Like the boomers before them, the size of the millennial generation gives them outsized influence on trends. That extends to design influences in outdoor living, according to research from the International Casual Furnishings Association. ICFA’s 2021 “2021 Trend Report: Outdoor Living Space” found that 90% of respondents said that outdoor living space was more valuable than ever during the pandemic, but they had different motivations depending on their generation.
Eighty-eight percent of Americans were unsatisfied with their outdoor areas, the report found. Style was the biggest complaint respondents had (66%), but 56% of respondents were frustrated by lack of functionality and 45% said their space was uncomfortable.
“At the beginning of 2020, we were focused on creating outdoor spaces that complement our homes and lifestyles,” said Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance and executive director of its outdoor division, the International Casual Furnishings Association. “Today, we are creating outdoor spaces that supplement our sense of well-being and transform an outdoor area into an outdoor room.”
For example, over half of millennials are making big purchases of outdoor furniture, compared to 29% of boomers. However, younger respondents were more likely to seek products that blur the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. The report found 40% of millennials chose a sofa or sectional for their outdoor furniture, compared to 17% of boomers. The same percentage of boomers use rugs or throw pillows outside, compared to 25% of millennials.
For all respondents, the most common upgrades include outdoor lighting (52%), lounge chairs or chaises (51%), a fire pit (49%) and a dining table with chairs (42%).
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Seventy-three percent of respondents overall said they wanted to upgrade their outdoor area to make it more functional. A big source of functionality for homeowners is an outdoor kitchen: 51% of respondents said they use their outdoor spaces for cooking.
Millennials were also more likely to want an outdoor bar: 37% versus 17% of boomers. Younger respondents are more entertainment-oriented, as 43% said they wanted to use the area to entertain guests, versus 28% of boomers.
Although only a quarter of respondents overall were thinking about upgrading their outdoor areas in order to increase the value of their homes, this motivation was more common among millennials than boomers: 32% compared to 20%.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they use their patios for relaxation, and 36% said their goal for renovation was to “create a private retreat.”
“In normal times, outdoor spaces are areas of recreation for ourselves and our families, yet today we need them for restoration for our bodies and minds,” Hirschhaut said.
Danielle Andrus was previously the managing editor for Colorado Builder, and is currently Editor for the Journal of Financial Planning.