What’s hot now in outdoor entertainment design and products
There’s no question about it — outdoor living continues to heat up as a home design trend. Driving it is the homeowner’s desire to connect with nature and outdoor entertaining, partially spurred on by the pandemic and the desire to gather safely outdoors.
In 2022 “The Future of Home Design” survey conducted by the New Home Trends Institute (NHTI), showed just 28 percent of respondents chose an open yard in the survey compared with other more popular features, such as covered outdoor rooms/open-air rooms (73 percent), patios (68 percent), and decks (55 percent). Say goodbye to the sprawling lawns of yesteryear.
According to NAHB, the percentage of single-family homes with patios has risen to 63 percent. Home buyers across generations have also noted interest in exterior living, with millennials indicating an interest in front porches as well to foster a sense of community. In the face of dwindling lot sizes, 38 percent of architectural designers included roof decks in their designs in 2020—another growing trend.
Bringing it all together, we polled top designers and design-minded integrators to determine what their favorite trends and brands are for outdoor living projects this year.
Trend #1: The Kicked-Up Outdoor Kitchen
According to Michael Kaestner of Kaestner Designs in Philadelphia, the outdoor living market has been rapidly expanding, especially when it comes to outdoor kitchens.
“We have seen a large uptick in project requests for both the inside the home as well as outside. In order to keep up with this momentum shift, I’ve partnered with vendors who supply materials that focus on enhancing my clients’ outdoor lifestyles,” said Kaestner.
Kimberly Kerl, owner of Kustom Home Design in Greer, S.C., adds that it’s not just kitchen cabinetry that’s becoming more sophisticated for the outdoor kitchen, it’s also the appliances.
“Grills are still a staple, but cooking technology has really evolved to include infrared heat, indirect heat, pellets, rotisserie and wood chips rather than just gas or charcoal,” she said. “Beyond the grill, side burners and power burners that can heat a large stock pot for seafood boils and turkey frying are common. Teppanyaki style grills, which are basically very large griddle surfaces, are gaining in popularity along with pizza ovens and even warming drawers. Smokers are popular and have several different heating and monitoring methods, including app-based tools. Finally, refrigeration is frequently requested and often coupled with an ice maker or built-in cooler.”
Tristan Gary of Tristan Gary Designs gave us the scoop on some other amazing outdoor kitchen finds spied at KBIS, notably John Michael Outdoor Kitchens with collections featuring marine-grade 316 stainless steel exteriors, coupled with high-quality 304 stainless steel interiors. The outdoor collection is featured with Blum Movento soft close door hinges and drawer slides for impeccable functionality. Outdoor cabinets are fitted with a rubberized gasket to keep elements outside.
Gary also loved the Modular Outdoor Kitchen Units by VLAZE, with mobile prep tables, dining room tables, and planters in stunning colors and finishes.
Trend #2: Blurring the Line Between In and Out
Making your outdoors like a continuation of the interior of your home is still a strong trend.
“Many people are spending more time at home, often in spaces that no longer accommodate their needs,” said Jesse Collins, REHAU director of marketing and communications. “As a result, we are seeing more projects that are elevating outdoor components of the home to create more livable space as well as renovating indoor spaces to connect more with the outdoors.”
Coverings 2022, North America’s largest international tile and stone exhibition, saw this trend take root even in flooring options. Tile of Spain notes that rooms that have access to outdoor living continue to trend, and many companies from Spain answered the call with tiles that gracefully go from an indoor room to an outdoor space.
Wellness design consultant Jamie Gold noted the proliferation of new porcelain pavers, outdoor tile with slip resistance and outdoor-friendly countertops. “There is also an emphasis on home entertaining outdoors with bars, taps, outdoor ice, beverage fridges, and freezers,” she said.
Trend #3: Covered Outdoor Living Room
Covered outdoor rooms address the space allocation debate and meet the desire for privacy. Often set up to mimic the comfort—and even the finishes—of the home’s interior, these spaces are an indoor-outdoor hybrid.
“Here in the Pacific Northwest we are seeing a lot of these,” said Molly Switzer of Portland-based Molly N Switzer Designs, explaining that these spaces are an extension of the need to meet safely but wanting more than a simple round of folding chairs in the lawn. These open-air spaces have more elaborate lighting or skylight windows and are often finished beneath with wood. “Where we see tech is in the lighting and the extension of the sound system, which naturally ties into the rest of the home. We use fans to move air during summer months and heating elements for the longer-lasting non-summer months.”
According to Switzer, there are also various shade and screen systems that offer wind protection as well as light control and bug protection. These spaces are being outfitted with robust outdoor Wi-Fi so that guests and homeowners can stay connected at all times.
Music, movies, control and lighting are of course a must for any well-appointed outdoor haven. A qualified integrator will need to be onboard with the design from the beginning stages in order to execute correctly and limit cost overruns.
Trend #4: Performance Materials for Rugged Outdoor Use
While using materials better suited for the outdoors has always been de rigueur in al fresco design, materials used for the outdoors are only getting more durable. Jessica Duce, who owns interior design firm JDuce Design and Vacation Rental Designers, has installed outdoor furniture for just about every climate, from beachfront homes to Rocky Mountain homes to Blue Ridge Mountain homes to the heat and humidity of the South. Her favorite outdoor furniture is Polywood, which she uses pretty consistently for vacation rental projects. She also loves Southern Home Outdoor, a family-owned company based in Mobile, Ala., that creates beautiful lasting outdoor furniture all in-house. “The use of performance fabrics that can withstand the elements for cushions, pillows, ottomans, etc, is everywhere. A rattan look with the endurance for outdoors is also popular,” she added.
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A 25+ veteran of the residential tech & AV integration industries, Katye McGregor Bennett is the CEO of KMB Communications, a boutique communications firm that anchors the intersection of technology + design by connecting brands, buyers, and prospective audiences through creating compelling content and conversation that elevates and amplifies. In addition to co-hosting Design Uncut with Veronika Miller, Katye hosts two popular podcasts, Connecting Tech+ Design and AV Trade Talk. She is part of the DesignHounds influencer group and also serves on the NAHB Custom Technology Work Group, is a strategic advisor in the CEDIA, HTA, and AVIXA communities, frequent contributor to Connected Design and founder of the AV Yoga group.