Why outdoor living spaces are right for your health, and how to design yours to perfection.

Hand printed outdoor textiles highlight the weathered teak furnishings and compliment the pool tile. “ Cape Cod Retreat .” Photo by Renae Barnard.

Hand printed outdoor textiles highlight the weathered teak furnishings and compliment the pool tile. “Cape Cod Retreat.” Photo by Renae Barnard.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American spends 87 percent of their time indoors. We put considerable effort into designing the interiors of our homes, with little regard for the outdoor spaces.

"No matter where you are or how large your outdoor space, you can benefit from a daily connection with nature," says sustainable interior designer Sarah Barnard. Want to spend more time outdoors this summer? Rethinking your balcony, garden, or terrace is an excellent place to start. Here are a couple of reasons why outdoor living equates to a healthy life.

It benefits your mental and physical health.

Imagine stepping out onto your front porch with a cup of tea in hand, feeling the morning sun on your skin. Sounds nice, right? Moderate sun exposure does the body good — refreshing our circadian rhythms, lowering cortisol levels and blood pressure, and improving concentration. Sarah's morning routine includes a stroll through the garden with her miniature poodle, Lucy, in tow. "It allows me to start the day cheerful, grateful and breathing fresh air," she explains.

A glorious  guest cottage  inspired by Cape Cod and flattered by painstaking attention to detail. Photo by Renae Barnard.

A glorious guest cottage inspired by Cape Cod and flattered by painstaking attention to detail. Photo by Renae Barnard.

It encourages us to spend more time with our loved ones.

We get it — planning and hosting an event is stressful. Even if you burn the hors d' oeuvres to a crisp, run out of red wine, or forget to bring out the on-theme cocktail napkins, it's always worth it in the end, isn't it? A Mayo Clinic study shows that socializing with your closest friends and family improves your overall sense of well-being and purpose.

And since summer is the time for alfresco entertaining, what could be better than celebrating the season in your beautifully designed outdoor space, surrounded by your nearest and dearest? Thanks to improvements in technology and design, outdoor furniture and decor have come a long way (see ya, fold-up camping chairs). Today, our outdoor living spaces can be just as comfortable and luxurious as our indoor spaces.

Fresh and fun colors come to life in the  open air media room . The locally made sectional sofa was designed to fit the homeowner’s specific desires: all natural & non-toxic materials, handmade in California. Photo by Steven Dewall.

Fresh and fun colors come to life in the open air media room. The locally made sectional sofa was designed to fit the homeowner’s specific desires: all natural & non-toxic materials, handmade in California. Photo by Steven Dewall.

Now that we've established why you should be spending more time outdoors allow us to explain how to do it in style. When designing an outdoor living space, Sarah advises her clients first to select a focal point. "Is it a beautiful tree? A softly trickling fountain? An impressive outdoor kitchen? The elements that you choose to dominate the space physically and visually influence its overall feeling and mood" says Sarah.

Mimic your interior spaces outdoors.

We're not suggesting you expose your vintage leather sofa to the elements, but integrating pieces that create a feeling of coziness — like a knit throw or an outdoor fireplace — will make chilly evenings more enjoyable. During the daytime when the summer sun is beating down, you'll want to add shade through the use of a modern pergola, permanent roof, shade sail or patio umbrella. And avid home cooks may consider investing in a fully-equipped outdoor kitchen, complete with a gas grill, pizza oven, prep sink, storage cabinets, counter space and a compact refrigerator (you know, for all the rosé you'll be drinking this summer).

The  cozy patio  pairs luxurious outdoor tiles with Chinese artisan pottery to create a quiet retreat. Photo by Charlie Daniels.

The cozy patio pairs luxurious outdoor tiles with Chinese artisan pottery to create a quiet retreat. Photo by Charlie Daniels.

When in doubt, hire a designer

"Even creative people find it difficult to craft a beautiful, functional and healthy home that adequately reflects their uniqueness," notes Sarah. When laying out your design plans for a courtyard or veranda, hiring an experienced designer is the first step. Not only does an expert have access to a broader selection of custom outdoor furnishings and fabrics, but they can also ensure the final product will be flawless. "Your interior designer has a vested interest in the success of your project being completed to the highest caliber and can be an invaluable asset when dealing with vendors and contractors," adds Sarah.  

This  stylish patio  showcases handmade roman shades attach to a custom wood enclosure for privacy and shade. Photo by Steven Dewall.

This stylish patio showcases handmade roman shades attach to a custom wood enclosure for privacy and shade. Photo by Steven Dewall.

A designer will create a multi-functional outdoor space with your preferences and goals in mind. They're able to conceptualize the big picture and execute every detail with precision. It's time to unlock the untapped potential of your seldom-visited balcony, courtyard, or terrace. Whether you crave a secret garden or a lively space to entertain, a designer can turn your idea into a reality. "Your home should enhance your lifestyle and express your uniqueness," says Sarah. "My work is centered on health and happiness — anything we can do to help our clients live better, we will."

by Hannah Fleming edited by Rachel Roth

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, and personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art. To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

A natural teak wood ball fashioned into a rugged side table pairs with a weathered teak armchair and lightweight pottery. Photo by Steven Dewall.

A natural teak wood ball fashioned into a rugged side table pairs with a weathered teak armchair and lightweight pottery. Photo by Steven Dewall.