Indoors or outdoors? Prior to the pandemic, picking the right seat when dining out was a matter of mood, whimsy, and weather. Not anymore. While dining is (thankfully) back to normal in many parts of the U.S., the way we perceive restaurant layout may have changed irreversibly. We want to sit inside but enjoy a free, breezy vibe. Or we want to sit outside while still having a sense of place in thoughtful surroundings.

Several establishments that opened their doors in late 2020 and 2021 have taken this new reality to heart. By incorporating clever design solutions, they blend the previously strict divide between the restaurant’s interior and exterior. This trend of lively hybrid spaces that feel both airy and defined is, hopefully, never going away. And we may soon see some of these tricks influencing residential design, as homeowners seek out their own year-round oases. Here are seven indoor-outdoor restaurants around the country that we can learn from.

Miami: Layla

Miami has always been a great destination for outdoor dining, but Layla, which opened this April as part of the first hotel by the online platform Kayak, takes matters to the next level. To unite the outdoor terrace with the indoor dining space, the team behind Life House Hotels used lightweight and see-through elements like wooden blinds and rattan furniture. While a movable glass wall that erases the indoor-outdoor divide might be hard to re-create at home, using adjustable blinds and placing plants at eye level is easily achievable.


Photo: Courtesy of Layla

New York: Rosemary’s East

Rosemary’s East, the East Village branch of the popular Italian restaurant, opened this spring, brimming with neat tricks. Creating a warm, relaxed atmosphere in a boxy postwar commercial space wasn’t easy, but the women of Dekar Design made it work. Indoors, plant boxes, orange trees, and hanging planters add a splash of nature, while sparkly lanterns create a terrace-y, intimate feel. Is that a field of flowers? No, just smartly chosen iridescent floor tile. Lush exterior planters and mint-hued chairs, on full display through the big windows, carry the feeling outdoors.

Rosemary’s East.

Photo: Liz Clayman

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