ARTICLE Erin Reilly
Gone are the days when we were content with the kitchen being at one end of the house, the living and dining areas being at the other, and the garden simply offering space to hang washing and grow vegetables. These days, indoor/outdoor flow is becoming a major priority for homeowners, so they can better access and utilise the outdoors and turn it into an extension of their regular living spaces.
“Older houses were not designed in a way that allowed easy movement between indoor and outdoor areas,” says Melbourne Refresh Renovation consultant Paul Cree. “This means that an indirect route has to be taken between these key spaces, which is not only frustrating, but also results in communication barriers between people in each of the spaces.
“Good indoor/outdoor flow creates a more cohesive space that makes the outdoor area feel like a natural extension of the indoors, facilitating easy movement of and easy communication between people in each space.”
More than just the building
Indoor/outdoor flow isn’t about making cosmetic changes to a house, though. It’s about how we interact with each other.
“In the 50s, 60s and 70s when much of our housing stock was built, broadly-speaking the husband would come home from work and sit in front of the TV while the wife cooked dinner,” says Auckland-based Refresh Renovations consultant Jim Gleeson. “These days, cooking is more interactional, where everyone pitches in. Guests might even sit at the kitchen island and chop up ingredients or chat over glasses of wine. Older homes weren’t designed to support that kind of interaction. These days it’s common for homeowners to take the four walls that make up their kitchen and dining spaces, and open them up into more of a shared space.”
“Homeowners generally want to improve their indoor/outdoor flow so they can bring in light from outside, make a room seem bigger, and interact better with their outdoor spaces,” he continues. “The ability to open doors onto a deck gives people a reason to entertain and eat outside in the sun and fresh air, enjoy that family time, and invite the light in.”
“Consideration needs to be given to the layout of both the indoor and outdoor areas to facilitate easy movement between each space,” adds Cree. “Lighting is often an area that is not considered adequately, but can make a large difference to the ambience of the outdoor area.”
Read full case study: Well-design home extension
How do you create indoor/outdoor flow?
“Indoor/outdoor flow depends on you as an individual, so you shouldn’t rush into that,” says Gleeson. “Before you even start thinking about renovating, you need to have lived in your house for a season. The best houses I’ve worked on are when the owners have lived there for one or two years, always with the goal of changing the house, but they’ve first discovered how it works and breathes. They know where it gets cold, where it gets hot, where it gets damp, and from what direction the wind blows. Improving indoor/outdoor flow is more about complementing the way they live than it is changing the structure of a home.”
Before embarking on the renovating journey, Gleeson recommends first getting up close and personal with your home.
“Take a chair, sit on your lawn, and watch your house,” he says. “Look at where the sun is. Feel which way the wind predominantly blows. Don’t base your decisions on aesthetics alone; think more about the liveability of your home.”
What can you achieve on a basic budget?
There are plenty of opportunities to create better indoor/outdoor flow on a budget. Remove a window, put in a ranch slider, build a deck under a metre with a couple of steps down to the lawn, erect a sun sail over the top, and you’re looking at approximately $10,000-$15,000. You don’t need a building consent for simple renovations like these, which helps to keep costs down.
What can you achieve on a mid-range budget?
As soon as you do more than a simple renovation, you will need building consent which will increase your budget. To extend your home slightly, change some windows, install a roof window and basic bi-fold doors, build a nice deck, redo your kitchen, and repaint, you’ll need approximately $50,000-$80,000. “If the size of an opening is being increased, there will be structural work involved,” says Cree. “This may require an assessment by a structural engineer to determine the necessary structural modifications, and such work will also require a building permit from the local council.”
What can you achieve on a high-end budget?
If you have a bigger budget, the indoor/outdoor flow world is practically your oyster. To extend your dining area, install large over-height bi-fold doors or stacking doors, build an outdoor covered-in deck complete with a high ceiling and louvres, build a nice deck, redo your kitchen, and paint throughout, expect to pay $100,000-$150,000.
How can you save money?
As soon as you do anything above the basic, your renovations need consent, and that’s where a big chunk of the cost comes from. Try not to change your roofline. Gleeson suggests that if your main goal is to bring in air and light as opposed to being able to access the outdoors, think about installing two or three roof windows instead of doors. If you’re just after light, solar tubes are also good options. Cree says that bi-fold doors are a common request but they quickly add up when they’re being used for a large opening, so consider more affordable alternatives like ranch sliders.
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*Note: The cost found in this article are rough estimations only and are subject to change. For a cost estimate accurate to your specific project, please contact your local renovation specialist.