Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vanishing Threshold

A few months ago, my friend Terry of Architecture Tourist emailed me about a wonderful blog by landscape designer and author Tara Dillard called 'Vanishing Threshold: Home Garden Life'. Since that time, I have become a huge fan of her blog - her posts really cause me to think about the relationship between the home and the garden in a different way. As much as I enjoy Tara's blog, it was one specific post on Coming Home: Vanishing Threshold that really spoke to me. I highly encourage you to go read it for yourself - you will probably think differently about the connection between home and garden after reading it (click here to go read the post). I think about this post often, and come back to re-read it on a regular basis. Have you ever encountered a post like this on a blog or in a magazine? It doesn't happen too often, but when it does - it is truly magical.


The picture above is from Tara's post on vanishing thresholds. As Tara says, 'vanishing threshold begins in thought, then inside your home, then outside in the landscape. In that order'. A vanishing threshold occurs when there is a thoughtful relationship between the inside and the outside, between home and garden; when the outside complements the interior, and the interior complements the outside. It occurs when you are inside and the outside to so well framed, or so seamlessly integrated with the home, that you want to go outside; and when you are outside you get lovely glimpses of what is inside, and want to go in. Home, garden, and life.


I recently profiled a beautiful home on the market in Atlanta; when I saw this view at the end of the hall, I immediately thought about vanishing thresholds. Look how beautifully the inside flows to the outside; the bench is the perfect touch, a welcoming place to rest in the garden. Notice how the wall behind (which is actually part of the family room) is covered with ivy, so it blends in with the greenery in the back of the property.


This picture is from a home designed by John Saladino. The opening of the door is perfectly situated so that it looks across the expanse of the pool into the arch of the pool house. Quite a stunning example of vanishing threshold.


William Hefner, an architect out of Los Angeles, is a master of the vanishing threshold. He clearly designs his homes with an eye for the relationship between the home and garden. I think the ideal situation when building a home is to have the architect, landscape designer, and interior designer all on the team at the onset of the project, to maximize the integration of the home, the garden, and the interior.


I've always liked this picture, not because of the decor (which is not really my style) because there is such a good relationship established between the inside and the outside in this home. Looking out the wall of windows makes me want to go out there and sit on the patio.


I always think that a conservatory type space almost becomes part of the garden - a beautiful example of the vanishing threshold. This is the breakfast room of Brooke's home, from Velvet & Linen.


I saw this kitchen on a tour of homes, and the kitchen was specifically designed so that the owner of the home could gaze out at the greenery in her backyard while cooking. I think this is a lovely vanishing threshold, don't you? The expanse of windows are perfectly designed to reveal and highlight the beautiful greenery in the backyard.

2506 Parkside Drive_archtourist

I think there is something about steel windows that automatically create a vanishing threshold. This picture, taken by the Architecture Tourist during a garden tour, beautifully frames the kitchen and makes me want to go inside - a vanishing threshold from the outside. I can just imagine that the owner of this home probably has these doors open all of the time during the spring and fall.


Another picture from William Hefner's portfolio. Again, he uses steel windows to great effect - steel windows really create such a striking indoor/outdoor relationship.


This picture, via House Beautiful and Architect Design, shows how windows can be used as a design element in a home - not only does this space have natural light coming in from two sides, but clearly it has a lush green view that is perfectly framed by the casement windows. The windows can open and close like doors, enabling a indoor/outdoor feel (if this were on an upper level, though, I would want to make sure that they can't open too wide - would not be good for the dogs or the kids!).


I love it when a master on the main opens to the back of the home. This bedroom, from an Atlanta real estate listing, opens to a covered porch off the back of the house - creating a great vanishing threshold.


This home, from an Atlanta real estate listing, has beautiful wooded views (although this picture was taken during the winter - I can only imagine how it looks now that we have had a rainy spring and summer that has made all of the trees leafier than ever). Because Atlanta is very hilly, many homes have terraces or decks across the back instead of a flat walk out back yard, and a full daylight basement. I love an expanse of French doors across the back of a home, particularly for a living room.


My dream study - with casement windows that look out onto a beautiful green view, capable of being opened with the flick of a lever.


I have always found this picture to be fascinating. Yes, there is a beautiful relationship between the indoors and the outdoors from a visual standpoint - how could there not be with huge floor to ceiling windows like this? However, I would have made these doors. The lack of doors makes the windows seem a little like a barrier between the inside and the outside.


I like this arrangement better - two sets of arched French doors, framed with billowing silk, one door cracked open to let in the fresh air. A great realtionship between the architecture, the interior design, and the garden beyond. Image via Elle Decor.


One of my favorite pictures of a casual dining area - in part because of the lantern, but also in part because of the indoor/outdoor connection of the room with the outside. Home and garden are truly in sync at this home. Image via Traditional Home.


This city apartment achieves the vanishing threshold with a rewarding view of the outside at the end of this gallery kitchen. I get the impression that the owners must enjoy sitting out there on nice summer evenings, don't you? Image via Alan Higgs Architects.

English Cottage 4

One of my favorite family rooms has a great connection between the inside and the outside - this room is in a wing, and the other side of the wall with the fireplace is actually a part of the garden landscape, as it is covered with ivy and looks like a garden wall.


This image, from an Atlanta real estate listing, shows how important the outside of a home can be for the vanishing threshold. Vanishing threshold is all about tying the home to the garden. In this case, the home and garden are both of the same French style - and clearly, there is a big connection between the inside and the outside (as the nine sets of French doors are testament to this).

I don't have too many other pictures to illustrate the connection from the outside to the inside - but Tara says a lot of it involves being aware of the view in the windows from the outside. We have all experienced the lovely view, particularly at night, of a glimpse inside a home through a glowing window - perhaps of a pretty lamp, or a curtain that has been finished just as beautifully from the outside view as from the inside. I will never forget passing by a window once, to a child's party that was in the backyard, and catching a glimpse of the back of a dining room chair - the back was a contrasting fabric. I kept that image in my mind, and when I was invited back to the house a few months later, the first thing I did was look into the dining room from the entryway, to see what the front of the chair looked like.

Please visit Tara Dillard's blog for more information on vanishing thresholds, and for landscape design inspiration. Tara is also the author of several books on landscape design, which come highly recommended. I hope this post and Tara's blog will cause you to think about the vanishing threshold in your own home!

To subscribe to my blog by email, click here.

To follow my blog on facebook, click here.

To visit my online store, click here.


  1. Ms. Things, you rocked this one and Tara has just the right words for the effect. Our screen porch was mostly invisible: You just didn't notice it with all the debris of our childrens' stuff. Then we started doing our interior colors out on the porch. The porch started to reappear before out eyes. The effect is to make our house seem bigger. The porch doesn't seem like another space; it seems like an extension of the inside. It work from outside in as well. Gordon would simply say, "we need to pull the colors out to the porch."

  2. I love the concept of a close connection between indoors and out and you have put such perfect words to it.

  3. * WOW~ This is one of T*H*E most WONDERFUL, INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE and TOTALLY CAPTIVAING posts EVER!!! I've been sitting here, actually reading verrrry slowly as I perused (also verrry slowly) the FABULOUS INTERIORS you've provided for us to enjoy...

    This has been ONE TRUE, SHEER DELIGHT this evening, and I sincerely THANK YOU for this TREAT!!!

    Linda in AZ *

  4. Thank you, everyone - and thanks to Tara (who graciously gave me permission to post on this topic). I truly see things differently since reading her post!

  5. Oh my, you gathered Vanishing Threshold pics into a collection.

    You've made me fizzzz with energy. Adore the oxytocin of seeing Vanishing Threshold, and more, living with Vanishing Threshold.

    It's said, the more we go inward the more we outwardly connect.

    Vanishing threshold grasps both.

    Note: Engineering & horticulture degrees from college, not architecture.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  6. This post really touched me. I love to have the door open to my deck. One of the things I miss so much about San Diego ( am now back home in Kansas City)is having my terrace doors open year long.

  7. I am not certain I can add anything to the wonderful responses so far! You did a wonderful job with your own input and photos, so gorgeous! To be frank I have a space just outside a rear exit in need of this type attention, and I must get to it straight away. I will check out Tara's blog, thank you for the link and for your wonderful post, inspiring as always.

  8. Amazing! Love the ability to join the indoors and outdoors!

  9. I just love that first kitchen -- can it get any better than that?

    and you are so absolutely right with your statement on steel windows.

  10. Why live in a house or garden style apt if you can't be connected to the outdoors? Otherwise you may as well live on an airshaft in the city!

  11. Wonderful post! Especially for every designer based in Southern California.

  12. you're post reminds me yet again, that *someday* i WILL have a home will tall steel framed french doors leading out to a terrace/garden.

    so purty. now i'd better stop reading blogs and find some new clients to make that dream a reality...


  13. You need to light vanishing thresholds at night. If you have window that don't need curtains, you need outdoor lighting or a cityscape view. The shiny black of windows at night isn't' very nice.

  14. Another completely inspired post by the queen of the most original posts on the planet! Wow!! I loved that blog you sent us to as well (I added it immediately to my blogroll). Thank you - you are amazing!!

  15. Gorgeous photographs -- they make me wish I lived somewhere other than Houston in August, where the idea of indoor/outdoor living is at its most repulsive.

    Absolutely agree with you on the steel windows. They're stunning.

  16. I feel so repetitive saying that this is a beautiful post, but it is!
    Steve and I are fortunate to live in California where the climate is conducive to "vanishing thresholds". I always tease Steve that he has more windows and French doors in his homes than walls. With such wonderful weather, why not?
    The next home that we design for ourselves will blur the indoor and outdoor spaces. I have a dream of a shower with three glass walls that are surrounded by a private garden.
    Thank you for including our garden room in you post! It is a wonderful place to eat viewing our green backyard.

    Last but not least.... Tara's blog is gorgeous! Always a source of natural inspiration.


  17. What an interesting topic. I love it when the transition from inside to outside is seamless. The same goes for pools!

  18. OMG! I love the red sofa… the indoor outdoor interior designs are gorgeous.

  19. I think all of these featured designs are my favorite. All the designs are perfect for a family to live in.

  20. Tara is an amazing woman. She has a special touch when it comes to gardening. She sees things tha average person doesn't even notice. She is in tune w/landscape like no one I've ever read before. I read her blog daily and learn something new everytime I do. I am reading one of her many books right now. She encourged me to check them out at the library. I would encourage anyone interested in gardening to do the same. Great post.

  21. i love these pics. I believe a house needs to have a lot of windows. I want light, and to see outside. This is a great post, thanks!

  22. Love this post - informative and great pictures. The vanishing threshold concept totally works here in california!


  23. In the terms that you use, I think interior design should soften the vanishing threshold and let the interior fade into the exterior beside entrances. This would create a softer transition that seems more natural.


  24. Fab post, as always! Our kitchen opens to a courtyard and I love how it looks from inside and out.


  25. Fab post, as always! Our kitchen opens to a courtyard and I love looking out to the white hydrangeas. Additionally, it is a lovely view in the evenings when we are enjoying an evening meal and to look inside the house. Wouldn't trade that wall of French doors for anything!


  26. J'adore lots of windows and all the light they provide... FAB!!!

  27. Lovely post!

    My parents always did a great job of remodeling their homes by adding a lot of windows and french doors and incorporating the outside into the view from the inside...what a huge difference it makes!

    I've found I am drawn to the same...

    thanks for sharing such inspiring images and ideas!

  28. Thank you for this, the blog is beautiful, I will enjoy reading it.

  29. Yes!!!! totally agree!!!

    I fell in love with my home because of all the windows and the feeling of being outside while being inside... My dream would be to replace all of the windows with steel ones!!!

    beautiful post.

  30. Beautiful rooms! I recently worked for a client that's old tudor was on the river. The kitchen had been recently renovated, and I was told they had a big window installed, in the kitchen, where an original old brick wall was. This window looked directly out onto the rolling front property and the river beyond it. I could have stood there forever, gazing out that window...

  31. I'm so envious of all these gorgeous rooms you've posted!! I'd LOVE to have floor-to-ceiling doors opening out to a gorgeous yard. But in our climate, we wouldn't get much use out of them :-(

    BTW, the Monique Lhuillier room from Elle Decor is one of my most favourite rooms ever!!


  32. These are all extraordinarily stunning! Excellent compilation and writing too:)

  33. Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  34. I love the steel doors! Where can I find them in the US. Great Entry. Very Inspiring. Thanks! Connie


Thank you for your comments! I strive to make my blog positive in tone, and appreciate the same courtesy when comments are made. Thank you!


Related Posts with Thumbnails