Outdoor Living Trends 2014

Woven rectangular chairs with pads and pillows are surrounding a firepit in a brilliant outdoor decoration.

A firepit makes a perfect gathering point in the backyard of the Coleta plan. Built by David Weekley Homes at Lake Park at the Bridges. Gilbert, Ariz.

1. Installed Seating

The newest darling of the outdoor seating scene is installed seating, which can include benches, ledges, boulders or seawalls made of a variety of materials, including stone, cement or brick. They provide extra seating during parties and family gatherings and double as an easy perch for plants and sculptures in a pinch.

In some cases, these features are designed with a backrest, so guests can truly relax. No wonder almost 90 percent of landscape designers said installed seating has become popular among homeowners, according to this year’s Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Many homeowners place installed seating around a fireplace or an outdoor kitchen, but in some cases they’re used to establish boundaries in the landscape — say, if you have a yard that slopes and you’re worried about guests or kids slipping. In many cases, installed seating can increase the value of your home as it’s considered a high-end touch that removes the need for bulky furnishings, thus creating the illusion that the outdoor space is larger than it is. 

2. Outdoor Wallpaper

You’ve seen the impact that wallpaper can have on the interior of a home, but what if you could have a similar “wow” effect on the exterior, perhaps in lieu of fresh paint or new siding?

Wall & Deco is an Italian company that scales images to the surface you plan to put it on, customizing the covering to both your home and style. That innovation extends to the company’s Outdoor Unconventional Texture (OUT) product line, which achieves the same effect on exterior walls, infusing your backyard or deck area with a conversation-worthy focal point. The patterns are graphic, bold and bright, so prepare to be the envy of the neighborhood.

“The three-step system involves printing on a fiberglass base and applying a protective glue until it’s both non-permeable and weather resistant,” says Giovanni Mancuso, the fashion photographer-turned-mastermind behind Wall & Deco. “One day I saw pictures from a shoot where the interior was sophisticated and beautiful, but the facade of the building lacked personality, and I thought, ‘It would have been fun if we had dressed it up with wallpaper.’ ” This seemingly random thought is now a stunning outdoor visual effect that comes with a warranty of 10 years.

3. Transitional Decking

Homeowners today look at porches and decks as extensions of their living space; hence they’re quick to embrace anything that helps them create a seamless transition. Enter transitional decking.

“These are products that blend the design aesthetics of indoor flooring with outdoor durability and performance,” says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex Company, one of the leading manufacturers of transitional decking.

This means you’re no longer regulated to square outdoor spaces. Multi-level or curved decks that wrap around the home, both with and without railings and at times in contrasting shades, are increasingly in popularity as they provide a look and feel that is more homey and organic. 

Also trending are the decking materials themselves. “Composite decking resists fading, scratching and mold, and it won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter,” Zambanini says. “In fact, you never need to worry about sanding, staining or painting — just do a simple soap and water cleaning twice a year.” 

4. Firepits and Fireplaces

There’s something about a fire that draws people like a magnet, bringing them — literally — closer together, a boon if you’re spending time with family or entertaining. It also allows you to enjoy your outdoor space even when it’s chilly out. Perhaps that’s why a whopping 95 percent of landscape designers cite fire pits and fireplaces as bona fide trends in the aforementioned survey — and that’s not just in the cooler northern states, but across the country.

Unlike fireplaces, firepits have 360-degree openings that prohibit proper drafting, causing it to smolder. They also leave behind a lot of ash. A better bet is a chiminea or a proper outdoor fireplace. A chiminea is covered and has both a single opening and a chimney to fuel the fire with fresh air while pulling smoke away. If you have the space for an outdoor fireplace, those made of cast iron or aluminum last longer than those made of copper or clay. 

5. Turf Lawns

Earth-friendly synthetic lawns are growing in popularity because they provide all the aesthetic benefits of the real thing without the maintenance hassles. Not only does turf eliminate the need for pesticides and fertilizers, something parents and pet owners love, it saves water, too. Depending on where you live, you may even be able to get a rebate on your utility bill exchange for choosing synthetic grass. Turf lawns are particularly popular in places where grass is difficult to grow.

Ana Connery is the former content director for the Parenting Group and has edited several magazines, including Florida Travel & Life and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the construction of the FitHouse program. She lives and writes from her Florida bungalow.

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