Functional Design Continues to Drive Outdoor Living


Homeowners prioritize time to themselves

Over half of consumers say having time to themselves is among their top three life priorities, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting, citing data from the Euromonitor International Lifestyles Survey. For designers, builders and contractors working on outdoor designs, that means creating functional spaces—often multiple functional spaces—that give homeowners and families a sense of peace and solitude.

A report from JBRE’s New Home Trends Institute identified five profitable trends affecting outdoor design. The report is based on qualitative survey data and homeowner responses from 13 months of Survey Insights Reports collected by JBRE.

Functional spaces

Privacy has long been valued by homeowners when designing outdoor spaces, but the report found that they’re not just trying to get away from the neighbors. Instead of one large communal area, homeowners are interested in having multiple smaller outdoor “nodes” where they can get some alone time, mirroring the desire for nooks inside the home.

Year-round functional spaces

During the pandemic, having outdoor areas for entertaining allowed homeowners to maintain social connections when gathering indoors was unsafe. Shade structures, fans and heating elements will continue to be popular design elements for homeowners who want to gather outdoors all year long.

Transitional spaces

Homeowners see their outdoor areas as “flexible extensions of living areas,” according to the report. Extending materials from indoors to outside, employing the same design styles and making sure Wi-Fi works outside can help homeowners create a sense of continuity.

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Homeowners want more than just a nice yard and a pool. They’re looking for outdoor spaces to include “thoughtful memory points” that reflect their personalities, according to John Burns. Murals, hobby areas and play spaces for kids or pets show off how a homeowner actually uses and enjoys their outdoor area.


Having to find solo hobbies during the pandemic led a lot of homeowners to discover the joys of gardening, but that doesn’t mean they want to spend every weekend maintaining elaborate landscapes. Especially if homeowners don’t have a lot of space to work with, an outdoor area that they don’t have to do a lot of work in will be a big selling point, the report found.

Consider the impact that plant selection will have on homeowners, too. Citing research from Yale Medicine, the report notes that pollen seasons are getting longer and more potent. Planted areas that don’t take a family’s specific health needs into consideration could turn an entire outdoor space into nothing more than a nice view.




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