Why Our Homes are Moving to the Garden

Monday, August 3, 2015

For years, I’ve used a little motto to describe how we work at DGA: design from the inside out.

These few words have many meanings, from how we bring out what’s inside a client’s mind to our symbiosis of interior and architectural design. But today, I want to talk about the relationship between inside and out – interior and exterior.

Gardens can no longer be thought of as an accessory to the home. While British weather means we can’t use them as much as we like, they are still a source of  light, space and greenery which – if brought inside the home – can add invigorating vibrancy to the entire home.

In London’s Victorian and Edwardian houses, gardens were an afterthought, a place for laundry and not much else. But now urban homeowners desperate for some green want to knock down the single door that leads outside and replace the entire back end with sliding doors and floor to ceiling glass.

Meanwhile, in rural settings where privacy is less of a concern and the views are wider, our clients are free to indulge in as much of the outside as they want. Take White Lodge, our award winning Surrey home, where wrap around glass walls on the ground floor and an uninterrupted aesthetic through the interior and exterior unify the garden and the home.

It’s no surprise that extensions are the most common form of home improvement. More than simply being a cost effective means of adding valuable square metres, the spaces they create are joined with the garden and the elements, where the sun and the rain can be comfortably enjoyed – especially refreshing if the rest of the structure is a typical, closed off brick house.

You’ll notice with nearly every project in our portfolio that visual and physical garden access are core pillars of the design. While kitchens are typically found alongside the garden, play rooms, dining rooms and living rooms are now joining them. More and more people want to bring the outside in, with some new builds becoming almost aquarium-like from the amount of glazing.

Some may feel this blurring of interior and exterior is a trend but I don’t believe it will ever die out. In fact, it will keep growing. What we are seeing is people living how they’ve always wanted to but never could because technology hadn’t caught up.

Glass was once expensive, cold and fragile, so panes were limited to where they were strictly necessary. But advances in thermal efficiency and production have made extensive glazing affordable both in material and running costs. The entire concept of what a home looks like is changing.

The fundamental purpose of a home is to provide shelter but we no longer have to rely on opaque wood and bricks. I’m sure if someone invented a means of making air solid, people would use that too. At a basic, human level we need the light, the smells and the sounds of the outside.

Next week, I’ll go from talking about why our homes are moving towards the garden to how architects can achieve a cohesive design from the inside out.

By John Dyer-Grimes