As popular a concept as outdoor living is today, it’s always been something that homeowners care about, or at least have been interested in. Still, there is no denying that in the wake of COVID-19, the importance of access to our outdoor spaces has increased. It’s become less a want and more a priority.
In 2023, nearly two-thirds of Americans admitted to spending “a lot more time in their outdoor spaces compared to a year ago,” according to a survey from the International Casual Furnishings Association. Eighty percent said that their outdoor living spaces are “more valuable to them than ever before.”
So we know outdoor living is important to today’s homeowner, but what exactly constitutes a worthwhile outdoor living space? To answer that question, Deckorators has released its 2024 Outdoor Living Report, which spotlights “insights and trends from industry experts and members of the Deckorators Certified Pro Program.”
We had a chance to look through the report and here’s what we found.
1. Outdoor Mimics Indoor
There is something of a change in thought going on around outdoor living spaces, in which they are less and less considered as spaces for the outdoors. Rather, they are considered living spaces that happen to be outdoors.
“If they’re going to make that investment, they want to be able to cook there, to sit there after dinner and enjoy a fire, to be able to watch TV outside—they want to do everything,” said Jason Varney, owner of Dock & Deck in Knoxville, Tenn.
In its report, Deckorators researchers wrote, "By our definition, the outdoor room is an added living space that offers the same comforts and functionality as the indoors, with the added bonus of enjoying sunshine and fresh air outside."
Image: Deckorators and Premier Outdoor Living
That thinking is especially true for kitchens, the report found, which are increasingly including “a variety of elements, from integrated storage and trash receptacles to refrigerators and TVs.” Sean Collinsgru, who owns Premier Outdoor Living in Southern New Jersey and has increasingly seen requests for outdoor kitchens, is quoted in the report as saying, “People are putting a lot more thought into those kitchen areas. On some projects, it feels like we’re designing an interior kitchen for our clients, because they really dial into every appliance, every little detail.”
2. Careful Stair Placement
It’s no surprise that with all contractors are being asked to put into outdoor spaces that spatial flow has become a bigger concern. “Stair placement is especially important,” the report reads. And the reason is logistics.
“When we’re designing spaces, we have to really think about stair placement well in advance,” Joe Hagan, founder and president of All Decked Out in Cincinnati, Ohio, said. “For good traffic flow, you're not going to put furniture in front of doorways, so we try to put our stairs close to doorways. That actually allows for more usable space everywhere else on the deck.”
3. Extending Outdoor Months
With increased investment in outdoor living—in 2023, outdoor living accounted for approximately a quarter of homeowner remodeling budgets, according to a report from fixr—homeowners are looking for ways to extend the value of those spaces—make them more useful for longer. A simple solution: heat.
According to the report, "It's important that even when the heaters or fire features aren't in use they can still blend into the space or become they're own visual focal point."
Image: Deckorators and Premier Outdoor Living
“Electric heaters are very popular in our area, “ said All Decked Out President Hagan. “We recommend adding heaters to pretty much any roof structure, because you’re able to enjoy the space an extra three months of the year in our area.”
Lief Wirtantn, CEO of Cascade Fence and Deck in Vancouver, Wash, always recommends a heating element to his clients. “Even if clients don’t specifically request a fire pit, we really encourage it.”
There's an added appeal that heaters and fire pits are relatively affordable, given their utility. As Hagan put it, “I think it’s worth it on every project.” He added, “The cost isn’t too crazy in the grand scheme of things, to just add extra time that you can spend outside.”
Ultimately what Deckorators’s report found is that, by demand, outdoor living spaces are becoming more versatile. Homeowners want all of the amenities, comfort, privacy and functionality of the indoors, just without the four walls. In some cases they want more.
A decade ago, that may have been an unreasonable request. Today, it’s expectation.
“Homeowners want their outdoor living spaces to be used in every application,” Varney of Dock & Deck said. “These days, there’s almost nothing that can’t be done outside.”