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How to Bring the Outdoors Indoors

For those of us who live in the northern part of the country winter brings cold weather, but in many areas there is still a substantial amount of bright sunlight during the day, as shown in Figure 1, even though that day may be shorter.

winter sunshine

Figure 1 - Winter sunshine

Although we may not be able to sit outside and absorb that sunlight there are ways to bring the feeling of the outdoors into your home.

It has been proven that natural sunlight makes us feel better and relaxes us.

  1. Sunrooms
  2. Sunrooms, as shown in Figure 2, have become one of the most popular major home renovation projects over the last few years. Besides expanding the living space in a home, it brings the outdoors into the interior parts of the home. It provides an outdoor view as well as allowing the natural sunlight to beam directly into areas where we can sit and contemplate the world.


    Figure 2 - Sunroom

    Sunrooms are not an inexpensive addition to a home and even if you are a very good home handyman building a sunroom is a major exercise and involves a number of levels of expertise from foundations, demolition through to flooring, roofing, electrical and HVAC.

  3. Picture and Bay Windows
  4. Probably the best method next to building a sunroom, of bringing natural sunlight into the home is by installing a large picture window, as shown in Figure 3, or bay window, as shown in Figure 4. It may not add living space to the home but it can easily bring the outdoors into the home.

    picture window

    Figure 3 - Picture window

    bay window

    Figure 4 - Bay window

    Depending on the construction of your home and the placement of the picture or bay window it may not be an overly difficult installation. But, it definitely requires a few strong helpers to lift the window into position.

    The bay window provides a bit of an advantage over picture windows as it provides a ledge or seat where you can have plants or just sit and absorb the sunshine.

  5. Skylights
  6. More and more new homes are providing skylights, as shown in Figures 5 and 6, in order to bring natural sunlight into living space. Modern skylights are very energy efficient and are available in a number of configurations and no longer need to be part of a cathedral or vaulted ceiling to adequately provide natural sunlight into a room.

    skylight in bedroom vaulted ceiling

    Figure 5 - Skylight in bedroom vaulted ceiling

    tubular skylight

    Figure 6 - Tubular skylight

    The installation of one or more skylights is a project that most competent home handyman can undertake. Consider installing skylights in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms and family rooms.

  7. Indoor gardens
  8. If you have a green thumb and enjoy gardening you can extend your gardening season to all year around. Indoor gardens and house plants, as shown in Figure 7, can definitely bring the feeling of outdoors to the living spaces within your home. You can start your spring plantings indoors, as shown in Figure 8, to give them a head start when spring does arrive.

    indoor garden

    Figure 7 - Indoor garden

    start planting indoors

    Figure 8 - start planting indoors

    There are also many specialty indoor growing units that include hydroponic kits and mini-greenhouses, that can make indoor gardening very simple.

  9. Indoor water features
  10. Most people feel that a water feature represents an outdoor environment. In this day and age it is possible to have indoor water features that create the same ambience and emotional satisfaction as an outdoor water feature. Indoor water features, as shown in Figure 9, can be quite small making them suitable for any size home. Larger homes can opt for much more lavish water features. There is little doubt that an indoor water feature brings the outdoors indoors!

    indoor water feature

    Figure 9 - Indoor water feature
  11. Enhance a porch or deck
  12. In geographic locations that have the cold winter months people do not generally consider sitting out on their porch or deck. However, even in the middle of winter, when the sun is shining being outside can be a very enjoyable experience, if your deck and/or porch has been outfitted with a wood stove, outdoor fireplace or fire pit, as shown in Figure 10.

    outdoor fire pit

    Figure 10 - Outdoor fire pit