Q. Dear Andrew, with summer coming up I want to make the most of my garden. How can I bring the outside into my house?
A. To create a seamless transition between the inside and the outside use a similar flooring. For example, lay limestone in your living room and for your patio. Use honed limestone for the outdoors to reduce its slipperiness and have a smooth limestone inside. If you have wood flooring in your lounge, then lay smart decking to create a space that seems far bigger.
Try to include large doors that fold back with no visible fittings in the middle. This blurs the division between inside and out, especially if you have similar flooring. Your garden furniture should be of equal quality to your indoor furniture – nowadays you can get high-quality all-weather sofas. You need to consider the view of the garden that you get from the inside. Have lightweight curtains and don’t crowd the room.
Trick the eye by including houseplants in your interior space. You can also continue the colour scheme from the lounge into the garden by planting flowers of similar colours.
If you want you can try to incorporate media – waterproof speakers are now available but position them appropriately and be considerate. Have some lighting outdoors but less is definitely more – a few lights at a low level and illuminate some trees.
Q. Dear Andrew, I want to make my whole living area open-plan – what do I need to consider?
A. Open-plan is the current trend but you need to design the space carefully – it is easy to end up with a big room with no identity. The first thing to do is to get structural advice from a professional before you start knocking down walls. Then think about layout – for example, the dining area should be next to the kitchen – and create areas that are purely for walking through.
You want to give each area its own identity and there are a number of ways to do this. For example, set the kitchen apart by laying a stone floor and having wood elsewhere and in the living room, put your furniture around a rug. Having a neutral decorating base palette but bring a different colour into each of the separate areas to enhance definition. Create a focal point in each area – for example, have a feature wall in the living room or create a kitchen island with a funky extractor fan. But keep finishes such as the sockets the same and only use one type of wood.
Open-plan living is different to traditional living. Storage solutions are essential – you can’t close off a room to hide your clutter and the lack of walls makes it difficult to have sideboards or even kitchen cabinets. It also means fewer radiators so underfloor heating might be a better bet.
Open-plan rooms are noisier so include soft furnishings and be intelligent about your choice of appliances – for example, Miele dishwashers are more expensive but are much quieter.
Andrew Dunning is head designer at APD Interiors, an interior design consultancy, www.apdinteriors.com. Follow his design tips on Twitter @andrewdunning