by Jennifer Walton

Any good outdoor environment begins with a plan. Remember the days when a run from the back door to the hot tub in the dead of winter felt adventurous? Or how about the multiple trips made from the indoor kitchen to the patio, prepping for that Sunday afternoon barbeque? Not so adventurous, more like inefficient. With endless options for outdoor living, transformations are taking place throughout the Mountain West so that the living is easy outside during all seasons. There’s a good chance a heated concrete patio, an outdoor kitchen, or a master plan designed for multi-generations of outdoor fun is in your future.

Connect With Your Environment

An Outdoor Furnishings Company by White Cloud Design

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Design, function, and accessibility are the three essential elements in creating a space that works as well in the long, sun-soaked days of summer as it does in the snowman-making days of winter. A 30-year veteran in this artistic journey is Johnny McDonald of White Cloud Design, whose full service landscape design company has produced extraordinary outdoor spaces for clients from Idaho to Montana and beyond. “Our experience and understanding of architecture and site development lays the groundwork for us to be able to create seamless transitions from inside to out. This concept is not new to us, but paramount in assisting our clients with making the most of their property and the connection to the land. Creating a processional experience from entering the property, to defining levels of site circulation and the integration of connecting the different spaces for their home to the outside spaces we design, comes with years of experience and also through extensive study of spaces in our travels throughout the world.”

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“Our experience and understanding of architecture and site development lays the groundwork for us to be able to create seamless transitions from inside to out.”

–Johnny McDonald, Connect With Your Environment

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Maximizing visual connections to the surrounding lakes, mountains, and open skies is possible with slow reveals or with encounters from alternate elevations. “Perhaps the most important element to achieve is proper spatial development relative to the site and intent of the design. With this in place, the site amenities and materials can work together to create the sense of place that allows the homeowners to connect with their environment.” Extensive planting schemes can be incorporated to heighten a sense of privacy, to strengthen the presence of endless spaces, or to enhance a collection of volumes (main house, guest house, studio, garden shed, farm structure). McDonald continues, “Since we specialize in custom projects, we are able to refine the project’s specific connections to place, topography, geology, plants, history, architecture, and place. It is always exciting to go through the design process and filter out what works for each design. There is not one way to make this successful, but a “feel” that allows this to be experienced by the user. Creating this feel is what we do!” Cue the energy, balance, and awareness of one’s environment here.

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“Since we specialize in custom projects, we are able to refine the project’s specific connections to place, topography, geology, plants, history, architecture, and place.”

–Johnny McDonald, Connect With Your Environment

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Wright’s Furniture

enhancing the synergy between interior & exterior

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With the design locked in, enhancing the synergy between interior and exterior spaces comes next with furnishings. From late-night summer dinners to kids’ back-to-school pool parties, an outdoor area that can perform during any and every scene you’d like to create (especially those on a moment’s notice because when your home has good bones for entertaining, everyone wants an invite) is why evaluating the various seating areas in these spaces is worth careful consideration. Kyle Wright of Wright’s Furniture in Whitefish, whose business opened in 1976 and is now one of the Northern Rocky Mountain region’s leading suppliers of designer furniture, including a massive showroom, states, “A well-designed space is one that is usable for a single family on a daily basis and also one that can accommodate a party or large family gathering. Homeowners want to make the most out of the season by making their outdoor rooms and spaces as comfortable as possible. We are furnishing more and more living room settings than just a dining setting and fire pit. Outside is a place to relax and furniture and outdoor features are being designed to make the addition of an additional room, space, or living area to an existing home easier and more enjoyable.” Wright’s Furniture’s roots are in family, and Kyle and Alana Wright lead the family business as its third generation of owners. Wright adds, “The key to successful design is capturing the spirit of the client and the essence of the space.”

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“A well-designed space is one that is usable for a single family on a daily basis and also one that can accommodate a party or large family gathering. Homeowners want to make the most out of the season by making their outdoor rooms and spaces as comfortable as possible.

–Kyle Wright, Wright’s Furniture

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“The key to successful design is capturing the spirit of the client and the essence of the space.”

–Kyle Wright, Wright’s Furniture

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Hunter & Company

understanding the function of space

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Hunter Dominick of Hunter & Company Interior Design, a gifted and well-known interior designer based in Whitefish, agrees. “It’s important to understand the function of the space and how your client works. That includes a home’s location on a river, lake, or ranch. My clients have summer and winter activities. For example, one of my clients has an enormous fire pit. Last winter during a big outside party everyone was around the pit. Then he used a hose and made a huge ice bar! All the adults and kids were outside the whole time and had a great experience. It seems like people are utilizing those spaces more year-round than they have in the past. I do think we are seeing the trend continue. It used to be that your home was 90% interior and 10% exterior and I believe that’s shifting.” With glass sliders in a kitchen or a great room, that division disappears, allowing unobstructed views. It truly becomes about that unencumbered access to the elements and being outside. When structures open up to a deck, balcony, or courtyard leading to a pool, fire pit, or pond, the opportunity for social gatherings, whether for work or play, are simple and straightforward.

Accessibility and aesthetics go hand in hand though, and Dominick adds, “What I’m excited to see in 2019 is the increased use of a combination of materials like stone, granite pavers, and dyed concrete and mixing those with natural landscapes and different types of grasses. In terms of furniture, before we had a lot of Adirondack chairs, and now we see more living rooms outside, including day beds for those gathering spaces that often integrate children’s play areas and yoga spaces.”

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“What I’m excited to see in 2019 is the increased use of a combination of materials like stone, granite pavers, and dyed concrete and mixing those with natural landscapes and different types of grasses.”
–Hunter Dominick, Hunter & Company

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Remember that this is more than an area merely to entertain and relax. Envision utility and necessity, but also beauty and comfort with one guest or 100 because it’s an extension of your home and an addition to the sense of place inspired by your natural surroundings. Colors and textures, stones and finishes, plants and privacy, lighting, and fire and water features all play into decisions about where to sit and what to sit on, or the distance from the fire pit to the Jacuzzi, and from the barbeque to the dining table. Site furnishings impact the site’s overall design and the tone, mood, and style (think lighting, fire, and water features). These decisions about site furnishings take into consideration tables and chairs, benches, sunshades, and also the climate and environment, as well as durability and safety. To define a natural and inviting space, balancing wood, concrete, or metal surfaces is also a factor in adding expression and function, and the style, shape, size, and color of the furnishings themselves. “For example, if the client desires a casual and relaxed atmosphere, then a large sectional with deep cushions and ottomans might be an option. And it’s likely that for a more contemporary and upscale atmosphere, a slim and sleek sectional with clean lines may be the choice,” says Keely Maricle, from the Connect With Your Environment team, White Cloud Design’s specific arm for site furnishing and exterior art integration. “We use our resources and expertise to sort and filter these options into curated selections for our clients.”

As McDonald explains, “Over the years, we have found that the completion of these outdoor spaces is an afterthought. Understandably so, as building and furnishing a custom home is a huge undertaking. At White Cloud Design and Connect With Your Environment, our specific arm for site furnishing and exterior art integration, we offer our services to furnish those outdoor spaces so we can fully design them and ensure that their connections to the interior spaces function perfectly. We ask the questions early in the design process and follow through in a team-oriented fashion to create incredible spaces.”

It’s not meant to be immaculate, but it’s meant to be immersive. A home can certainly be a spotless masterpiece, but the transition from inside to outside and back again is about immersion in the moods, seasons, and activities from sun-up to sundown and it is also about engaging in the present tense to the fullest.


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The Bungalow

statement making botanicals

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“What puts a smile on your face when you walk into your home or office?

–Jill Lamberson, The Bungalow

“It’s a mindset of being willing to see the importance of making an investment in something that’s living in your indoor space,” says Jill Lamberson of The Bungalow. “Everything has seasons and cycles. I encourage my clients to look at this differently because they’re buying for the here and now to beautify and elevate their space,” she continues. Walking into The Bungalow means discovering Lamberson’s creative mind and understanding how she transforms a space by combining dozens of different plants and layering them into antiques and vintage items for a stress-relieving Zen atmosphere. Achieving this effect has nothing to do with trend. “It’s staying true to the look that I want and need in this space and it’s what I ask my clients when they first enter the shop—‘What touches you?’ You have to be true to who you are and if it’s something you love, include it in your environment. It doesn’t really matter what the tastemakers and trendsetters are doing; it’s going to change.” The idea here is to enjoy the greenery, the mosses, the ferns, the orchids, and the succulents.

About the succulents! Regardless of whether you have the perfect environment, these low-maintenance plants work anywhere. “They tolerate extreme conditions indoors or outdoors, no matter the time of the year. Even in the summer with very warm temperatures and glaring sun, or in the winter (because their natural environment is the high desert), they will tolerate freezing temperatures. So if they are right up against the window and it’s 20 degrees outside, they are happy because of the fluctuating temps.” Think windows, floating shelves, terrariums, wood planter boxes, urns, vessels, and tables. These beauties can turn a space into a major focal point, an oasis of reflection, and they remove over 80% of air toxins.

“What puts a smile on your face when you walk into your home or office? Not noise! What actually resonates is what I want my clients to feel by incorporating plants into their homes.” Get inspired by taking a trip to The Bungalow and adding a gorgeous green companion to your space this season.