Over the past year, your backyard has probably been one of the few places you could actually “go” to get out of the house. After spending so much time out there, you may have started noticing some areas that could use a little love…or a complete makeover. From new plants to fresh furniture, and entertainment enhancements, we’ve got you covered with some of the latest trends that will re-energize your outdoor space.
1. Plants with a Purpose
Millions of people started gardening during the pandemic. Motivations varied from the desire to be outdoors to wanting a new hobby to fill the time at home. But one of the biggest reasons for an uptick in edible gardening was to supplement pantries with homegrown fruits, vegetables, and herbs. “With lessons learned from impromptu COVID-gardens last year, this year these spaces will be better thought out and gardeners will be more prepared,” says Blythe Yost, co-founder and head designer at Tilly Design.
Even decorative landscaping will serve a purpose: video call backdrops! “We are home more, so having a beautiful focal point and a strong mix of evergreens, perennials and ornamental grasses that provide seasonal interest and green all year is a must,” says Yost. “No one wants to look at only leafless trees on their conference calls.”
We’re also seeing an increased demand for dynamic activations such as group seating for neighborhood gatherings, sports courts, kids play areas, and sculptural features, as well as medicinal and tea plantings and beehives.
2. Peaceful Gardens
It’s not just the inside of our homes that can provide respite from the chaos of the world—people want their outdoor spaces to do the same. “Formal, manicured gardens are less relevant today—people are more interested in creating enveloping comfort and serenity,” says Landscape Architect Renée Byers. “They want a garden that looks like it has always been there. The right plants in the right place can create private and serene settings, but still be full of interest and color as one moves through them.”
According to the seed and plant company, Burpee , in 2021 a garden full of flowers in soothing colors — plus, the gentle sound of swaying ornamental grasses — is the way to go if you’re looking to turn whatever backyard you have into a little slice of serenity.
Try planting evergreens such as boxwood or hollies contrasted with various ornamental grasses and flowering shrubs, such as panicle hydrangeas, mostly in white. “The grasses sway with the wind and catch the light, and by keeping the flowering color palette limited to white, with blooms that fade to pinks and burgundies as the season progresses, you can achieve a very soothing effect over many months”, says Byers.
If you don’t have the space for a full garden, you can always use containers to some extent here, too. Potted plants will never go out of style.
3. Taking the Indoors Out
As we head into the warmer months, everyone’s favorite indoor creature comforts are moving outdoors. This summer try decorating your outdoor space with unfussy stoneware and linens to set your outside dining table or throws and decorative pillows cozying up your seating. Build on whatever motifs and color palette you like or have going on inside your home. Think of your outdoor space as an extension of your living room and decorate it as such.
“We are seeing outdoor furniture that is styled as though it could also be used as inside furniture becoming very popular,” says Matt Daly of Water and Earth Landscape Design. “And designers and outdoor furniture manufacturers are using weatherproof materials so that they don’t need to be covered.”
Poufs, planted centerpieces, outdoor rugs, and other cozy details are also popular, says Tina Huffman from Greenhouse Studio. She says they “help to create an outdoor living room atmosphere by defining a space and adding texture and softness.”
4. Subtle Lighting
One of the best ways to relax and decompress is with soothing lighting, both inside and out. You might not be able to add a chandelier or pendant to anchor your patio set, but you can always hang some bistro lights to give your space a warm and inviting feeling.
Landscape designer, Fernando Wong, says “For outdoor lighting, it’s crucial to have areas of darkness and light to highlight the spaces where you want to draw your eye.” This effect can easily and affordably be accomplished with the use of spotlights and uplighting. “Always try to aim lights so that you do not see the light source and try to shield the bulbs when possible. Pay attention to light bulb wattage—lower-watt bulbs provide enough illumination for outdoor use.”
5. Staying Connected
As people integrate the outdoors into everyday living, they’re “looking to incorporate all the technology they use on the interior, for the exterior,” says Joe Raboine, Director of Residential Hardscapes at Belgard. Activities like streaming movies and working from home have many people adding boosters to amplify Wi-Fi signal outdoors. Other necessities like USB ports and electrical outlets are also on the rise.
Incorporating music and televisions remain some of the top outdoor tech requests. And there are aesthetic updates, too. “LED color-changing technology is a fun way to change the mood of the space,” says Rabinoe. “With a simple change on the app, the lights can be changed to just about any color: green and red for Christmas, orange for Halloween, etcetera.”
6. Flexible Furnishings
As entertaining became less of a focus in 2020, outdoor furniture has developed to accommodate both everyday living and anticipated social gatherings. “Designing furniture is not just about style—it is about how you live,” says Sandra Smith-Fitzgerald, Senior Vice President of Merchandising for Frontgate. “We have created pieces designed to perform multiple functions, often with hidden features, and made them versatile enough to use in nearly any space you choose.”
Expect to see outdoor furniture items that are convertible, like modular tables that can be pulled apart to accommodate seating and social distancing, stackable chairs, or tables with hidden beverage compartments.