BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN

Integrating outdoor elements into an indoor environment is hardly a novel concept. For centuries, the Japanese have created buildings open to the garden, manifesting their culture's profound kinship with nature. Their serene, airy designs came to influence many Western architects.

Although it never quite went out of style, interior "landscape" has come to full flower in domestic design. Timed with the trend is the publication of Barbara Aria's appealing "Outside Inside, Decorating in the Natural Style" (Thames and Hudson Inc., 1992, 144 pp., $35) Steve Moore's color photographs attract the reader into rooms full of textures and natural furnishings, such as a bed made of unpeeled birch logs, a chandelier crafted with tree roots, and a wall lined with ragged stones.

Why such interest in earth-evocative home design?

"In this post-industrial age of fax machines, interfaced computer terminals, microwaved meals, and videotaped movies, we are spending more and more time in our houses..., writes Ms. Aria. "At the same time, our uneasy pact with technology drives us to seek its antithesis ... to find places and moments of repose in the midst of the bleeping, flickering, hard-edged world that we have made for ourselves."

Aria suggests that this back-to-nature yearning can be satisfied not only by taking a walk in the woods, but - with a little ingenuity - in our own homes.

It is important to please more than just the eye, Aria writes. The five chapters in her book correlate to the five senses, showing the reader how to suffuse interiors with nature's vitality. Even recipes for "wild-cuisine" are among the tantalizing offerings that draw from the bounty of the outdoors.

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