outdoor living

Outdoor Living Trends and Ideas

According to the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey in 2018, outdoor living spaces have consistently been the most popular special function spaces in American homes. This trend increased for 6 consecutive years through 2017, indicating that it continues to be in demand and may even become the standard, even in new construction. Wayne Visbeen, founder of Visbeen Architects in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, says 100 percent of the homes his firm designs throughout the U.S. include indoor-outdoor living. Outdoor living spaces could very well turn into features that are here to stay, just like open floor plans that connect living rooms and kitchens.

This article looks at the basic elements of outdoor spaces and will hopefully provide some inspiration for your own project!

Landscape Design Basics

Your landscape serves as the backbone and glue for everything else happening outside. By applying some basic principles, you can actually get away with a small amount of materials that have a dramatic impact. With a little planning, you can even complete the project in stages if you’d rather spread out the cost that may be required for larger spaces.

Connected “mini rooms”

Consider dividing your outdoor space into connected mini rooms, each with varying design treatments. This gives you more flexibility in having slightly different design approaches while reducing the chance of clashing

Interior viewpoints

Think about the view from inside your home when laying out your plan. Look out your windows to understand the lines of sight from within your home so you can keep less attractive things like portable grills or storage structures out of sight.

Exterior viewpoints

Walk the entire outdoor space as you plan your placement of items and consider what’s in the line of sight from other outdoor areas. This can provide surprising inspiration for colors and textures. For example, use the color of a distant tree’s foliage as a color in a much closer design element, whether it be a plant or a container.

Explore variation in colors and textures

Our eyes and senses like variety and interest which is why professional designers use a variety of colors and textures to please our eyes.

Here’s an article on the basics of landscape design that provides a detailed look at these topics.


Areas where you and your guests have to regularly walk will require special consideration to avoid costly redesigns and hazards. This includes areas like front walkways and areas immediately outside of exterior doors. These should be flat and stable and easy to keep clean and free of debris. These areas should also have adequate lighting, whether it’s from fixtures mounted on your home or path lights. You can get more adventurous with all kinds of materials in other less critical locations in your outdoor living areas.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some ideas from Better Homes and Gardens.

Outdoor Structures and Rooms

Qualified Remodeler surveyed its readers and found that deck expansions had the most interest from homeowners out of all outdoor remodeling projects. Think about expanding your existing deck or consider an add-on room or stand-alone structure in your yard if your space and budget permit. Covered outdoor rooms are a great way to extend your living space outdoors and offer greater protection from the elements. Mixing up indoor and outdoor design treatments opens a lot of fun and creative options. Even reclaimed materials you may have lying around can take on a new life and help transform your outdoor living spaces.

Check out this great collection of outdoor room ideas from Sunset Magazine.

Outdoor Kitchens

A recent Home Design Trends Survey by the The American Institute of Architects revealed that outdoor cooking spaces were at the top top the most-wanted list in the kitchen and bath category. There are lots of design considerations and material choices for outdoor kitchens and your budget should be the first thing to consider. This will help narrow down the scope of your project and your choices for materials. Your project scope will also determine lighting, electrical outlets, audio/visual equipment, internet connectivity, gas lines, countertops, cabinets, seating and more.

Better Homes & Gardens collected some great outdoor kitchen ideas here if you’re considering an outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor Cooking Stations

A good alternative to creating a full-blown outdoor kitchen is to dedicate a portion of your outdoor area for an outdoor cooking station. This usually includes a grill of some kind and maybe even an outdoor oven. It’s a really good solution to reduce cost while maximizing your outdoor space. And there are so many creative options!

Here are some beautiful and creative outdoor cooking stations from DigsDigs that will give you some ideas.

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