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DECOR IDEAS: Bringing the outside in

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Using wood and stone indoors can warm the feel of a cool interior, and can also create a feeling that the room extends beyond its walls and into the garden beyond. High-ceilinged rooms benefit from warming touches of wood

Jim and Jennifer Sergent loved the modern look of their new home, including the exposed wooden beams. They also loved the nature trail in front of it, but the master bathroom left a lot to be desired.

“The home has an open post-and-beam structure that feels like an atrium, a feeling that extends into our bedroom,” says Jim, a graphics editor.

“But when you opened the door to the master bathroom, the design aesthetic just stopped.” The mostly white bathroom looked cold and had a small shower. Jim, who is 1.9m tall, either bumped his head or stubbed a toe nearly every day.

“We wanted our bathroom to respond to the rest of the house, not only with wood but also the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the family room,” says Jennifer, a freelance design writer.

“It was Jim’s idea to build a shower with a natural stone wall that echoes the fireplace. We know design fashions come and go, but stone and wood will never go away.”

Their instincts are reflected in a growing trend among homeowners to incorporate more wood and stone into their interior spaces.

“It makes people feel good when we bring in natural elements,” says builder/designer Leigh Spiche.

“Using wood on walls or a bathroom ceiling fits in with the trend toward using wood for trim and entire walls in all kinds of homes, from modern to traditional styles.”

Wood and stone can warm up a space, particularly in a modern house, says Jessica Parker, an interior designer.

“In a modern house, you can add a stone wall around the fireplace or rustic wooden beams to the ceiling to add warmth and texture. We use stone and wood consistently, especially in homes with an all-white kitchen or high ceilings. In a more traditional home, we install polished wooden beams for a more refined look.”

A room with high ceilings can feel cold, but wood can always be used to warm it up. Picture: Jamie Cobel/Rill Architects

The Sergents’ desire to use natural wood and stone in their bathroom was twofold. “We wanted to match the rest of the house, and we wanted to match what was happening outside,” Jim says. “We can see trees through the arched window in our bathroom.”

Although hardwood is the most popular material for floors in homes today, and stone is common around a fireplace, homeowners and designers are introducing these materials in other places.

“The Sergents’ home has great windows and skylights so it was a natural choice to bring in nature,” says Nadia Subaran, who designed the couple’s kitchen and bathroom. “You always end up with a lot of hard surfaces in a bathroom, like porcelain and tile, so bringing in wood will soften the space.”

The Sergents’ bathroom has a sloped wood ceiling with an exposed beam, a wooden vanity and a wooden storage cabinet. “Jim was passionate about using natural stone for the oversize shower, and the natural wood cabinets pick up some of the colour in the stones in the shower,” Subaran says.

The bathroom includes a porcelain floor that resembles slate, a sloping, trough-style sink with two taps and mirrors above. The couple added a modern touch with a black metal bar that holds shampoo bottles and looks like a piece of sculpture.

Jim found wooden hooks on Etsy that are pieces of a tree. “We screwed them into a wall so they look like an art installation, but they’re also practical as you can drape your clothes on them while you’re in the shower,” Jim says.

Jim and Jennifer Sergent’s renovated shower. Picture: Marvin Joseph

“We’ve used reclaimed wood in other bathrooms, including around an oversize mirror in a bathroom that was otherwise very sleek,” Subaran says. 

“Reclaimed wood has a lot of texture.”

How to bring natural elements into your home

1 Use natural stone to create a “grotto effect” in lower-level spa bathrooms that seem almost to be carved out of a cellar.

2 Stone walls can be expanded around a fireplace to include arched niches for books and display space.

3 Dark wooden trim can be added to a contemporary family room. Painted, it can add an unexpected look.

4 Wooden features will warm up a room with high ceilings.

5 Warm up a sleek cold bathroom with two walls of natural stone in the shower.

6 Wood and stone indoors can highlight the nature found outside. These natural materials can be used to contrast with their surroundings. An urban environment calls for wood and stone to warm up a potentially cold interior.

7 Add a beamed ceiling and natural oak floors to a sleek all-white kitchen to add texture and colour.

8 The fact that natural stone is used for home exteriors and patios shows it is durable. It is best to avoid it in kitchen areas, where it could be susceptible to stains.

9 Stone can be heavier and costlier to install because of the added weight, but people are often willing to spend the money because they love it. 

10 In a bathroom install a backsplash between the basin and wood to protect the wood from getting too wet.

The Washington Post

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