Topic: Outdoor Living Ideas

Date Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

Live outside the box by blurring lines between indoors, outdoors

Live outside the box by blurring lines between indoors, outdoors

One of the most radical precepts of midcentury modern design was blurring the dividing line between indoors and the outside world. Inspired by a philosophy that embraced and celebrated nature, Richard Neutra, Joseph Eichler, Rudolf Schindler and many other architects of their generation let the outdoors in with generous window walls, louvers and sliding glass doors. The approach made especially good sense in Southern California, where the weather allows for outdoor living most of the time.

A half-century later, mid-20th century design is fashionable again, and now there are new technologies and materials to extend its concepts even further. One of the most dramatic innovations is the ability to completely erase the boundary between home and yard. Glass doors that fold or slide into pockets can make entire walls disappear, melding living rooms, dens or kitchens with the world outside.

“The technology at our disposal today is truly amazing,” said Anne Michaelsen Yahn, a Newport Beach-based interior designer. “We can take that idea now and run with it. When I look back at (midcentury designs) they don’t seem as unified or as dramatic as they are today. We can make large walls just disappear.”

Yahn said the new look, and the door and window systems that made it possible, appeared fairly recently.

“I did my first home about five years ago with folding doors that completely recessed into a wall. That was for a living room on a Balboa Island home opening out onto the channel. The footprint of the lot is small but by using that wall and choosing the right outdoor décor, I was able to create the feeling that the living room extended right out to the edge of the yard.” The effect is particularly dramatic on small homes such as the Balboa residence, she said.

NanaWall, Western Window Systems, La Cantina Doors and several other companies have brought out a wide array of sliding, folding and frameless glass walls.

The width of the wall is dictated only by the structure of the home and the location of load-bearing posts. For example, the NanaWall single-track sliding system can be designed with any number of panels since its design is completely top-supported.


Midcentury modern design continues to work its way into many areas of home design. A few years ago the trend was most commonly seen in furniture and accessories, but now it is being embraced more dramatically and holistically in renovations and custom-designed new homes throughout Southern California and the Southwest. Disappearing doors and walls are simply part of the trend – but they’re becoming de rigueur, Yahn said.

“Since my first project I haven’t had a home without some sort of” large glass doors or moveable window walls. “I’ve been involved in 10 to 15 large residential projects, major remodels, and a significant purpose of the remodel is to reorient the house toward the outside, the view and the yard, and to get doors that open wide enough to make the effect dramatic.”

In Yahn’s experience, the doors are very low-maintenance, though purchase and installation prices can vary greatly. “The folding doors are less expensive than the sliding doors, mainly because they usually stack on top of each other rather than fitting into a wall pocket.” The only potential issue, Yahn warned, is whether there’s room for them in the stacked position. “You have to make sure the place where they stack is out of the way and not a high-traffic area.”

Yahn sees the indoor-outdoor trend expanding. Already, the difference in quality and workmanship between indoor and outdoor furniture is fading. A lot of outdoor furniture is made with durable fabrics that nevertheless feel soft and luxurious enough to pass for indoor materials.

The next frontier, she thinks, will be indoor-outdoor kitchens, a trend she says is just beginning to take off in Orange County, though she has seen it more frequently elsewhere.

“I’m doing two houses right now where there is a window from the kitchen to the outside bar. It’s above the counter. The window stack-folds to one side so that the counter becomes indoor-outdoor; the whole thing is open.”

Yahn has also converted top-floor rooms with decks into larger open-sided but complete living areas. “There is sometimes a living room space, a dining area, a barbecue kitchen area, a lounge and a bathroom. Everything except the bathroom is open to the outdoors, with only a railing wrapping around it.”

The most beneficial effect of the open-wall trend, Yahn said, is that it feels as if you’re adding another room to your house. “It makes your home and your yard both feel huge. It’s like you’ve moved into a bigger house.”

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