Indoor + Outdoor Living 2018

"We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts."

                                                                            ~ William Hazlitt ~

Evening view of the Tennessee River from Look Out Winery, 20 miles outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  [ Photo - Anna Caro]

Evening view of the Tennessee River from Look Out Winery, 20 miles outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  [Photo - Anna Caro]


I couldn't agree more with these words;  there is an element of deep understanding that one feels when surrounded by nature, and its power is translated through much more than just aesthetics.  Creating and experiencing wonderful outdoor spaces requires a little bit of science and a lot of intuition - it's all about harnessing what feels good, and creating an environment that is capable of transporting you into a relaxed state of being.  This month, the MOTIV Monthly explores the elements of a great indoor/outdoor space, and we'll take a look at exactly what elevates a space from so-so to everyone's favorite room (in?) the house. 

In the spirit of Spring and new growth, I also took the opportunity this month to attend the 2018 Dwell on Design Conference (DODLA) in Los Angeles, California.  I'm sharing my Top 5 Takeaways from dwell magazine's expertly-curated trade show, as well as my Top 5 Trends in Design from the event's home tours, which featured 10 unique homes in the greater Los Angeles Area, viewed over the course of a sunny L.A. weekend...

Grab an iced tea and your favorite porch stoop, and let's talk indoor/outdoor living!


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5 Elements That Make a Great Outdoor Space

Read on for five proven methods that interior designers use to enrich an outdoor space and make it oh-so-cozy and relaxing...


If your room outside doesn't feel quite pulled together, think like a designer and define the space in one of a few different ways:

DEFINE THE "FLOOR" - For example:  Use stone pavers or a bed of gravel to create the look of an area rug and place your table or other furniture on top accordingly.  If you're working with a deck or other finished surface, simply use an outdoor rug (Tip:  Look for a solution-dyed acrylic product, which will resist UV fade the longest and are recyclable.  Use the Earth 911 Recycling Center Search to find your nearest recycling facility).

FEATURE A "WALL" -  If part of the space backs up to a wall or tall hedge, go ahead and make that the focal point.  Create a symmetrical seating group around your feature wall and be sure to include enough places to set food and drinks.  Bring in a "wow" piece or a sculpture that you love and you're done!

USE A CANOPY to define your space.  Nothing makes an outdoor space feel more like a room than adding what feels like a "ceiling" above it.  Options include trellis, slatted wood structures, pergolas, or even shade sails for a more modern look.  You can even hang an outdoor chandelier or candle holder in the center of the space to create a more intimate mood and attractive dining area.


Sustainable outdoor furniture is available within any budget - below are a few of my favorites.  Remember, you can also search for vintage and antique pieces, or work with a professional interior designer and landscaper to create custom built-in seating options.  The possibilities are limitless!  Whatever you choose, there's no arguing that having a few comfortable and beautiful places to sit around and sip on a cold beverage can make your outdoor space feel incredibly luxurious.


Don't forget about the effects of sound on your indoor/outdoor space!  If you live near a busy street or interstate, in can be difficult to relax with all of the traffic rumbling by.  Combat the negative noise of the city by using low-tone wind chimes or incorporating a water feature that can replace the zooms with a little more Zen.  Read more about sustainable water features from this article at

Windchime creators Music of Spheres is based in Austin, TX and uses aluminum for their many sizes of windchimes, ranging from the smallest 30-inch tenor up to a whopping 14-foot long Basso-Profundo wind chime.  Available in 11 different harmonic styles based on music from cultures around the world (including Nashville).


Make it easy to serve snacks and drinks outside.  Trays are easy to store, and if your space is connected to the interior, keep a bar cart near the door that can easily be loaded up and ported out to the action.  Here are a few eco-friendly finds below:


Never underestimate the power of a little fire.   The modern home evolved around the hearth and moving light, known in the design world as kinetic light, has brought humans together for centuries.  Including a bit of warm light in your outdoor space (particularly light that moves) not only flatters every skin tone, but creates a sense of connection and comfort that supports relaxation within the environment.  Here are some options for including kinetic light:

CANDLES - This is the most accessible option, and I encourage the real deal rather than flame-less candles, which are made of breakable plastics and components that are difficult to separate and recycle.  Real candles create very flattering light, are foolproof, and you can find great products that are sustainable and support local artists almost anywhere.  Keep safety in mind, and don't leave anything unattended or within the reach of children and pets.

GAS OR PROPANE FIRE - This option is a bit more involved, and may require a professional installation.  The end result, however, is an easy-to-use communal fire that can really draw (and keep) a crowd during any type of gathering.  There are a multitude of styles and finishes available with either portable or built-in options.

WOOD BURNING FIRE - This one is relatively self-explanatory.  Make sure to check your local city and county laws and ordinances on burning wood before committing to a wood burning fire feature.  Again, safety first!

EXTERIOR LIGHTING - Hard wired or solar options are available in just about any style and size - remember you're looking for warm light, so choose a color temperature (amount of blue or red light) between about 2700K and 3000K.  The "K" stands for kelvins which are a unit of color temperature expressed on a scale that represents the spectrum of visible light.

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Image Source:

Now that we've covered 5 Elements that Make a Great Outdoor Space, I hope you feel ready to get out there and take on your next outdoor project!  Even if you're just adding some finishing touches that will make an impact during the months to come, feel free to comment below and let me know your favorite picks from today's blog. 

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Dwell on Design

I have been an avid reader of Dwell magazine since I was a student at Watkins College here in Nashville, and the bimonthly publication is always an exciting source of inspiration for modern design and architecture.   I was elated to discover that Dwell puts on a design show each year in conjunction with various industry partners that includes both a trade show and 2-day home tour series.  I had the pleasure of attending the conference in Los Angeles, California this April; read on to see what I loved about it!

Top 5 Takeaways - Dwell on Design 2018 Trade Show

A trade show doesn't have to be monstrous to pack a mighty punch.  After experiencing the 3-4 day marathon sprints of the expansive AmericasMart and HighPoint markets (both of which are wonderful trade shows), I found 2018's Dwell on Design Los Angeles (#DODLA2018) to be a smaller but very consciously curated and delightfully manageable trade show.  I spent two days gradually making my way across the trade show floor, and was relieved to have enough time to stop and get to know those vendors that I was really interested in learning more about.  Focusing on modern design, DODLA absolutely delivered - here are my Top 5 Takeaways from the show!

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Top 5 Design Trends - Dwell on Design 2018 Home Tours

Dwell on Design Los Angeles isn't just about the trade show - it's also about the joy of experiencing architecture.  The 10 homes featured in this year's home tours ranged from a quaint and budget-conscious bungalow on one end of the spectrum, to a sprawling hilltop luxury home with stunning views of Downtown Los Angeles.  While representing a wide range of the housing market, there were definitely a few common trends that kept popping up - read on for my top 5!

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Thank you so much for reading the MOTIV Monthly!  Remember to subscribe below and we'll send you a reminder on the first of each month when we publish.  Join us NEXT MONTH for the June 1st edition - Tennessee Summer Travel Guide! 




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