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Outdoor Living Trends for 2022

Everyone is looking for their place in the sun. Whether it's a tiny balcony or a grand three-level deck, it's outside and that's where we want to be.

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Cozy covered sitting area with wicker chairs and barbecueirina88w/Getty Images

Take Your Life Outdoors

The past two years have definitely spurred the outdoor living movement. Stuck at home because of the pandemic, many families embraced their outdoor spaces with new interest. Now that families have discovered the joys of life outside, they’re looking for ways to take virtually every activity into the great outdoors.

“We’re definitely seeing outdoor living areas shift from entertainment-focused spaces to true living spaces,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, a manufacturer of outdoor living products. “But it’s deeper than that.

“We’ve rediscovered how important outdoor spaces are to being human. How our brains respond to being in these environments reduces stress and adds value every day. That’s a totally different value proposition.”

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Man grilling in backyardRobert Nicholas/Getty Images

Cooking

Today’s outdoor kitchens are bigger and better equipped than ever.

“There’s a huge trend in pizza ovens, wood fire or gas combination that can cook anything from pizza to five-course meals,” says Brandon Ewers, sales consultant with Pirch, a product showroom. “People are buying hybrid grills that use gas, charcoal or wood, and we’ve seen a major influx in clients wanting larger grills and new concepts like flattop grills.”

Families seek full kitchen utility with a refrigerator and countertops for chopping and prepping. They also want serving areas with specialty items, like a kegerator for ice-cold draft beer.

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Gay couple working on laptop and digital tablet while relaxing by poolThomas Barwick/Getty Images

Relaxing

Cooking outside naturally leads to dining al fresco, and picnic tables have come a long way. In cooler climes, you can dine around gas fire pit tables or a tiny heated hideaway. And patio dining sets come in many sizes, shapes and materials.

Landscapers are seeing calls for entire outdoor living rooms, plus micro-spaces with a lounge chair or porch swing. These function as a private reading nook or simply a place to relax.

Raboine says families are finding different ways to meet their needs and budgets. “When people are looking for a place to go take a nap,” he says, “it can range from a hammock to a separate structure with a roof that has a hanging bed.”

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Sisters enjoying summer on the trampoline with a sprinklerCavan Images/Getty Images

Playing

COVID-19 restrictions made homeowners take a fresh look at their backyards.

“When flights and entertainment venues shut down, people found ways to enjoy their yards instead of jetting to a resort,” says Karen Filloon, a landscape designer and director of marketing and business development at Southview Design landscaping contractors.

“It became obvious to people that they needed to take advantage of the space they have, and they began putting in their own little resorts.”

These backyard resorts can include dedicated athletic and game courts, outdoor TVs. movie projectors and screens, kids play accessories and more.

“One project we did recently was in a tiny backyard,” says Filloon. “We added synthetic turf around a pool and hot tub, outdoor furniture and a complete kitchen … every inch of the backyard was taken up. And they absolutely love it.”

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Mature woman burning newspaper on patio fire at duskDeborah Kolb/Getty Images

Fire

Many homeowners love a controlled fire in their outdoor environment. Store-bought portable fire pits are still popular, as are fire tables. There’s also a huge demand for built-in fire pits and fireplaces.

“I’ve been seeing fire pits built in a complete large circle or rectangle,” says Ewers. “Cast-in-place concrete is the number one material we see.” Rock and metal are also popular, Ewers says.

And while there’s nothing like a wood fire, gas is gaining a foothold. “Families want fire outside, and today there’s always a discussion about gas or wood,” Filloon says. “We’re seeing about 50/50 split right now.”

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Swimming pool with white chairsJumping Rocks/UIG/Getty Images

Water

Water features, from fountains to ponds and pools, add a visual and audio element to any yard. In-ground pools are hot, even in the cold North.

“After COVID, we had been getting two, three, four pools requested a week,” says Filloon. “People couldn’t take spring break or go to the beach so they needed to make the most of their property. They took the money they weren’t spending on trips and eating out and invested it into landscaping.”

Homeowners are putting in plunge pools as well as hot tubs, fountains, ponds, streams and waterfalls. They’re also embracing convenience with self-watering planters, sprinkler systems and even outdoor showers. “Outdoor showers are happening,” says Ewers, noting they’re a popular option for dog owners, too.

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backyard string lights BSPollard/Getty Images

Lighting

“Lighting is crucial for spending time outdoors,” Raboine says. “Homeowners are increasingly looking to add lighting to their outdoor spaces that’s both stylish and practical,”

While lighting for security and safety is still important, today’s outdoor lighting trends are more about aesthetics. Lights are floating in pools and bedazzling foliage, decorating pathways and hanging from cables. Low voltage, LED and of course solar lighting can transform backyards, porches and decks.

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Asian mature men working with laptop computer and listening to music while setting in front or back yard outdoors at homeSix_Characters/Getty Images

Technology

Working and learning from home forced many homeowners to rethink their living space and connectivity. “Homeowners need space for home offices, as well as areas for virtual learning environments,” Raboine says.

Whether they work from their outdoor living room, a countertop in the outdoor kitchen or a dedicated outdoor office, reliable internet is a must. “A lot of people are sick and tired of staying in their house, so we talk to them about setting up work space with extended WiFi,” says Ewers.

But a reliable router isn’t enough for tech-savvy homeowners. “They want to control everything — lights, music speakers, pool equipment,” Filloon says. “And they need it to be controlled by phone app or a console inside.”

Wendy B. Danks
My 40-year-plus career in marketing and communications was both fun and rewarding, not least of which was the 20 years I got to manage the largest Parade of Homes in the United States. But through it all, I was happiest when I had pen or keyboard in hand. Whether an ad, a press release or magazine article, I found a home with words.