As summer 2021 approaches, the focus on home improvement and design is naturally shifting to the outdoors. The spirit of the pandemic has initiated a new home-stay culture and a backyard-centric lifestyle. More than ever, homeowners now view their once underutilized outdoor spaces as literal extensions of their home’s interior. No longer just a place for a plastic kiddie pool and rusty charcoal barbecue, decks, patios, decks and verandas transform into sophisticated living spaces.
With travel restrictions and cabin fever in full swing, the owners took the vacation vibe they had been deprived of into the backyard. Outdoor working, sleeping and cooking spaces have become popular, along with functional, durable and comfortable furniture. Teak, wicker and iron are no longer the only options for outdoor furniture, as sturdy but fashionable materials are increasingly available. Faux materials and performance fabrics allow the upholstery and rattan looks to be introduced to the outdoors, without worrying about deterioration or the need to pull them under shelter or cover them in inclement weather.
Furniture isn’t the only advancement in outdoor living. The implementation of electronics in these ventilated spaces has also come a long way. Patio heaters, solar power and audio systems are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s always nice to stay warm and listen to music while hanging out in the nature lounge, and it’s also now more common to see TVs added to the mix. Weatherproof and glare-proof TVs make a beautiful fall football game in the backyard even more enjoyable and make it possible to fall asleep to a movie after dinner outside.
Another trend boosted by the pandemic months is sleeping under the stars. Even if it’s just about taking a nap, studies have shown that sleeping outside leads to more restful sleep. Outdoor sleep has been said to align sleep with the natural cycles of light and dark, helping to fall asleep and wake up more naturally. Coupled with advancements in outdoor furniture and fabrics, outdoor bedrooms / sleeping areas can now be just as comfortable as the master bedroom.
Soft, comfortable and stylish do not normally fall into the same category as durable. However, the push within the design community to make the interior stand out has resulted in an endless array of interior-exterior fabrics that work just as well on a wingback chair in the formal living room as they do on a pool lounge chair. Fabric distributors have partnered with luxury designers and premium brands to produce these performance fabrics, providing consumers with the ability to make outdoor spaces as beautiful and functional as any indoor living space.
Performance flooring for the feet, in the open, can turn the floor from drab to fabulous. In addition to the much-needed comfort, an outdoor rug offers another element of pattern and color, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. Made from synthetic materials, exterior flooring is available in a variety of patterns and colors and is durable, easy to clean and designed to withstand the elements.
A classic feature of the outdoor gathering space is the proven fireplace. An essential blend of functional and ambient uses, the foyer gives the outdoor space a central meeting and focal point. The options are endless when it comes to the design and placement of these glowing gemstones. Whether you prefer the more natural look, evoking the vibe of a real campfire, or implementing the flame in a dining table or coffee table, this is the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Outdoor dining can take many forms and is really based on the owner’s lifestyle and the space available. Those who prefer to entertain may want to allocate a much larger space for dining, allowing for a wider table and more substantial chairs. Multiple dining areas are also common in outdoor living spaces. Smaller bar-height tables could serve as a spot for appetizers and quick cocktails around the bar, while a round bistro table and four chairs in the kitchen could be the perfect spot for breakfast and morning coffee. Large outdoor dining rooms are typically adorned with chandeliers and overstuffed chairs and can often be found under the canopy of a dining room structure. Curtains made from performance fabrics can also be added to line up the space and provide flexibility for intimate dining or casual dining al fresco in the sun.
Finally, outdoor kitchens can now be upgraded to almost restaurant-level quality. In the past, they were seen more as a novelty and were most often centered around a large barbecue. We are now seeing outdoor kitchens with proper work triangles, modern appliances, and even central islands and functional cabinets.
This summer, we can’t wait to meet up with friends and family again. So even if you are just adding some potted plants and an area rug to your patio, or going so far as to create a complete outdoor experience, don’t forget to sit back and enjoy the nice weather, the good weather. you spend with your loved ones – and even just by yourself – in the great outdoors.
Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, [email protected] and www.ColtonMartini.com.