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!

This natural table-scape mixes outdoor elements with rustic totems.

This natural tablescape mixes outdoor elements with rustic totems like wooden boxes and an antique clock. The glass lamp adds a refined edge, while the wicker basket provides texture … and disguises storage space! Image credit: Pinterest 

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.

Fruit and wild flowers serve as decoration in this rustic dinner setting.

Fruit and wildflowers serve as decoration in this rustic dinner setting. The linen tablecloth and woven wall hangings blend beautifully with the dark stain woods to create a tribal motif. Image credit: Pinterest

Chad James lets subtle accents bring big impact. These gorgeous quills add texture and pattern to a contemporary space.

Chad James lets subtle accents bring big impact. These gorgeous quills add texture and pattern to a contemporary space, creating a compelling intersection between interior and exterior. Image credit: Chad James Group

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.

Bamboo shades add instant outdoor appeal to this cozy nook.

Bamboo shades add instant outdoor appeal. Placed with a textured rug, wool blanket and wicker basket, these shades encapsulate a cozy nook that inspires leisure. Image credit: Pinterest

Gray can be a dynamic wall color choice, especially when paired with white furniture.

Gray can be a dynamic wall color choice, especially when paired with white furniture. Notice how the cowhide rug adds rustic flair, while the jarred botanicals bring the outdoors to the center of the room. Image credit: Pinterest

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.

Chad James entire room is dressed in soft whites and grays, which reflects light around the space.

Chad strategically placed a bright blue, velvet pillow at the center of the bed, which reminds us of the deep hues of the night sky or ocean. The entire room is dressed in soft whites and grays, which reflects light around the space. Image credit: Chad James Group

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.

Chad James covered the entire ceiling of this room with rich woods, which mirror the dark stains of the floor beneath.

Chad covered the entire ceiling of this room with rich woods, which mirror the dark stains of the floor beneath. Plaid wool blankets and textured drapes create the feeling of being tucked in a large cabin in the mountains. Image credit: Chad James Group

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.

Painting a ceiling white is a sure way to brighten a space and give the illusion of height.

Painting a ceiling white is a sure way to brighten a space and give the illusion of height. Here, a natural look is achieved through potted plants, distressed furniture, a woven rug and a collection of outdoor accents, like pinecones and shells. Image credit: Pinterest

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 always recommends using real elements, as opposed to artificial decor, for a truly natural finish.

Be experimental with your table decor. Chad always recommends using real elements, as opposed to artificial decor, for a truly natural finish. Image credit: Chad James Group

Chad James 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.”