As spring burgeons, we long to spend our time outdoors. Often, however, the opportunity to linger on the patio or dine al fresco is occasional at best. Fortunately, as we learn today from interior designer Chad James, there are easy ways to bring the outdoors inside. From simple lighting fixes to subtle changes in table decor, Chad shows us how to incorporate natural elements into everyday living. You’ll love his ideas for making your home feel earthy and bright!
What type of natural decor can be used inside your home?
So much of bringing the outdoors in is less about furniture and more about the color palette—it’s the green in the palm tree, it’s the turquoise of the ocean, it’s the blue of the sky, it’s the color of sand or bark. Creating cohesion between inside and out has much more to do with color than with things.
What materials can you introduce to create a sense of the outdoors?
There are plenty of them—like seagrass rugs, wool sisal, grass shades, grass cloth.
What types of fabrics bring a natural vibe into a room?
We often use wool because of its texture and durability. Linen is soft, has a casual elegance and makes the house feel warm—plus, the price point is right. We’re seeing a huge influx of acrylics in a sophisticated way. Many of the draperies we do are wool. Wool can be sheer, and it can be polished. You could even make a gown out of it. It’s like a gentleman’s suit. I have an affection for suit fabrics, and many times you think overly masculine, but they don’t have to be. We also use cashmere because just the word exudes elegance. We usually incorporate it in a small dose or with a blanket because of the price point.
What colors are inspired by the outdoors?
In every project that we approach, we always bring the exterior inside and the interior outside. If we’re in the mountains, we’re looking at snow and sky, spruce and bark. If we’re at the beach, we’re looking at the sand and the sky, the driftwood and the ocean. If we’re in the city, it’s not the natural elements, but rather the light. One of my favorite things to do is pull out that dark blue color as the sun is going down and the sky starts to fade to gold from the shimmer of the city lights. So, often, when doing a home in a big city, for example, we might incorporate that—use a palette of gold and dark blue, mixed in with gray from all the high rises that we can see out the window. The exterior really plays such a big role in what I do.
What are your suggestions for flooring?
The key is to never use synthetic, always use real. If budget is no limit, we recommend splurging on the finest French oak flooring by Francois & Co., who we use for many of our Nashville projects. In houses where there are small children and dogs, we use Peacock Pavers, as stone floors are much easier to clean, to maintain and to preserve from dog nails than hardwood floors are.
What are some ways to amplify—or give the illusion of—natural light?
When I’m designing bathrooms, we’re always looking for ways to project more light. We often do this by installing some kind of lighting above that reflects into the mirror and back on the face. Another way to do it in a larger room is by painting the ceiling the brightest white you can find, then the illumination from the lamp will reflect off the ceiling and project more light into the room.
Are there ways to let natural and artificial decor work together?
You never go for artificial, you always go for what’s real. And if you don’t have the budget for real, save your money and wait until you do. Don’t buy something that you can’t be proud of just to fill wall space.
Chad James has projects throughout the United States and beyond. He opened the Chad James Group in Nashville in 2011, after receiving a Master of Architecture degree from Auburn University and Master of Interior Design degree from Parsons School of Design in New York City. Accompanied by a talented team of individuals, Chad has a stunning portfolio that spans the continent. His defining quality is his ability to create spaces that adequately reflect the lifestyle of each client. As he says, “At the end of the day, our desire is that you enjoy the space that we create.”