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The Outdoor Living Trends to Watch in 2021

By Joe Raboine

It’s a new year, meaning many homeowners are starting to think about what home improvement projects and renovations they want to make in the coming months. Given the constraints experienced as a result of the pandemic, the home improvement industry has seen a tremendous shift in perspectives and attitudes in the residential market.

According to the latest data from Realtor.com, an outdoor space ranks among the top three features homeowners find most valuable – alongside quiet neighborhoods and proximity to grocery stores. Prospective buyers looking for their next home also rank outdoor living at the top of their wish list, alongside larger homes and updated kitchens.  

With outdoor living season on the horizon – or even beginning in warmer parts of the country – contractors and landscaping professionals must be prepared for the projects homeowners will be requesting this year. Though uncertainty still lingers around how the pandemic will play out, outdoor living will remain popular as more and more people find value in investing in their spaces, pandemic or not. Priorities have changed and home dwellers recognize that spending time outside boosts their mood and provides a much-needed escape and change of scenery. 

As contracting and landscaping begins to pick up steam heading into spring and summer, there are six key trends to watch that will be popular among homeowners this year – and professionals should be prepared to hit the ground running with design and installation. 

1. The move from entertainment to daily living 

Leading the list of hot outdoor living trends in 2021 is the 180-degree shift in how outdoor spaces are utilized. In the “old days,” before quarantine and social distancing, most outdoor living areas were thought of entertaining spaces, used for when family visited or hosting BBQ’s with the neighbors. Now, four in five homeowners, have reported wanting to make changes to help them enjoy and use their space more often – outdoor living topped the list at 35 percent. Outdoor professionals can expect to see increased requests to revamp or install elements to accommodate everyday life – such as outdoor office spaces and flex spaces for exercise and relaxation. 

2. Bigger is the new normal 

 As the desire for outdoor areas to integrate with daily activities increases, so too will the requests for larger outdoor areas. As homeowners shift their priorities, they’ll seek to create outdoor spaces complete with multiple rooms – like full living rooms, kitchens and grilling areas, reading nooks and more. According to a survey from HIRI, the areas showing the strongest remodeling activity are decks, outdoor living rooms and landscaping. Contractors need to be prepared for an influx of larger-scale projects, especially as inventory has fluctuated over the last year. 

Also, when it comes time to consider selling, outdoor features such as private backyards, decks and patios rank among the top three “must-haves” for new homebuyers – an added bonus for homeowners considering adding or renovating these areas. 

3. Getting tech savvy 

With functionality on the brain for most homeowners, this is leading to increased technology needs in outdoor spaces. The rise in remote work and outdoor office areas brings the need for enhanced electrical capabilities – such as additional outlets for computers and office essentials – and better Wi-Fi connections. Heating and cooling elements are also integral for year-round usage, including portable heaters and fire pits, which also add more options for family fun and entertaining. Lighting is also important from both a functionality and aesthetic standpoint. Various styles, such as color-changing LEDs, will be popular to meet both aesthetic needs and provide visibility for work, exercise or relaxation and family time. 

With technology becoming a necessary element in outdoor design, it will be increasingly important for design professionals to include in their plans and ensure their team has the capabilities for installation. 

4. Neutral remains king 

Neutral tones

As far as purely aesthetic trends, neutral, minimalistic tones and color palettes will remain popular this year. Given color’s ability to express balance, homeowners will continue seeking out these palettes to give their home a tranquil essence, especially in their outdoor spaces. As many landscapers and contractors have experienced inventory constraints over the past year, it’s critical to note these color trends and anticipate demand for pavers and other hardscapes (and even plants) in neutral tones such as cool, light browns and grays. With Ultimate Gray named one of Pantone’s 2021 Colors of the Year, we expect to see an influx in gray tones in overall landscape design, as well as other interior and exterior renovations. These tones also make adding “pops” of color more seamless, such as Belgard’s 2021 Color of the Year, Marigold – a bright, sunshine yellow. This can be added through more traditional decorative elements such as furniture and planters, but also may become an increasingly popular choice in landscaping – with the addition of Marigold flowers. 

5. The continued rise of geometry and modularity 

Modular, geometric patterns align with the minimalistic approach to design that has also risen in recent years. Geometric patterns create clean lines and simple formats that make a space feel uncluttered and fresh. Many of these patterns can be achieved through modular pavers, which make the design and installation process easier and faster. Modular pavers work off common nominal sizes, allowing for easy integration of various shapes, sizes and textures. This flexibility allows contractors to offer more design options and shorten the installation process, which in turn provides customers a ready-to-use space in a shorter timeframe. 

6. A trend for the tiny homeowner

Microspaces

The majority of these design trends can apply across the spectrum of homeowners. But there are different approaches that come into play for those in larger cities with smaller lot sizes and less ample space. Microspaces are emerging as a leading renovation idea for single-family homeowners who don’t have the backyard for a multi-room outdoor living area. Dual-usage flex spaces can be installed alongside homes to create a small outdoor dining or sitting area, and front porches (regardless of size) provide perfectly viable outdoor living space. Contractors will need to think creatively alongside the homeowner to create a functional design and find the right materials. But an added bonus – less material will likely be required, meaning a faster installation and the ability to work within a smaller budget.

Getting ready for busy season

As we’re on the heels of outdoor living’s busy season, contractors and landscape professionals should move forward with these trends in mind – not only to better serve their customers’ needs, but also to ensure their teams are equipped and prepared. Homeowners are looking for truly versatile, functional spaces, and outdoor living is sure to be just as popular this year (or more so) than it was in 2020. Be sure to communicate with vendors and customers clearly around design and inventory, and rely on the tools available to keep these busy times moving smoothly. 

Joe Raboine is director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. He works to ensure that Belgard’s contractors and dealers are receiving best-in-class service, products and experiences. Raboine started his career as a contractor more than 25 years ago. 

Since 1955, Belgard’s locally made and nationally backed products have transformed thousands of residential and commercial properties in North America. Belgard sets the standard for landscape design and innovation. For more information, visit www.Belgard.com