Outdoor Living: 5 Thoughts

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends

  • Date:

    September 7, 2016

Outdoor Living: 5 Thoughts

Industry Trends

These days, the most exciting room we’re adding to our homes isn’t even in the house – it’s outside. Thanks to the rapid growth of outdoor living, the humble brick patio has become emblematic of the contemporary American home and an integral part of the modern lifestyle.

It’s all the rage.

  • “When done right, a patio or deck space will be an extension of your home, and let's face it, we want to spend every minute outdoors.” (GQ magazine)
  • “It increases the usable living space and can multitask as a space for alfresco dining, lounging, entertaining, cooking, and a multitude of other activities." (NYC architect)
  • "These are unique spaces that simultaneously offer privacy from the world and the expanse of the outdoors. Whether you're entertaining friends or relaxing with a cocktail it all seems better when you're outside." (SF Interior Designer) 

The trend is clear: Americans are embracing outdoor living in a big way.

The marketplace has responded with new products (outdoor pizza ovens!) and even turnkey outdoor living DIY kits to encourage intrepid homeowners to design and build their own dream patio. Cool idea, right?

With all the excitement, it might be a good time to note this room isn’t like other rooms, for the simple fact that it’s outside. We all want the patio to be a place we enjoy; but here, every design choice must also consider nature – year-round, day-in and day-out. No other room encounters perils from fire, ice, 80-degree temperature swings, gale-force winds, high-intensity UVA rays, torrential rains and a swarm of natural invaders that fly, creep and slither. Yikes!

What follows are some common-sense guidelines for contractors and homeowners who want to make sure the outdoor living spaces they create are not only enjoyable, but also built to stand up to the great outdoors.

Don’t play with fire.

Fire is a fundamental part of the outdoor lifestyle. Patios today often include both a large, multi-surface, built-in grill and an elaborate masonry fire pit. That’s a lot of heat.

Surrounding the built-in grill with an insulated grill jacket keeps the outdoor kitchen structure cool and prevents burning or warping. Be conscious of the prevalent wind direction, too, when planning the design. Spending evenings with cook-smoke and wood ash blowing in your face quickly kills the romance of the great outdoors.

Remember shade and sunproofing.

Sunshine is a fabulous part of outdoor living…until it isn’t. A little sun goes a long way when it comes to enjoying the patio. While pergolas are trending (83 percent of residential landscape architecture professionals rate them as “highly popular”), they can appear top-heavy and even create a potential fire hazard if not situated suitably. Creative use of fabric with awnings and umbrellas can instead offer flexible shade protection while adding beauty and color to the backyard.

The sun plays havoc in other ways, too. An all-out patio with its own refrigerator, icemaker, wine cooler and beer tap will struggle to keep its cool if the appliances are exposed to direct sun in hot weather for any period of time. Never install your cooking and cooling appliances next to each other because, well, you know.

And those cool, expensive outdoor TV cabinets that are designed to keep the elements out are also prone to keeping heat in. Too much sun can cause them to overheat, leaving their unfortunate owners with expensive pieces of hot, melted plastic.

If you’re designing an outdoor space, think twice before putting in dark-colored granite countertops. They’re oh-so-sexy inside, but in the sun they turn parking lot-hot – too hot to touch, much less serve as a perch for frosty mojitos.

Outdoor appliances are a must.

It sounds obvious, but never assume an appliance designed for inside will work outside, even if it’s covered. Appliances that are only rated for indoor use often will not withstand an outdoor environment. Wide variances in temperature can cause key internal components to dissolve or malfunction. Surfaces may become discolored. Electrical elements can short circuit. And you can bet your owner’s warranty will go kaput. 

The flow is different out here.

Good design means good room flow, and that’s just as true outdoors as in. But an outdoor room has a different kind of flow.

One common mistake is too little outdoor counter space. Include enough space to create the entire meal experience outside: socializing, cooking, serving and seating require ample room, far more than a spot for the grill. On the plus side, an outside buffet means no mess inside.

“Hide the cook” is another unfortunate mistake. This is when the BBQ area is put behind a shrub or in a remote location on the property, with the result that the lonely cook becomes isolated and prone to morbid thoughts. Possible results include poorly cooked meat and a referral for professional counseling.

At night, it gets dark.

Landscape professionals and designers report that perhaps the most glaring oversight homeowners make in envisioning their dream patio is “not enough light.” It’s lovely to imagine settling back in the candlelit gloaming without a thought about the poor, busy souls trying to cut up the limes or checking the doneness of the tenderloin. Develop a lighting plan that fits the function, day or night. 

There’s no doubt that outdoor living is a beautiful thing; it’s just not quite as simple as it looks. Marketers in the patio space have a unique opportunity to inform and promote the functional benefits of their products alongside the beauty and allure of outdoor living.

Consumers want to be outdoors, but it’s clear they need help shaping their experience. If you’re a marketer in this space, contact us to learn how we can help you help your customers. Email Kent Panther at kpanther@wrayward.com

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