The Purpose and Practice of Merchandising Outdoor Living Space
Why merchandise outdoor spaces?
By Lita Dirks
While we may be called an interior design/model merchandising firm, we know that effective model merchandising does not stop at the door. Opportunities for outdoor living spaces with a new home have always been important to buyers. This criterion has only solidified in its significance in recent years. According to a report from Fixr.com, in 2021, American homeowners want to make the most of every inch of their outdoor living space and are willing to pay for it.
Buyers want to imagine their new home will be a place where they will cook, relax, play and gather at their home, especially outdoors. It will provide them with a lifestyle in which they are happier and healthier. Further, as outdoor living space helps expand the living area of a home, real and perceived, it increases the desire for homeownership. Therefore, it makes financial sense to invest in merchandising the outdoors just as much as inside. The potential rewards to both buyer and builder are plentiful.
“Buyers want to imagine their new home will be a place where they will cook, relax, play and gather at their home, especially outdoors.”
Making the Outdoors Impactful
Using the knowledge of the prospective buyers’ needs and expectations will determine what outdoor uses are most important to them. The merchandising strategy will follow. Some of the most in-demand uses from prospective home buyers and our strategies on how to meet these desires include: entertaining, personal space, everyday living and effective sales tools.
For many homebuyers, imagining a life where they get to play host to their friends and family regularly is paramount. To facilitate that dream, we will merchandise to create a welcoming environment. Depending on the space available and location, this may mean including lights, plants and comfortable furniture. It may include an outdoor fireplace or fire pit around which to gather. An outdoor kitchen or a covered space as protection from the elements.
The space should encourage the buyer to picture a variety of entertainment options. Flexible and mobile seating helps to show they could host a myriad of get-togethers small or large, with a little creativity and rearranging. A colorful outdoor rug can add some fun to a space while helping to tie it all together.
Perhaps hobbies are central to the prospective buyer’s lifestyle. If so, they will want to see that they will be able to participate in their favorite activities in their new home. For some, this may mean a small, secluded area in which to read or meditate. Others may want to see a place where they can practice their putting game or play catch with a child.
The choice of furniture and accessories can create these special, personal spaces. Knowing what will speak to the buyer and then telling the story using imagery of a lifestyle that will fit their unspoken dream is key.
Outdoor space can expand the perception (if not reality) of the living area of a home significantly. For example, in a multifamily residence, a balcony off the bedroom may be small in square footage, but it can provide a visual of more open space beyond the walls of their home.
Regardless of the actual size of a home, most buyers want to believe they have more living space than they do; that they are getting more for their money. To facilitate that perception, we merchandise to look as though it is a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor living. That may be by using glass doors, similar flooring or color palettes – really anything that helps the eye to see the space as larger and more desirable.
Using the same flooring on the inside and the outdoor patio and incorporating glass doors for easy access and viewing of the space helps to trick the eye to think it is indeed all one space.
Effective Sales Tool
Successful model homes create dreams. Prospective buyers tour a model home to see and experience a desired future life, an aspirational lifestyle. To craft that dream, the model home must be thoughtfully merchandised, inside and out. The outdoor living spaces can set the home apart from the competition and leave a lasting impression on the buyer.
Lita Dirks is CEO and Principal of the nationally-recognized award-winning design firm, LD & Co.