How to Bring Nature Indoors

One of the great things about home design is that we get to question the rules of the past, borrow from what we find valuable, and redefine them according to our own needs and sensibilities in the 21st Century.

Image Credit: DesignMine

What does that mean when it comes to connecting the worlds of indoor and outdoor design in our homes?

Well for one thing, it means that the separation mentioned above doesn’t have to be so strict anymore. It also means that introducing natural elements in a space indoors according to our imaginations can be a part of a bigger vision for our property as a whole. Here are some thoughts on how that can work.

Décor choices that include natural motifs

Let’s start with the obvious. As a species, we respond to natural images, scenes, motifs, textures, and more, in an emotional way. That’s why introducing natural imagery to an indoor space in the form of art, photography, and craft is such a go-to strategy for so many. Natural elements help to remind us that we are a part of our environment. And that raises our comfort levels.

Wood flooring, natural stone tile for floors and walls, wood paneling, and other materials that show off their histories in nature are great ways to gain this sense of connection with the natural world indoors. But, even if you’re not looking to embark on a major home renovation project, vases of seasonal wildflowers, tree-branch wall-hangings, pressed leaves or shells in a shadowbox, and other uses of natural elements help to subtly remind us that these materials can play a vital part in interior décor. They help us to feel connected, and secure.

Color schemes

With that understanding of the beauty and connection that nature represents for us, many designers and homeowners are turning to the color palettes of nature to decide which ones to choose for interior schemes. It stands to reason. And, it can end up producing an intensely powerful effect in an indoor space, either boldly or more subtle depending on what you’ve got in mind.

What’s your favorite flower, fruit, vegetable, animal, or type of stone? What favorite photograph or painting of a natural scene that shows off a certain range of color might you be able to apply to an interior color scheme? Which colors that you see out your own window can be incorporated into a plan for redecorating in an interior space using paint, paper, furniture, fabric, or artwork? Color is as primal an element as nature itself. It can be the heart of your plan, and be the source of your success in capturing what’s in your imagination.

Things that grow and change

This is one of the things that separate the natural from the artificial. Nature changes and what we manufacture generally stays the same. Nature has a certain element of the unpredictable, the uncontrolled, and the mysterious. When creating a contrast in a space where you have those manufactured elements that stay pretty static, this is another one of the reasons that bringing nature indoors is such a powerful design direction.

Potted plants and hanging plants can help to add this dynamic to our spaces. We see them grow and change over time. And our activities while in our spaces tend to fall comfortably in line with that growth and life. Those natural elements add a visual value to where they’re placed. They bring out our nurturing sides as we tend to them, too. This in turn affects our emotions in a positive way. It heightens our enjoyment while we spend time indoors, still connected to the natural world that is constantly growing, moving, and changing in time.

Transitions and continuity

Here’s another 21st century dynamic that is laying the old assumptions about the indoor/outdoor divide to rest; deliberate  senses of continuity between indoors and out. Here’s the thing; our whole properties are one. More and more, homeowners and designers are creating vital transitions from indoor spaces to outdoor ones and back again to show that they are two parts of the same thing. Bringing nature indoors in an interior design is a wonderful by-product of this approach.

Wood grained tile can be applied to a living area that leads to a patio using the same tile, or a paver of similar color range, or deck boards that share a similar color spectrum.  This is one means of achieve this sense of flow and lack of visual interruption. Another option is a carpet runner, or twin area rugs that are designed to thrive indoors as well as out. Any textural or tonal element that thrives indoors and out can help to make that physical transition, and sense of stylistic continuity all at once. This is a roundabout way to include nature into an interior just be breaking down the traditional barriers a bit.

Making connections

Blurring the lines between the outdoor and indoor spaces plays right into the whole reason we love natural elements in the first place; they aren’t about strict barriers, but rather are about connections to something greater. That’s what lies behind the idea of including wood, stone, plants, color spectrums, textures, and motifs in our spaces. We want to make our connection to our world in an overt way.

That need to make a connection with something greater goes beyond design; it speaks to our senses of well-being as well. Introducing the natural into an indoor space becomes about how we approach what life at home should feel like, as well as look like.


Rob Jones is a long-time writer, and Editor-In-Chief of the BuildDirect blog. Apart from his interest in interior design and architectural traditions, he’s a father to an eight-year old daughter that regularly beats him at cards (for fun, not money – luckily). Rob on Google Plus