The Indoor-Outdoor Relationship

New American Home 2013 Outdoor Bedroom

The indoor-outdoor relationship is on full display at The New American Home 2013 in Henderson, Nevada.

From the time he first laid line to paper when designing this home, architect Michael Gardner of Blue Heron says he was thinking holistically, blurring the lines between indoors and out.

New American Home 2013 Outdoor Loft Bar

Outdoor Loft Bar

This is a common philosophy for Blue Heron, who built the 2013 New American Home, and whose specialty is desert contemporary. Blue Heron co-founder Tyler Jones says, “We focus on indoor and outdoor relationships, designing the in and the out at the same time.” Their approach is to treat the exterior of the home like the interior from the very start of planning, which means it’s an integrated team of architect, landscape architect and interior designer working closely together to bring the joint vision to fruition.

The blurring of lines that Gardner speaks of begins at the home’s main front exterior entrance between the two garages. In this area, you’re moving from public space to exterior private space; although it almost feels as though you’re inside, you’re not completely sure. Gardner explains that when you’re in the true front entrance, the northern part of the space is public, and the southern side is private, which allows you to leave that entry area completely open, while maintaining privacy and security. There are two sets of doors on each side that allow you to easily go back into conditioned space, which Gardner says makes the home “very livable.”

When Boundaries Disappear

New American Home 2013 Sunken Patio

Outdoor Living Space

Almost all of the rooms in the home have some direct access to outside, and architectural features are used to seamlessly blend outside and inside, such as pocket doors and sliding doors, which are all automated for easy use. “The purpose of these features,” says Gardner, “is to allow a line of sight and visual connection from inside to outside.” The kitchen/ great room area’s use of corner pocket doors allows for indoor/outdoor living possibly at its finest: when the doors are open you can experience this “wow” factor by literally sitting in the living room while dangling your feet in the pool.

The master bath is another area that highlights the seamless blending of indoor/outdoor. Cabinetry was suspended between two walls, so as you approach the sinks from the entrance of the master bath, you’re looking into a private master courtyard with an exterior shower. “Standing at the sink,” explains Jones, “you can look straight through to the courtyard because the mirrors are seamlessly integrated into the walls.” When needed, the mirrors swing out, and then can be tucked back in place so as not to disrupt the clean visual to outside.

Organic Materials Fit Right In

In plain view from the master bedroom is the outdoor bedroom, which includes an outdoor daybed with nightstands on both sides. Also in this area is a rejuvenation room, which opens to the outdoors on three sides like a spa.

New American Home 2013 Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

New American Home 2013 Master Suite Hallway

Master Suite Hallway

Interior Designer on the home, Lyndsay Janssen of Blue Heron, says that the use of a lot of organic materials, such as stone and wood, helped to create the seamless indoor/outdoor experience. Gabions—manmade wire supports filled with rock—were used in both interior and exterior applications, including the master suite along interior and exterior walls. Stone was produced by Environmental Stoneworks in panels that replicate a dry river bed, its horizontal lines fitting well with the architecture. “The stone is unique and totally novel,” says Jones, “so it fits right in.”

Wood also played a large role in multiple areas of the home, primarily through the use of Resysta, which is a sustainable product made from recycled rice husks and polymers, but it looks like wood planking. This product was used inside and outside, and was a large part of the design, according to Jones and Gardner. They especially liked Resysta for its versatility because it could be sanded, stained and applied in ways to give them the clean look they wanted, and also because of its sustainable properties and wearability in exterior applications.

While the use of so much wood and stone could be harsh, designer Janssen explains the plan of warming it up through the color palette, which is also borrowed from nature. The majority of the color palette in the upper levels is warmer brown tones, with pops of color here and there “to add an element of surprise.” Downstairs, a gray/white/blonde palette is used, along with a silver limestone pattern. Janssen says of the entire house, “None of the spaces make you feel like you can’t touch anything. It’s warm, and it invites you to sit down and relax.”

She also notes that greenery is used in a big way, both inside and out. “Because you can see straight through the home, and from inside to outside in so many places, even the backdrop of the home ties into the interior spaces.” She says that the team likes it when someone in the home has to stop and think, “Am I inside or outside?”

A Peaceful, Easy Feeling

New American Home 2013 Dining Room

Dining Room

Far from leaving a visitor disoriented, this seamless blending of indoor/outdoor leaves one feeling peaceful, says architect Gardner. He explains this is accomplished by creating different focal points. “When you’re in any space within this home, and you turn 360 degrees, you see into different interior spaces, as well as outside, but we’ve designed it so that you always have one focal point up close, and then something farther away.” One example of this is in the dining room, where the intimate visual focal point is the wall mural, while pocket doors allow you to look across the courtyard and down into the Zen garden.

Gardner describes having this series of vignettes as a way for the architecture, the landscape—everything—to work together. Jones adds that there are “a lot of architectural design elements that bridge space and connect one area to the next,” describing the relationship of some of the elevations and the water elements from this standpoint. “The interior and exterior spaces of the basement are particularly dynamic. Three spaces relate to a very large exterior space. The subterranean courtyard relates strongly to the first and second floor as well.” Much of what ties this all together is the water features that actually “spill” from one level to the next. Fire features are used throughout—inside and out—as another key crossover element.

Gardner believes that the indoors and outdoors truly do work hand in hand, and this has to be taken into account throughout the whole process. “We notice the hierarchy of the plants and the landscape to the architecture. You can see this in the organization of the elements. It’s a series of views. It’s not chaotic. It’s soothing and calming.” By paying such close attention to the indoor/ outdoor relationships, and by approaching it as a total, integrated space, Gardner says it expands people’s vision of what indoor/outdoor can be, and it enhances the home’s livability. “What you end up with is a home that feels and lives like it’s a luscious estate.”

The Climate Is Right

Admittedly, Jones and Gardner say that indoor/outdoor relationships are easier to do in Las Vegas than in some other areas. But indoor/outdoor living is a trend that is being seen not only on the coasts or in warmer climates, and there has been more consumer awareness and demand for these features in recent years.

New American Home 2013 Casita


The part of this home in regard to indoor/outdoor that builders in other parts of the country can take away, says Jones, “is the integration of the design, the blending of interior and exterior materials.” Architect Gardner agrees that there are elements employed here that are translatable to other climates, and he says the trick is to approach it through “regionally responsive design.” In this home, he says they used tactics to get light in without exposing it to too much heat, such as placing linear slit windows on the south facing side. “Everywhere in the country you have to deal with south facing or west facing glass,” says Gardner. He recommends examining solar orientation, overhangs, and using doors versus smaller broken up windows to invite the outdoor space in. “Think of it holistically as part of the design process. You can do this anywhere, and it doesn’t cost more.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 13, Issue 1 (January 2013) of Portfolio Magazine.
Portfolio Magazine is an award-winning showcase of exciting design ideas and industry insights.

A Secluded Haven

This is not your garden building standards variety garden.

Towering palms. A splashing fountain. Flowing greenery along a curving colonnade. These are just some of the highlights of the formal garden designed by Scott Redmond, the landscape architect for The New American Home 2011. His creative vision was three-fold. In sun-drenched Orlando, a garden is a year-round pleasure, meant to provide both a relaxing outdoor space and a spectacular window view. In addition, on the smaller lots of an urban infill home, the garden is also a way to create an inviting private haven in a busy neighborhood.

From the beginning, Redmond was captivated by the possibilities of The New American Home. “We got involved because I saw the plans and I was intrigued by possibility,” he confides. “The basic structure for the landscape was cut out by the architect in the house plans. The geometry and rhythm of the architecture suggested strong spaces and very different spaces,” he says.

The classic design of the formal garden breaks a property into a variety of “rooms”, each with its own very different style. The New American Home’s outdoor blueprint includes a palm court, a secret garden, a pool and outdoor entertaining area.

The palm court is the largest garden room. The broad, green lawn is lined with palm trees, concluding in a 12-foot wall and fountain as focal point. The fountain wall provides the luxury of privacy while the open lawn and palms create a feeling of expansiveness. Designed on the center and crossaxis sight-lines of the house, the garden forms striking vistas from the Great Room, Family Room and the Master Sleeping Room.

Visitors make their way into the secret garden by way of a curving path through tall, lush landscaping. Tucked in a corner of the property, the area is a step down in elevation, providing even more solitude. The space embraces the guest with the gently arched wall and colonnade, surrounded by greenery. From above, the space becomes a verdant tableau when viewed from the Family Room.

Connecting the two spaces is a bar and dining area, perfect for entertaining or quiet family time. In addition to the glorious setting, the area includes all the food-preparation must-haves, including a grill, icemaker, refrigerator and pizza oven.

And what’s a home in Florida without a swimming pool? Once again taking on the powerful geometry of the house, the pool area becomes an extension of the Master Bedroom. The effect is yet another breath-taking indoor view and inviting outdoor room.

What’s designer Redmond’s favorite aspect of his green space? “The strong definition and connection between the spaces, very different rooms in such close proximity,” he responds. “It makes the space very striking.”

It’s certain that the homeowners will consider it their own private garden of Eden.

This article originally appeared in Volume 11, Issue 1 (January 2011) of Portfolio Magazine.
Portfolio Magazine is an award-winning showcase of exciting design ideas and industry insights.

Turning Your Lifestyle Inside Out

The climate is right for outdoor living. The consumer climate, that is. The trend toward “the outdoor living room” continues across the country, not just in the contemporary desert living styles of the sun-drenched Las Vegas desert. Research by the National Association of Home Builders confirms that today’s homebuyers still put a high priority on outdoor features. A patio, porch or deck is preferred by nearly 80% of respondents. That puts outdoor features on par with kitchen islands and walk-in pantries, whirlpool tubs in the bath, and even dining rooms.

Tyler Jones, principal with Blue Heron, concurs. Among Blue Heron’s homebuyers, the most requested custom features are roof terraces, outdoor living rooms and casitas.

So let’s step outside and take a look at some trend-forward ideas to turn your design thinking inside out.

 Start with the Big Picture

The New American Home 2009 – Subterranean courtyard

Art Danielian of Danielian Associates, architects for the project, had a clear vision of the possibilities for wide open living. “The plus of this site is that we have a half acre, that’s a lot of land,” Danielian points out. “The footprint of the home occupies about 50% of the site, and half the site is open space. We wanted to take advantage of every square inch of it.”

There are outdoor vistas to enjoy on every level, from the basement courtyard to the pool area on the first floor to a rooftop sky deck facing the glittering Las Vegas Strip. And even when you’re inside, you’re outside. Observes Danielian, “We took a lot off effort… thinking about how each room is going to experience an immediate outdoor room.” For example, the great room features an 18- foot glass door that opens onto the swimming pool. The basement entertainment room has a disappearing wall that opens into a courtyard.

Water, Water Everywhere

Water features are always popular outdoor living focal points for their calming effect as well as entertainment opportunities. In the contemporary desert style of The New American Home, the water becomes an even more important design feature. Says architect Danielian, it’s because “in a desert environment you don’t really get enough of it.”

The New American Home 2009 – Swim up bar at night

The pool is at the center of the ground floor footprint, featuring a swim up bar and barbecue area. Entertainment value is just the beginning. The pool weaves through the floorplan. In fact, the “negative edge” design creates the illusion of water lapping at the edge of the rejuvenation room. This space, with two walls that open to the outdoors, is ideal for relaxing.

Tyler Jones favors the lavish spa just outside the master bedroom. It’s one link in a whole ecosystem of liquid tranquility. A peaceful waterfall drops into the spa, then follows on through a babbling brook of an open water channel to feed a striking weeping wall waterfall and fire feature in the sunken courtyard.

On Deck: Fabulous Views

The New American Home 2009 – Sky deck with climate-controlled louvered ceiling

Certain homes can frame a picture-perfect view with a deck, and The New American Home is proof. Decks facing east and west survey the timeless beauty of the desert floor. To the north, the Las Vegas Strip appears, an entertaining view any time that turns absolutely spectacular at night.

Decks grace every level, and the crowning glory is the sky deck high atop the home. Lee Lundquist, interior designer for the project calls it “Club Marquis.” With its night club styling, swivel chairs, fireplace and TV, it’s quite reminiscent of Las Vegas night club patios. It’s designed as a party spot with all the kitchen necessities for sharing a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres while taking in the entrancing glitter of The Strip.

Climate control technology makes the sky deck virtually a 24/7/365 living space. A louvered roof lets revelers control the amount of sunshine by day and starlight by night, and being moisture sensitive can block out bad weather altogether.

Create a Protected Sanctuary

In today’s busy world, homeowners are looking for an everyday escape. The master bedroom in this home is designed as a luxurious natural hideaway. In addition to the spa mentioned above, the bedroom opens onto a zen garden that features a curtain-enclosed casita that hides a lush bed. It’s the perfect spot to nap in the cool breezes or sleep under starlit skies.

The Green Outdoors

Anyone who loves the outdoors is asking a question right now: are you taking steps in this house design to preserve the environment you’re enjoying? Absolutely.

Blue Heron has long been considered a leader in green building. The New American Home is no exception. The home is oriented to the north, to protect it from the extreme heat that comes from the south and west. The water in the water features is recirculated for conservation and all landscaping plants were selected for their drought-resistance. The pool is heated with on-side (and cleverly hidden) solar panels, and designers traded pool chlorination for a more natural salt purification system.

Outdoor Design is Wide open. Are you?

Homebuyers have spoken. Outdoor living is always in season — for parties or a private retreat, for long lazy afternoons and all-natural nightlife, for endless summers and momentary getaways. There are so many innovative ways to give any home a breath of fresh air with outdoor living design. Isn’t it time for you to come out and play?

This article originally appeared in Volume 9, Issue 1 (January 2009) of Portfolio Magazine.
Portfolio Magazine is an award-winning showcase of exciting design ideas and industry insights.