Outdoor living trends
By Donna Aldrich
Grass-filled big backyards are so last century. We’ve abandoned our lawn mower, edge trimmers and rain bird sprinklers; we want so much more. Second only to cost, a connection to the outdoors and especially outdoor living areas are among the most important features cited by new homebuyers in recent surveys. Whether minimal or expansive, architects are keenly focused on including connections to nature and outdoor living spaces in their home designs for both single and multi-family. It’s no wonder that trends in outdoor living have become as noteworthy as those for interior design.
Maximizing connections to nature is even more critical with the increase in higher density communities and lower square footage floorplans. The smallest multi-family units garner much greater appeal with the inclusion of patios, balconies or decks. Roof decks, in particular, have become one of the most favored answers to homes with smaller footprints to add valuable outdoor living opportunities.
Front porch areas help create community connection. Outdoor community spaces add to, but do not replace small private yards. The appointment of these private outdoor spaces, in today’s market, requires more than just a touch of green.
The gardening trend just keeps on growing. Community gardens, family gardens and container gardens for small spaces offer not only fresh, organic food but also community and family connections along with educational opportunities and feelings of gratification. The smallest unit balcony can host a space-saving, aesthetically pleasing vertical garden, both edible and eye-catching. Even on the roof decks of assisted care buildings, communal gardens are benefiting the health and happiness of residents allowing them to still dig into nature.
The popularity of outdoor kitchens hasn’t waned, especially as an extension of the home kitchen. Outdoor kitchens increase a home’s value and the value of a home’s outdoor space. They also facilitate outdoor entertaining, a top ten design driver on the list of new home trends. Pizza ovens, wine coolers, refrigerator drawers and sinks are favorite specifications for larger outdoor kitchens. For more compact areas, modular grill islands or barbeque tables can help maximize space utilization.
Still partially pandemic driven with a dash of inflation influence, staycations are also retaining their appeal. Translated to outdoor living, we now want our home’s outdoor spaces to provide an experience as our own residential resort. Whether for relaxation to reduce stress and maintain health or for entertaining, ambiance is the key to creation of resort-like outdoor spaces.
Water features, including small fountains, ponds, spas or pools provide relaxing sights and sounds. Cozy lounging spots with comfy seating or swaying hammocks offer rest. The outdoor climate is enhanced by fans and heaters or fireplaces and firepits as needed. After dark, outdoor accent lighting, think chandelier trees and fairy lights add a touch of home resort magic!
Home technology for outdoor living has many offerings. Smart outdoor lighting can assist with the overall design aesthetic, energy efficiency and operation from a smartphone or home control panel. Weather-proof, roll-up movie screens and weather-resistant anti-glare televisions provide superior outdoor viewing. For optimized sound, a smart audio system not only benefits the listening experience but also allows complete command of apps and playlists from interior to exterior when connected to smart-home automation.
Interior furniture trends are headed outside, according to the latest from spring 2022 High Point Market in North Carolina. Outdoor furniture collections now emulate high-end interior living and dining room furniture. As with interior furniture, outdoor furniture is more organic and curvier than ever with corner details ranging from slightly to very rounded.
Natural looking materials, especially rattan, wicker, cotton and jute made from durable synthetics are top trends. Advances have been made in the fibers used for outdoor textiles with several now made from recyclable and recycled materials including outdoor rugs made with recycled PET. Nearly all outdoor furniture companies now offer FSC certified wood products. Tropical shades of blue and orange are predicted to surge this summer in outdoor furniture frames and upholstery.
There’s no escaping the importance of the great outdoors. The benefits of providing outdoor living opportunities for all our home designs, regardless of density or budget, will maximize the rewards for all – a trend for all time.
Donna Aldrich is a Principal of Architectural Color Design at William Hezmalhalch Architects. She can be reached at Donna@whainc.com.