October 3, 2014

Bringing the outdoors indoors

5 on it: Riley McFerrin tells us how to bring the forest and ocean into even the most pristine urban space.

Back in the day, having an outdoorsy home meant you’d gone all Paul Bunyan on the place. Too much lumberjack, not enough hot, running water. Now, however, with a growing interest in bringing an authentic presence back into a world filled with gadgets, some folks are developing a new way of thinking about the outdoors at home. Call it modern rustic, or Walden Pond meets Wallpaper Magazine, or just call it a relief. We caught up with Riley McFerrin, principal of Hinterland Design, to tell us how to bring the materials and the essence of the outdoors into even the most urban interior.

1. Collections

“I really like the idea of collections. It’s about keeping your eyes open when you’re outside for precious things that are free for all of us to display. My son is a big driftwood collector. Something I like is seed pods. I have a shelf where I’ve saved poppy heads from the garden, and they look like porcelain baby shakers.”

Hinterland Nurselog

2. Plants and flower arrangements

“Something I’m inspired by in urban environments is when people find ways to recreate something they’ve seen in nature. Like taking a few clippings from ivy blossoms, or cutting branches from a friend’s backyard, and arranging them so they remind you of that place.

“It’s really about nostalgia. I originally made the nurselog, which is a stump filled with a big fern and mosses, because it reminds me of something I saw on a hike I took. For me, doing that in your interior space is as important as a photograph of a vacation.”

3. Wood

“It’s not just about using wood as a material to build something else. When you bring something like a log into the interior, as a piece of furniture, it feels like the woods are part of your living room.”

Hinterland Scatter-Gather Pendant

4. Found objects

“I go for a lot of walks on the beach, and I happen to like twigs and sticks, particularly pieces that are weathered and worn by the natural processes of wind and ocean. So, I basically just took some of those and assembled them into a shape, which makes a chandelier. And every time you look at those pieces of driftwood hanging above you, it takes you to a place where you can envision branches on the beach getting beaten by sun and the waves, and it can transport you to that beach.”

5. The essence of the outdoors

“It doesn’t need to be about using just wood or plants, it can be the idea of the real world. This year, I made an ottoman inspired by a crab trap, which is something very much from the outdoors that we don’t usually bring inside. And  the wool and cotton and rope work on top of the ottoman has a soft texture to it that makes you feel like you’re part of the natural world.”


Riley McFerrin is the principal of Hinterland Design. His work has been featured in Dwell, The Wall Street Journal and lots of other places.