Using the landscape to design and decorate your home

I love regional design. Whenever I travel I make a point of observing the local architecture, styles and colours and adore the creative inspiration that I find in these structures. This past weekend I purposely lost myself in the neighbourhoods of Canmore observing how the homes fit into the landscape.

In the mountains the homes seem to accentuate the scenery around it, perhaps it’s because they are being built within the undulating landscape as opposed to our homes here on the prairies which seem to stick straight up. The homes I observed were alpine influenced with vaulted ceilings aplenty. Trims and balcony railings were predominately cinnamon coloured wood or logs – a sharp contrast to the glass and metal railings which are common in urban areas.

Perhaps it is the scenery these homes have to compete with and possibly it is just the relaxed and natural atmosphere – I found the colours used on these houses to be consistent and repetitive. Home after home was trimmed in natural hues of brown/caramel/green which provided a perfect foreground to the majestic Rocky Mountains hanging out in the back yard. The layering of homes, trees and mountains looked like the most fantastic three-dimensional image, yet had the shading and depth of a masters painting. It was living architecture that moves and exists within its surroundings.

Observing these homes made me wonder how a home like this would look plunked down in a neighbourhood in Red Deer. What looks so natural and purposeful in the mountains would look gangly and awkward in a prairie setting. A grand, curved driveway makes sense in front a majestic home while a crisp picket fence works well with a ginger bread trimmed bungalow. You get the idea.

When planning a new build be careful to observe the setting it will be living in. Most of you may say “It’s a rectangular lot Kim, what can I do with that?” My answer would be “Is there anything that can be done with that lot to create an interesting vestibule or entry to the home? Do you see a unique way to bring the focus to your entrance or create a gateway to your backyard sanctuary?” Often a landscape designer will be able to assist with placement of shrubs, pagodas or archways to create that decorative place on an otherwise boring lot.

If you have an existing home, a facelift might be in order. Awnings, shutters and a fresh look at your front door would be the items I would tackle first. Does your front entry let in enough light and does it provide a welcoming façade for your home? I have seen so many institutional looking front doors; it leaves you feeling cold just walking up to ring the doorbell. Make sure that when you enter your home it envelops you with friendliness – your guests will feel the same as they approach.

Colour would be an obvious choice to enhance an existing home. I went to a clients house and called them later on that day and said “After being at your house I have decided that you need to paint your front door” and proceeded to give her the colour (I can be bossy that way). She was overjoyed and told me that she had been wondering what was missing from her beautiful home and that was it.

Kim Lewis is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre. Contact her at 403-343-7711 ext 227 or email her at

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