How experts design homes that embrace their natural surroundings


Editor-in-Chief Joanna Saltz heard from four experts on how they design homes that truly incorporate their natural surroundings.

Johanna Saltz: How does nature influence your approach to design?

Saudah Salem: We often see nature as a luxury in design rather than a necessity: if only I could afford have natural light. But the solution can be as simple as creating an opportunity for more natural light. There are so many studies linking the benefits of nature to reduced stress and improved well-being. I engage in conversations with my clients about their experiences with nature. They often include their fondest memories – camping or getting out of town. My goal is to bring that back into their homes.

Portrait of Courtney Bishop

In this seaside living room, Bishop incorporated a vintage woven pendant and muted tones for a truly comfortable retreat.

Agata Novika

Michelle Gauge: We bring nature inside through colour, but also through print and pattern. In almost every project we do there is at least one funky wallpaper, if not eight. Whether it’s a bird print or an exploded floral pattern, we could pull colors and elements from it into other design aspects like fabrics, rugs or accessories like lamps.

David QuarlesIV: As a synaesthete, I like to combine the experience of being in nature with my experiences of listening to music and healing a space. The whole mood What the client may have dictated to me is how I will approach the design for the space.

hand-painted dining room with colorful murals

Quarles hand-painted a colorful mural to make his dining room feel like an upscale restaurant in the middle of a jungle.

Courtesy of David Quarles IV

portrait of david quarles iv

David Quarles IV

Agata Novika

Cortney Bishop: I like the process of building a home with an architect, a contractor, and a landscape architect. We work with them early on to make the most of any outdoor space. We can influence the windows, whether it’s accentuating the color, darkening the space so we can focus on the greenery outside, or adding more light to make the space feel open and airy.

Yeah: When approaching a project, do you think about the outdoors as much as you think about the interiors?

Cortney: I live in a coastal area and most of my clients have moved here to be in nature – to experience the water, swamp or sea. We’re spreading the love inside and out, but you need to make sure there’s enough money in the overall budget to make a mark outside.

Michelle: We’ve seen clients we worked with before the pandemic come back and say, “I have this space that I haven’t fully utilized and I want to push to the outside.” One client had a semi-enclosed, screened-in one Veranda. We were able to bring in some great furniture to almost make it a second living room that she could escape to while everyone was home.

Yeah: In our current universe, people have to hide in their homes. How did nature help you create this escapism?

David: I am a plant dad of 190 plants. For me, plants are a lot of self-care. They bring a bit of calm into a room. I like to push the boundaries and see if plants can invade the larger realm of what no longer exists outdoors. I’ll just bring her in.

Bedroom with blue wall

Vibrant walls in Clare’s Sublime reflect the waterfront setting of this bedroom by Saleem.

Keyanna Bowen

Portrait of Sauda Saleem

Saudah Saleem

Agata Novika

Sauda: As a designer, it’s all about re-imagining to the client the potential of their outdoor spaces – whether it’s a patio, patio or small landing area with grass. People often have trouble imagining this. I encourage them to bring the comforts they enjoy indoors outside. It could be pillows, throws, a fire pit, or stools that hide children’s toys.

Yeah: When a space feels loved, you feel loved in it.

Michelle: We did a fun pandemic project in our sunroom that we previously used as a prop junkyard. We considered ripping it out, but it has a very clear access to the outside. It’s now one of our favorite rooms in our house. Spaces that draw you closer to nature help rejuvenate the home.

David: Traditionally, we have dinner with my family on Sundays. These were hit during the pandemic. So I turned my raised patio into an outdoor apartment. It’s built around a tree with bistro lights. There is a lounge area, a bar and a dining room. It was a way for me to think about what I encourage my clients to think about: What emotion do you want to feel in the room?

a private residence in royal oak, md design by michelle gage images for interior design use only by michelle gage photo copyright rebecca mcalpin

Wall paneling by Cole & Son complements the harbor view in this dining room by Gage in St. Michaels, Maryland.

rebecca mcalpin

Portrait of Michelle Gage

Michelle Gauge

Agata Novika

Yeah: This backyard area has literally increased your living space. What would you wish if people did more when thinking about their home and how it interacts with nature?

Cortney: Understand the bigger story. Too much orange, for example, can distract you from the beauty of greenery in spring or snowfall in winter.

Michelle: Think of the envelope – how your eye circles the room and what it captures as it does so. This includes the windows, of course, but also the ceiling. It’s not always super connected to nature, but we think it’s really important not to ignore the ceiling. We are currently working on a back porch with a beautiful blue painted ceiling. We also try to choose our window treatments very carefully. We choose natural or tan or leave the window open so you can witness what’s going on outside.

Sauda: People tend to go overboard with themes, like in tropical rooms with palm trees and turquoise walls. How do you let nature flow in without it being such a slap in the face? It doesn’t have to be as literal as you think. I like unexpected color combinations. I like walking into a room and saying I love him, but I can’t figure out why I love him.

David: Let the design breathe. If you have too many artifacts, you don’t get a chance to check. You have no chance of noticing.

Keep following House Beautiful Instagram.

This content is created and maintained by a third party and imported to this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may find more information about this and similar content on


Leave a Comment