. 

Even though it seems quite simple, the link between indoor and outdoor spaces needs to be carefully handled. Here’s a quick recap of the main things you’re going to want to consider:

  • The amount and scale of glazing, too much, and costs could increase rapidly, too little and the connection between indoor and outdoor feels weak. 
  • What’s the overall look and feel you’re looking to create in your home. The glazing options you choose will need to fit with that. 
  • Consider if you have the budget available to execute the structural component of visually daring options.
  • The nature of the threshold. While you want a seamless bridge between the two zones, in areas that experience high wind and rain the weatherproof seals will be put under a lot of stress. 

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