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A spa room looks out to a lush, tranquil forest.

The Art and Science of Outdoor Living

Article by Kat Johnson 06.18.2018

Learn how Ritz-Carlton designers create extraordinary spaces that blend the beauty of nature with the comfort of the indoors.

Have you ever noticed how a great hotel creates a seamless experience of comfort and aesthetics as you move between its indoor and outdoor spaces? The pleasure of a beautiful, approachable and thoughtful outdoor area may be the ultimate luxury, particularly as modern life is busier than ever. And research confirms what we’ve long known anecdotally — connecting with nature has positive effects on our well-being, too.

It’s that sort of in-depth research that goes into crafting perfect outdoor spaces for our guests. But, says Theresa Fatino, owner of Theresa Fatino Design and Tango Foxtrot Studios, which was commissioned by The Ritz-Carlton to develop its interior design strategy worldwide, good design doesn’t always require years of research. With a little planning you too can create an inspiring outdoor oasis — one that rivals the indoors for comfort while providing an authentic engagement with the surrounding landscape.


Outdoor Structures Bring the Inside Out

For maximum comfort, incorporate a structure that provides shelter and lets you increase your time outside even in less-than-temperate conditions. Fatino calls the fully functioning pergola — which integrates draining, lighting and heating — the garden feature of the moment, while multi-use sheds are more popular than ever. Whether custom built or prefab (or even fashioned from a vintage Airstream), these inspiring retreats are perfect for a home office, an art or yoga studio, a teahouse, a library or just a secret nook for afternoon naps. Features such as skylights and French doors let in natural light and integrate the space more fully with its outdoor setting.

The ability to cook and entertain outside is another modern luxury. Whether you incorporate a simple gas or charcoal grill overlooking the garden or upgrade to a custom-built kitchen with counter and storage space, appliances and plumbing, moving the dining experience from inside to out makes for unforgettable meals.

Draw inspiration from: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, where the outdoors and indoors blend seamlessly together, allowing the natural beauty of Bali to shine.


Enhance Wellness through Nature and Technology

Nature-infused spaces boost wellbeing by connecting us to the environment, lowering stress and improving sleep. Green walls are a classic way to bring the outdoors in, but they also improve air quality, help moderate temperatures and promote overall wellness, Fatino says. Growing your own vegetables and herbs, whether in an outdoor garden or just a window box, is equally beautiful and beneficial.

To optimize wellness in their designs, Fatino’s team studies both new technologies and ancient healing arts. In the former camp, she points to state-of-the-art air filtration systems that purify by reducing toxins and allergens, and to light therapy, including showerheads, tubs and lamps that use LED lights to wake up the body, increase circulation and promote detoxification. Traditional wellness is also key, from healing crystals such as amethyst and rose quartz — perfect for indoor and outdoor spa spaces — to sound therapy. Think of the way the sweet, gentle clink of wind chimes and ceramic bells enhances a state of relaxation; other healing sounds include water features, crackling fires, music, and the sound of the wind or ocean.

Fatino also recommends incorporating scent — pots of aromatic botanicals such as lavender or chamomile are a perfect addition to your veranda or garden, while medicinal herbs and aromatics in candles, soaps, diffusers and teas bring aromatherapy into both indoor and outdoor spaces as well.

Draw inspiration from: The Spa at Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, where the aromatherapy steam room and outdoor vitality pool are set against a backdrop of Thailand’s limestone hills and tropical jungle.


Make a Statement with Sustainability

You’ll certainly feel best about an outdoor space that’s kind to the environment it’s in — and the one it came from. Fatino points to eco-friendly porcelain tiles that give the effect of wood as a favorite option. Rugged, weather-resistant and available in a variety of patterns, they’re a popular interior trend that’s emerging outdoors for good reason. Sustainable fabrics, including vegan leather and worm-free silk, are also moving into the mainstream.

Finally, make the most of outdoor spaces with well-placed lighting. Lighting is the foundation of good design, and sustainable lighting is especially important. Lighting has the ability to create drama and romance whether it’s through up lighting or simple twinkle lights and candles.  Solar lights, which harness the energy of the sun, are becoming ever-more attractive and varied. From string lights and lanterns to floor lamps and path lights, your outdoor spaces can be as thoughtfully lit — and environmentally intelligent — as your indoors and transform even the simplest rooftop or backyard patch into a stylish retreat you can’t wait to escape to.

Draw inspiration from: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, which earned a LEED certification for its commitment to sustainable design.


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Plan Your Stay in these Destinations

  • Bali, Ubud, Mandapa

    Location Bali, Indonesia

    Experience A sanctuary set among rolling hills, a river and rice terrace.

    • Discover hidden templates and lush forests
    • Romantic, private dining experiences
    • Wellness programs for mind, body and soul
  • Phulay Bay

    Location Krabi, Thailand

    Experience A luxurious spa sanctuary with an aura of serenity and surrender.

    • 5-day retreats led by wellness experts 
    • Full moon and candlelight yoga
    • Meditation & Pilates overlooking a lavish jungle
  • Lake Tahoe

    Location Truckee, California

    Experience Ski-in/ski-out luxury resort located mid-mountain on Northstar California.

    • Ski Valet and Mountain Concierge
    • Family-friendly winter activities
    • Spacious luxury suites and residences