Inside out

Abode’s Landscape architecture expert Tony Milne discovers that indoor-outdoor flow is not such a new concept after all.


Arthur and Doris, my grandparents on my mother’s side, had a relatively modest but well-kept house on the sunny side of Hindess Street in Halswell. As children, we always longed to visit. They had a conservatory of sorts, in the form of a modern interpretation of an Italian ‘limonaia’. A limonaia was a hothouse with a solid back wall, a place to ripen lemons as well as other things.

From memory, the Hindess Street conservatory had fixed as well as louvre windows, some were clear, and others were opaque. There was a day bed or two, possibly a Monstera deliciosa, certainly hanging flower baskets and, at the end of summer, tomatoes sat ripening. Sun and the cooling air flow were both welcome.

You would enter the house through the conservatory, we would also sleep in there. It was a lovely space, more in than out yet there seemed a connection with the out. Having grown up in school houses I was used to being either in or out. The Hindess Street conservatory was a treat. Stan and Norma, Rebecca’s grandparents also on her mother’s side, had a conservatory too. While furnished somewhat differently, and a little disconnected from the interior architecture of the house, it certainly served a similar purpose.

We live in a house that opens to the outside. The doors are often open and particularly in summer, we live more out than in. In real estate speak we probably have good ‘indoor-outdoor flow’. I was reading an article just yesterday that suggested outdoor living and entertaining is now a ‘huge part of contemporary life’.

Consider the Ancient Persian gardens with their central pavilions. These pavilions, commonly known as ‘Kooshks’, were usually located at the intersection of axes within the garden; such positions commanded key views. The pavilion was a place where the users of the garden could live and enjoy it.

Staying historical, let’s consider Roman architecture along with the gardens of the Renaissance, and those of Ancient Greece and Rome that have given us loggias, arbours, and pergolas; all features we know well. Although, I do think the magic of these is often lost nowadays as the architecture of our homes seems to ceaselessly march outwards as we extend our internal living outside. Too often at the expense of our gardens.


Traditionally, the arbour was a garden design element used to integrate vegetation with architecture. The earliest form of an arbour was a bower – essentially young trees bent over and tied together to create a shady place to rest. Often vines and fruit trees were then grown over the structure. The pergola, a more architectural and decorative structure, evolved from the arbour and essentially provides a similar function. Normally pergolas were freestanding whereas the loggia is an extension of the architecture of the house creating a more liveable, airy interior to the building. It helped circulate air through a building and it welcomed the sunlight in. In the conventional sense, a loggia was only accessible from inside the building, it often surrounded an open-air courtyard. A loggia enabled open-air enjoyment of the garden while offering protection from the sun or other direct elements.

At ours, we don’t have a conservatory or loggia, nor a pavilion or an arbour, but we do have external spaces that are focal to how we live. They have a symbiotic relationship with the internal functioning of the house and connect the house with the garden. These are spaces I am sure Arthur, Doris, Stan, and Norma would have enjoyed. I would suggest it always has been.

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