Outdoor décor tends to be more playful than pieces typically used within the home, yet it also needs to be durable without crossing the line into clunky.

So what if you come across the perfect item — well-made, yet whimsical, and simply too good to pass up? Is it stuck being relegated to the backyard or can you place it inside, displayed prominently within your home?

For this challenge, interior designer Philip Smith was asked to choose a piece of iron art that could grace an indoor wall just as easily as it could decorate a garden.

Smith was drawn to a large crab.

“I picked the crab because it instantly screamed iconic Maryland and had a little bit of an abstract quality to it, whereas the others were more literal. It had a little more edge,” Smith says.

He chose to place it an entryway. “Honestly, it rarely happens that you don’t have some inspiration. But this was an instant visual of where to put the crab.”

Here, Smith describes his design: Because this piece is fairly large at 36” diameter, I thought it would make a statement to place in a smaller space like this farmhouse mudroom. I then chose to house the iron crab in a built-in bench nook.

To better showcase it, I covered the nook wall with reclaimed wood laid in a brick pattern. If you live in an Eastern Shore farmhouse you could repurpose wood from a barn on the property — something to add emotional value to the room. Reclaimed palettes would make a nice statement also.

Shelving with storage above and a bench would frame the piece nicely. To soften the space, I added a few pillows to the bench, choosing fabrics in different textures and patterns to keep the design flowing and create layers.

For additional character, the ceiling is done in a white shiplap. The ceiling and walls are painted in white to provide a simple backdrop for all of the other elements. For the floor, I chose a slate flagstone. The organic layout will balance with the angular pattern of the built-in design and ceiling. This material will also bring in a traditional outdoor element.

If you are a little more daring and love color like I do, paint the crab in a fun teal or ocean blue, opt for some red storage bins overhead and bring in some vibrant fabrics for those bench pillows.

Smith says the highest challenge of bringing an outdoor piece in is knowing where it doesn’t belong. “You wouldn’t want to place it in your bedroom or a more formal room of the house.”

And though the crab may not have been a piece he would typically choose for a client, he was pleased with the final design and remains a proponent of the concept.

“I would always be a fan of using outdoor items inside and interchanging them, so they are utilized in a way they aren’t supposed to be used. Anything unexpected is a great conversation starter.”

Philip Smith studied interior design at Savannah College of Art and Design and previously worked as a design consultant at a high-end retail furniture store. He started Philip Smith Design more than two years ago and currently has clients in Baltimore, Ocean City and the Eastern Shore, with commercial projects in the D.C. metropolitan area.

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