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Room of the Month - Indoor/Outdoor Room

By Sarah Van Arsdale on June 03, 2010

We teach students of our interior design classes a simple three-step method:

  1. A successful room is functional.
  2. A successful room expresses a mood.
  3. A successful room exhibits a sense of harmony.

This simple Three-Step Method is the secret of every interior ever designed. We teach our interior design students to consider these three steps every time they look at a room. You'll find the great home decorating ideas in our Room of the Month series as well as in the design tips on this site helpful in creating outstanding room designs.

When our students mail in their interior design project for analysis by their instructor, the instructor starts by commenting on these three Guidelines. Of course, the instructor analyzes other elements of the project too – decor, layout, furniture, style etc. But the key to good decor – and the essential element of every great interior design – is adherence to these three NYIAD Guidelines.

How do they work? How can you apply them? It's beyond the scope of this Web site to teach you every nuance, but you will get an inkling from the Room of the Month Analysis that follows.

room of the month

This month, Designer Monthly is decorating the outdoors as well as bringing the outdoors in, and so let's take a look at this indoor/outdoor room designed by one of our own Interior Design students at the Sheffield School, Steve Ilavsky.

Southern California offers a climate in which outdoor living is second nature. Ilavsky has taken great advantage of this with a lanai that functions more like a living room than an outdoor space — and yet it's in the open air, with the sky above for a ceiling, and cooling breezes rustling the bamboo leaves.

Looking at this space as a Room of the Month, we'll first consider the function. Any outdoor seating area like this will serve a function similar to that of a living room — it is a place for guests to gather or for a quiet moment alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the world outside.

Steve Ilavsky
Steve Ilavsky Indoor/Outdoor room

This function is served in several ways here. First, the seating invites convivial conversation, with the two sofas facing one another; if you look closely, you'll see that one is a full-size sofa, and the other is a love seat with an ottoman pushed against one side. This arrangement is infinitely practical, especially for a party, as that ottoman can be moved to wherever the guest wants it without interrupting the look of the room. The three white bubble chairs also provide seating for a larger gathering. And, as is important in any room that's used for parties, this one has plenty of table space for drinks and food.

The mood of this room is one of Asian-inspired, modern elegance. The clean, angular lines of the sofas and table and the super-modern round shape of the three white seats bring to mind mid-century modern at its best. And that's a look that works beautifully with the Asian mood, from the bamboo-fenced Japanese garden to the one red wall and red fence in the back.

Steve Ilavsky Asian inspired room
Indoor/Outdoor room

Another shade of the mood here is its playfulness. This room has some surprising elements which, under a less-adroit hand, would be difficult to make work together. Ilavsky has taken a risk with the combination of the red and pink, two colors that are notoriously difficult to make work in concert. But here, because of the other Asian elements, and because of the other colors and patterns involved, the two colors work well together, rather than fighting each other — or perhaps it's better to say they "play well together," because it's this combination of colors that lightens the mood here.

pebbled stone flooring

As the colors work together, so do the shapes, patterns, and textures. This space relies heavily on texture, from the pebbled stone flooring to the woven sofas, from the paving stones along the garden to the bamboo fence. Even the shade from the bamboo falls in an interesting pattern on the flooring. All those different textures help to bring the disparate colors together. But you can have too much of a good thing, and here the eye is given a respite from the textures with the smooth pink cushions

This room brings living outdoors, in a way that shows how a well-designed room can work anywhere — even in your own backyard.

For more about Steve Ilavsky's work, visit his website at