An Outside Oasis

Multiple design options help homeowners create inviting backyard spaces.

The crackling of a fire. Grilled food served in the flicker of light from a gas lantern. Outdoor living spaces create an allure that draws people together.

“The outdoor room with fire features and an outdoor kitchen tends to promote family gatherings or gathering with your neighbors, something that with busy lifestyles doesn’t happen quite
as often as it should,” said Jerry Scott, senior vice president of sales for RH Peterson Co. “It’s those emotional ties – whether you’re cooking or enjoying the warmth and ambiance of a fire – that an outdoor room gives you.”

More and more homeowners are adding outdoor living spaces to their homes. It is a trend that began even before the pandemic, he said, but the pandemic accelerated it even more.

“The outdoor room continues to grow in popularity,” Scott said. “It’s now one of the top features that home buyers and home remodelers are looking for. People who are remaining home want to make their home more enjoyable.”

In a recent home trends study, more than 70% of architecture firms surveyed by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) indicated significant growth in the popularity of outdoor living spaces. And AIA predicts these spaces will become the norm for newly built homes.

A recent survey by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) found that 60% of homeowners with existing outdoor living spaces plan to upgrade those spaces for better functionality and improved aesthetics. NBKA found that outdoor kitchens were the most popular project, with 76% of respondents planning a new or upgraded outdoor cooking area. Other popular projects included patios and decks (54%) and screened porches or three-season rooms (31%).

Privacy is an increasing priority for many homeowners, according to the New Home Trends Institute. For many, this means a move away from front porches to private backyard spaces with sheltered side yards, decorative fencing to establish outdoor walls and covered patios and decks.

From Simple to Elaborate

Outdoor living spaces can be as simple as upgrading the patio or deck to add a grill and fire feature, or they can cover much of the backyard with outdoor kitchens, seating areas for conversations, and outdoor fireplaces for both warmth and ambiance.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) recommends homeowners designing an outdoor living space start by defining how they will use the space. Someone who plans to entertain or host dinner parties or barbecues may want to focus on the outdoor kitchen and dining spaces. If the space will primarily be used for family gatherings, a homeowner may want to include gathering areas with games, built-in sandboxes, water features or play stations for children. The homeowner looking to have a place to relax and unwind may want to focus on a fireplace or firepit and soft natural gas lighting to create a soothing mood.

For those on a budget, Better Homes & Gardens recommends identifying one key element – for example, a fire pit or a special piece of furniture – to invest in and then finishing the space with more budget-friendly items.

Designing the Outdoor Room

Once the use of the space is defined, homeowners can begin designing it to fit their needs. Natural gas appliances offer homeowners a variety of options for the outdoor living space. Grills and side burners come in a variety of sizes and configurations to accommodate anything from small family barbecues to large gatherings. Fire pits, fireplaces and other fire features along with natural gas lanterns can help set an inviting and cozy mood in both small and large spaces.

In addition to natural gas features, consumers have a variety of design options. Lounge chairs, patio swings and chaise lounges provide comfortable seating areas. Carpets, artwork and throw pillows for furniture add decorative touches. Water features such as fountains or ponds can create a calming atmosphere while pools or hot tubs add a space for fun and relaxation.

Gazebos, archways or trellises can help divide the outdoor space to create distinctive areas for cooking, dining or relaxing. Different areas can also be set apart with stone walkways or through the creative placement of furniture and appliances. Homeowners can finish out the outdoor space with theaters and music systems.

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Natural Living, and was authored by Tonya McMurray. To read more articles about utilizing natural gas in your home in Natural Living, click here.

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