8 Outdoor Living Features Homeowners Crave in 2021

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Years before COVID-19, homeowners valued their outdoor spaces and were transforming bland yards into practical extensions of the home. But like many other home trends, the pandemic accelerated the desire for bigger and better outdoor living spaces, as people followed stay-at-home orders and had more time to invest in creating their own backyard escapes.

A new Freedonia Group analysis finds that demand for outdoor living products surged more than 8% in 2020. Plus, recent data from the NKBA, Fixr, Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, and Wayfair Professional reveals the majority of homeowners are now more interested—and more willing to invest—in updating their outdoor living spaces than they were prior to the pandemic.

“In this new landscape, people are committing larger budgets for a comprehensive outdoor experience that caters to cooking, entertaining, and everyday living,” says Phil Kean, president of Phil Kean Design Group, in the 2021 Outdoor Living Report by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens. “Kitchens are now a necessity in these spaces, rather than an element saved for an update later on.”

The roundup of the following trends showcases how homeowners are using their outdoor spaces this year and what styles and features are proving to be the most popular.

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1. Outstanding outdoor kitchens: Of all the exterior home details, outdoor kitchens reign supreme. Fixr’s 2021 Trends for Outdoor Living Spaces states 61% of respondents rank outdoor kitchens as the most popular feature. The NKBA reports similar popularity with its respondents (60%), and the Brown Jordan Outdoor Living Report says 65% of American homeowners aged 35 to 44 cite a full outdoor kitchen as very important if they were designing an outdoor space.

2. Built-in entertainment: To enhance the outdoor kitchen and dining, some homeowners opt for integrated entertainment, including built-in speakers and mounted televisions. NKBA data says 48% of homeowners rank the option as a top need for their space, but also makes another interesting point: Those designing for millennials note there’s more interest for the integrated entertainment (63%) than outdoor kitchens (43%).

3. Fire features are hot: Whether gas or wood-burning, fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables are considered a must-have for today’s outdoor living spaces. The Brown Jordan report states 66% of homeowners think a fire pit is an important feature. NKBA’s outdoor living data says 60% rank fireplaces and fire pits as a top option, and Fixr’s surveyed professionals vote fire pits as the second most popular outdoor living feature, right behind outdoor kitchens.

4. Build up the bar: Occasionally included with outdoor kitchens, some homeowners are looking to cook and celebrate with features such as sinks, beverage fridges, and kegerators. Brown Jordan’s findings reveal 42% of homeowners say that an outdoor bar is an important feature for their exterior space. Plus, Wayfair Professional claims outdoor kitchen island searches more than doubled and outdoor bar stool searches were up 66% in the past year.

5. Protection from the elements: While kitchen and fire areas can help create the ideal exterior room, they can be hard to utilize in the rain, snow, or other weather-related events. As a result, 55% of NKBA professionals note that weather protection is also an important outdoor living feature. Fixr respondents agree and say 48% of outdoor spaces will be adapted to year-round use, with 27% adding hard patio covers like pergolas and 4% utilizing soft patio covers like awnings.

6. The significance of seating: In addition to overhead cover, areas for seating are also crucial. Expanded/enhanced seating areas rank as one of the top needs from NKBA and Brown Jordan, with the majority—60% and 83%, respectively—of professionals saying homeowners need seating for lounging and dining. In Wayfair Professional’s Outdoor Trend Report, consumer data reveals outdoor couch searches were up 84%, metal outdoor furniture searches doubled, outdoor wicker chair searches were up more than 59%, and teak patio furniture searches were up 65%.

7. Blending the connection: The trend of blurring the line between indoor and outdoor environments has been on the rise for the past few years, as window and door manufacturers continue to debut products that open larger and wider. Fixr asked its experts about the most popular way to incorporate indoor-outdoor living today, finding 74% use folding or sliding doors and windows and 48% use glass walls that can fold and slide.

8. Gardens grow in popularity: Although not in the top three features, gardening and yard maintenance are also activities that have seen an increase since the onset of the pandemic. Twenty-six percent of adult respondents to the August 2020 edition of The Freedonia Group survey report they started a food garden because of the pandemic. Wayfair Professional also touches on the trend, with garden greenhouse searches nearly tripling and raised garden bed searches up 75%.

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