What’s Driving Outdoor Living Trends?


Outdoor living has been propelled to the top of home owner wish lists and, subsequently, has become a top priority for architects and design professionals focused on residential design.

Connection to the outdoors/nature and outdoor entertaining both ranked high on the top 10 list of design drivers in “The Future of Home Design,” a recent survey conducted by the New Home Trends Institute (NHTI) in collaboration with Pro Builder.

More than 300 residential architects, designers and design-minded builders across the country responded to the survey with their opinions, experiences, and predictions about trends in new-home design, including styles, materials and more. The results offer insight into trends we can expect to see in home design during the next three to five years.

Connecting to the Outdoors

Of those surveyed, 58% said connection to the outdoors/nature will be an important influence on their design choices in the coming years, while 45% said outdoor entertaining will also receive increased attention. Following value and cost considerations, connection to the outdoors and nature was predicted to be the largest driver of home design choices over the next three years.

Home Owners Seek More Outdoor Living Options

A large, green backyard once satisfied home buyers, but today’s buyer is seeking more options and flexibility in how they use outdoor spaces — just as they are for interiors. In fact, “The Future of Home Design” survey reveals that an open yard ranks low among design professionals, compared with more multifunctional options. Just 28% of respondents chose that type of space in the survey, compared with other more popular features, such as covered outdoor rooms/open-air rooms (73%), patios (68%) and decks (55%).

Challenges Spur Creativity in Outdoor Living Design

Designing higher-density projects as demand for multifunctional outdoor spaces increases requires creative solutions. Popular solutions include:

  • Expansive windows and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors help create connection to the outdoors without requiring additional square footage indoors or out.
  • Expect efficiently designed outdoor spaces featuring more built-in features, such as firepits or fireplaces (73%), outdoor kitchens (68%), gazebos or pergolas (44%), pools (36%), integral package delivery solutions (22%), and spas or hot tubs (20%) — often several in the same footprint or across multiple (if smaller) outdoor living spaces serving the home.
  • Covered outdoor rooms address the space allocation debate and also meet the need and desire for privacy. Often set up to mirror the comfort (and sometimes even the finishes) of the home’s interior, these spaces are an indoor-outdoor hybrid.

Creating Privacy and Community in Outdoor Living Spaces

In the push-pull of dwindling lot sizes and greater outdoor living functionality, privacy and community remain strong considerations among consumers, and roof decks are emerging as an ideal solution. “The Future of Home Design” survey found that about 38% of architectural designers included roof decks in their designs more in 2020 than in 2019.

Meanwhile, the front porch — also a more common design feature for 53% of architectural designers in 2020 than in 2019 — is often used to promote community connection.

One thing is certain: The future of outdoor living will look different from traditional backyards as more external challenges arise, but the importance of connecting to the outdoors remains a top design consideration for designers and consumers alike.

This post is excerpted from a recent article in Pro Builder magazine. Read the full article in the November/December 2021 issue.

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