By Joe Raboine

As we enter peak landscaping season, landscape contractors are preparing for project quotes, design plans and installations to create functional and impressive outdoor living spaces for their clients. However, this year’s season presents a unique challenge for contractors, as most of the country exercises social distancing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, the landscape industry is considered an essential business, and business owners are able to continue to work with clients on new projects thanks to technology. If a contractor is unable to visit a site-in person, video conferencing, 3D renderings and virtual design can still take a project from consultation to implementation.

From a trend standpoint, clean lines, monochromatic colors and modular trends dominated 2019, and we expect those trends to continue into 2020. However, one common theme is tying these trends together – nature. Making outdoor spaces a retreat has always been a goal of landscape design, but residential designers are increasingly taking cues from nature throughout the home and bringing the indoors outside. While most of the country has been spending more time at home recently, homeowners are seeing the value of making their outdoor space an oasis. From material combinations to warmer tones, five outdoor design trends are influencing this year’s landscape design.

Borders, accents and patterns

Outdoor borders, accents and unique shapes and patterns are mimicking those seen in recent interior design trends, bringing a retro feel and playfulness to outdoor spaces. Geometric shapes like hexagons and trapezoids make a statement in features such as paver shapes, pillows and textiles, rugs and more. Large-format shapes and asymmetrical, jagged edges are rising as a top trend.

These unique edges and patterns with pavers and grass can create an eye-catching, natural look in an outdoor space. Instead of natural grass, some homeowners are opting for turf in their outdoor spaces. Seeing this trend take hold, some hardscapes manufacturers are selling pre-cut turf tiles with their pavers, which saves contractors labor as they install a new project. Contractors are also creating patterns with hardscapes by utilizing different colors or features, such as a faux rug inlay in the space or a border with different colored or textured pavers.

Nature’s influence and material combinations

hardscape trends fire pitBiophilic design is working its way to becoming a mainstream trend, encouraging more designers and homeowners to incorporate the natural environment and textures into their daily living. Biophilic design seeks to fulfill our innate need to affiliate with nature, which prompts us to incorporate nature into the modern built environment. Outdoor spaces are inherently incorporated into the natural environment, but landscape designers can take this a step further by blurring the transition from indoors to outdoors and combining materials in the outdoor space.

Landscape contractors can integrate material combinations into the project design using turf, stone and contrasting textures – think smooth porcelain intertwined with the rough finish of gravel. A paver pathway can be accented by raised planters or retaining walls that double as seating, with native plants surrounding the border, with the goal to incorporate hardscapes and softscapes together.

Bridged living and working spaces

As more people are spending more time at home, they are seeking comfortable, multi-functional spaces to live, work and relax. Outdoor spaces can be designed as a true extension of the home, doubling as both a functional space for working, relaxing or leisure activities. Hardscapes applications such as retaining walls can double as seating and incorporating a water feature, lighting or a fire pit or fireplace can make spaces livable year-round. Consider creating a covered area with a gazebo or pergola that can serve as a multi-purpose space for entertaining, meditation or working.

Warmer tones and comeback colors

Nostalgic colors are making a comeback, as we see warmer hues included in recent designs. Grays certainly became a fan-favorite in recent years, edging out tans and beiges, but we anticipate 2020 shifting back to softer, muted colors. Hardscape production directly reflects this trend, as we’re seeing more homeowners move away from grays. Alternatively, bolder colors such as charcoal are beginning to make a splash in hardscapes. Contrasting colors in outdoor design can make a statement and complement a modern home. Porcelain pavers often offer some of these more modern takes and can add a sleek look to any outdoor space.

The front porch

The return of the front porch appeared as a trend in 2019, but this front-of-home area will continue to be a focal point in 2020. As lot sizes continue to get smaller, we’ll see a focus on creating a functional gathering and living space with curb appeal. Hardscapes can be used to accomplish this, and can make a big impact, whether you’re paving a grassy or muddy area or upgrading a concrete slab to pavers. Pavers can be used to define a landscaped area or provide a pathway for guests from the sidewalk to the front door. Similar to a backyard space, hardscaped walls can double as raised planters, providing more real estate for plantings to beautify the front of the home.

Hardscapes manufacturers are watching these trends and identifying ways to provide resources and innovative products to contractors to help them grow their businesses – even amid uncertain times created by the coronavirus outbreak. On the technical side, modular products are becoming increasingly popular thanks to their ease of install and the associated benefits such as reduced labor costs and installation times. Manufacturers are producing project guides that easily outline the components needed, which are available for ordering along with step-by-step instructions. For example, a contractor working on a grill island project can easily order the hardscapes, grill, doors and other accessories at once, instead of looking for individual components.

As we enter landscaping and outdoor living season, now is the time to connect with clients and explore their needs and wants for the upcoming summer. These trends are here to stay and can deliver a lasting, beneficial impact on the homeowner’s daily life.

Joe Raboine is director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. Since 1995, Belgard’s locally made and nationally backed products have transformed thousands of residential and commercial properties in North America. For more information, visit www.Belgard.com or visit www.belgard.com/professional-resources to learn about Belgard’s products and partner programs.