Inside out: Ways to make indoors and outdoors complement each other

Inside should complement outside for a cohesive look

Karen Cummings & Pamela Blythe

The exterior of this Telluride-style mountain home would not go well with a lacy Victorian-inspired interior design lack. Totally different statements are struggling for dominance over the other. Neither will win this battle.

This Victorian-inspired interior design would not conform to the rugged exterior of the house above.


conform (ken-fôr m) verb. 1. To make similar in form or character. Do it and your project will be cohesive. Don’t do it and you can expect to get the Pepto-Bismol out of the medicine cabinet.

I was recently asked by a former client of ours to fly to Dallas to critique another interior designer’s work on a commercial project.  We had completed a similar building type in 2008 with resounding positive results; and the thought was that we could share our experiences and successes with the Dallas project.

I had been told that the Dallas project design wasn’t “there” yet, wherever there is.  Well, I can tell you from experience that “there” is different for every project and that communication is the usual suspect when expectations falter. Regardless, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that it was up to me to put my big girl pants on and become the mediator or counselor or both. A Grand Junction designer facing off with a Dallas designer? Awkward. And potentially dangerous.

When I finally saw the designers’ presentation boards together with renderings of the exterior, everything made sense to me. The building had been designed and approved already; in fact, construction had begun.  The architecture is the architecture. It speaks its own language. The interiors should complement it.  They should speak as one and flow inside-out, outside-in. That is exactly what the designer had done – complement the building design.  So if the interiors had fallen short of the client’s expectations, attention should have been turned to the exterior, where the aesthetic statement began long ago.

The interiors of a building or a home should conform to the exterior.  Is that a rule that I can point to in a book?  No; but it just makes good sense. How odd would it be to approach a Telluride mountain home with stone and copper details only to walk through the door into a frilly Victorian guise? Just as a woman wouldn’t dare wear tennis shoes with a cocktail dress, don’t dare mix up the styles of your architecture and interior design.

At the end of the day, after “tweaking” a few finishes, fabrics, and colors, I am happy to report that the Dallas designer had done an excellent job, the client was reassured and confident, and a good time was had by all. No designers were harmed in the process.


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