Outdoor Living Trends in New Home Construction

For over a decade, the gradual trend has been for homeowners to transform the formerly open backyards of existing homes into definable “outdoor living” spaces. In new home construction, however, this phenomenon has grown exponentially in more recent years to the point that outdoor living has becoming a standard feature at just about any price level. Although upgraded outdoor living spaces are more common at higher price levels, new construction home buyers at all levels want to know that they’ll be able to live in and enjoy their outdoor spaces. According to builders, realtors and landscape architects, some definable trends have emerged as being “highly desirable” to potential buyers.

Indoor/Outdoor Convergence: For several years, the trend has been to create outdoor living areas that mimic indoor living. This has evolved in a way that with many new home designs, there is no distinct separation between the indoor and outdoor spaces, but more of a fluid separation between the two areas. These types of designs might incorporate floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls, stackable doors or floor materials that contribute to that sense of flow. For example, Belgard Porcelain Pavers were designed for outdoor use, but coordinate with a line of interior porcelain tile, which allows for the same flooring aesthetic to be used both inside and outside of the home.

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Multiple floor-to-ceiling glass doors and Ardesie porcelain pavers make this porch feel like a continuation of the home’s interior living spaces.

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Fully Functioning Kitchens: Although this trend is more typically seen in higher priced homes, smaller homes are jumping on the outdoor kitchen bandwagon, even if on a smaller scale — like with a simple built-in grill. But for mid-level homes and above, buyers want an outdoor kitchen with all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen, and then some. In luxury homes, the outdoor kitchen often costs more than the indoor kitchen, with amenities that incorporate everything from dishwashers to brick ovens. In many cases, the outdoor kitchen also functions as an outdoor bar and includes items like roll-top beverage coolers, kegerators and wine refrigerators.

This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.
This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.

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Integrated Audio/Visual and Lighting: New homes of every price range are incorporating outdoor televisions and sound systems, even if on the smaller scale of an outdoor-rated bluetooth speaker system. Mid-level homes and above are taking the trend to the next level with outdoor sound systems that are integrated with the interior of the home so that the same music can be played inside the home as outside, which follows the indoor/outdoor convergence trend. With the rapid advance of smart phone technology, this can be taken to an even higher level with systems that can operate off of a mobile app to control every electronic aspect of the outdoor living space, including TVs, sound systems, lighting, fire features and pool equipment.

Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner's mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.
Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner’s mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.

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Intimate Outdoor Spaces: Home buyers are interested in having a relaxing outdoor living area where they can socialize and unwind, creating a trend towards more cozy seating areas, often incorporating a fireplace or fire pit. Some experts relate this trend to the fact that there’s typically a TV in every room of the house, so a cozy outdoor space away from a TV can be a place to escape. Unlike expansive outdoor kitchen spaces, which may be limited to luxury homes, an “outdoor retreat” can be created on a smaller budget and appeals to buyers at all levels. In fact, a cozy outdoor space can easily be created by adding a freestanding wall or two. With the help of a few staged furnishing, potential buyers can get a feel for how they would live in the outdoor space.

The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot.
The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot. This same sense of intimacy can also be created with the use of a freestanding wall, which can help define the space and create the illusion of an interior room.

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Sustainable Design: According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, this year’s top trends in landscape design include both rainwater harvesting and the use of permeable pavers. Although a standard permeable paver installation simply allows water to filter through the paver joints into the ground below, a permeable paver system can be designed to also harvest and recycle rainwater, converging these two trends into one and allowing the reclaimed water to be used for garden irrigation and other uses. Current top landscape trends also include native plants and low-maintenance landscaping.

A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.
A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.

Rainwater Harvesting Now the Hottest Outdoor Design Trend

Permeable paver patios and driveways can be designed to collect and recycle rainwater. (Product shown: Eco-Dublin® pavers)

With last year’s annual survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), green practices began to dominate the list of top outdoor design trends like never before, with 8 of the top 10 trends all related to eco-friendly or sustainable practices. With the recently released 2016 survey results, make that number now 9 out of 10, with rainwater harvesting making a giant leap up to the top spot. Take a look at last year’s trends compared to this year’s.

2015 Top 10 2016 Top 10
1 Native plants Rainwater/graywater harvesting
2 Drought-tolerant plants Native plants
3 Edible gardens Drought-tolerant plants
4 Fire pits/fireplaces Low-maintenance landscaping
5 Low-maintenance landscapes Permeable paving
6 Permeable paving Fire pits/fireplaces
7 Water-efficient irrigation Edible gardens
8 Rain gardens Rain gardens
9 Lighting Water-efficient irrigation
10 Rainwater/graywater harvesting Reduced lawn area

These trends reflect consumers’ growing commitment to landscapes that reduce water use and stormwater runoff, says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA.

“Water issues are hot topics for many communities, and many people are turning to landscape architects for creative green infrastructure solutions,” said Somerville. “Sustainable residential landscape architecture, if part of a broader integrated site design, can dramatically reduce water usage and stormwater runoff over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.”

With a combined rainwater harvesting permeable pavement system, Belgard offers a way to combine three of these top outdoor design trends with a single design element. With this type of pavement system, rainwater drains through the joints between pavers and percolates down through a bed of gravel into a collection cistern, where a pump can recycle the water for irrigation or water features. Pollutants are removed from the water as it drains through the gravel, which adds additional protection for the environment.

PICPstorage

Many municipalities and states offer grants and tax incentives for installing either permeable pavers or a rainwater harvesting system, which is likely a factor in the growing popularity of using permeable pavers for this purpose. With the variety of attractive Belgard permeable pavers available, homeowners can build stunning outdoor living areas, driveways and walkways that are as ecologically responsible as they are beautiful.

Patio Design Trends:
Large-Format Pavers

Over the last few years, one patio design trend that continues to grow in popularity is the increased size of patio pavers. Although the classic styles of smaller cobble and brick pavers still have a strong following, particularly in neighborhoods with more traditional architecture, homeowners with contemporary architecture have a tendency to lean towards the fashionable lines of larger pavers. Some attribute the style shift to the European and Mediterranean design influences that have been infiltrating American architecture and both interior and exterior design for the last couple of decades. Others attribute the shift to the design strategy of using larger pavers to make a smaller outdoor space appear more spacious and less cluttered. Whatever the reasons, large-format pavers have become an undeniable trend in contemporary patio design.

Back to Nature

Likely driven somewhat by the green movement, as well as European design influences, many homeowners are drawn to the look of natural stone. Belgard offers a variety of large format pavers that emulate the look of natural stone, with the added benefits of reduced costs and increased durability. Many Belgard pavers and retaining wall products are created by scanning natural stone with a 3-D scanner and using the dimensional imagery to create molds to produce hardscape products that mimic the look and texture of slate, flagstone, or hand-chiseled rock. But unlike natural stone, pavers can be laid in a pattern that deceptively looks random but installs much more easily.

Mega-Arbel®:  Mega-Arbel offers the texture, shape, and random look of natural flagstone to create outdoor spaces that flow into the surrounding landscape. Each irregularly shaped stone is roughly 15″x21″ and fits together into a cloverleaf pattern that installs more quickly than natural flagstone. False joints create the illusion of randomly-laid multiple sized pieces, including large stones that meet the needs of contemporary design trends.

Mega-Lafitt­™: The most natural-looking texture in a modular paver, Mega-Lafitt offers the look of hand-cut stone in a modular paver. Various modular shapes, including a large piece that is nearly 16″x16″, allow for a great deal of design flexibility that works well with a variety of architectural styles.

Lafitt™ Rustic Slab: With the look of natural slate, Lafitt Rustic Slab offers the modular lines of Mega-Lafitt, but with a less rugged texture and larger pieces, the largest of which is roughly 15″x23″. Lafitt Rustic Slab has the added benefit of the ability to overlay an existing concrete patio, making it ideal for backyard makeovers.

Sleek Contemporary Style

Although some gravitate to the natural stone look, others prefer more of a postmodern or avant-garde style, with sharp or clean lines. Belgard offers two paver lines that coordinate well with this type of design.

Mirage® Porcelain Pavers: Imported from Italy, Mirage Porcelain Pavers are the latest addition to the Belgard paver line and offer the utmost in ultra-contemporary outdoor living design. With over 40 interpretations of stone, concrete and wood (yes, wood) designs, these pavers come in standard sizes up to 24″x24″ — 18″x36″ in some markets — with the option to special order larger pieces.

Lafitt Grana SlabLafitt™ Grana Slab: Laffitt Grana Slab offers the same sizes, shapes, and overlay options as Lafitt Rustic Slab, but with a smooth finish, instead of the textured finish. Without losing the benefit of slip resistance, the sleek, clean lines of Lafitt Grana Slab create outdoor living designs that work well with any contemporary architectural style.

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For more patio design ideas, visit our patio inspiration page. To find a contractor or dealer near you, visit our locator gallery.

Green Movement Drives 2015 Outdoor Design Trends

Subterra
This outdoor living space incorporates many of this year’s top 10 design trends, including Subterra® Stone permeable pavers, a centrally placed fire pit, downturned low-voltage hardscape and landscape lighting, and low-maintenance landscaping. 

The results of the annual nationwide survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) indicated that concern for the environment appears to be driving the design trends of 2015, with eco-friendly or sustainable practices dominating the top 10 trends in this year’s survey. Here are the top 10 design trends reported by the survey, in order of popularity.

1. Native plants: Back in the 70s and 80s, it was typical to see lush green lawns and tropical plants in the gardens of dryer climates. Today’s homeowners, however, are choosing plants that more easily thrive in local conditions, without having to overtax the municipal water supply.

2. Drought-tolerant plants: Even in wetter climates, homeowners are choosing plants that require less water.

2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)
2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)

3. Edible gardens: With an edible garden, a homeowner can grow more of their own food, requiring the purchase of fewer food items at the grocery, and thus requiring less use of natural resources to get those foods to market.

4. Fire pits/fireplaces: Although not necessarily an avenue to help improve the environment, fire pits and fireplaces do offer a gathering spot where people can spend time together enjoying their outdoor environment.

Although fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth highest in overall outdoor living trends, they rank number one in popular design elements.
Fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth most popular in overall outdoor living trends, but rank number one in terms of most popular design elements.

5. Low-maintenance landscapes: Today’s homeowners want to spend less time mowing, weeding, and watering their yards and more time enjoying them.

6. Permeable paving: Permeable pavers offer an attractive way to reduce flooding and improve the quality of local waterways by allowing stormwater to percolate through a graduated bed of aggregates into the ground below, removing pollutants in the process.

With permeable pavers, water soaks into the pavement system instead of running off.
With permeable pavers, water infiltrates into the pavement system instead of running off.

7. Water-efficient irrigation: Multiple technologies exist that automatically sense the amount of water needed and help avoid unnecessary over-watering, thus conserving water use.

8. Rain gardens: Rain gardens offer an attractive, natural way to reduce the burden on urban and suburban sewer systems caused by stormwater runoff.

9. Lighting: Many of today’s outdoor lighting options include energy saving features, such as solar power, low-voltage output, or timers. The light fixtures themselves often incorporate design elements intended to reduce resulting light pollution.

10. Rainwater/graywater harvesting: Many municipalities now offer rain barrel programs to conserve outdoor water use. In addition, a permeable paver system can be designed to harvest and reuse rainwater for irrigation and graywater purposes.

PICPstorage
A permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) system can be designed to incorporate water harvesting and recycling.

Belgard Hardscapes Showcased in Southern Living Show Homes across the South in 2014

Showcase homes and idea houses are sponsored by various magazines, builders, design professionals, organizations and manufacturers across the country to illustrate the top design trends in today’s custom homes. In 2014, Southern Living Magazine looked to Belgard Hardscapes to create stunning designer looks for a total of nine showcase homes across the south. Here is a taste from some of these stylish homes.

Southern Living Idea House – Palmetto Bluff (Bluffton, SC)

Belgard Aqua-Bric permeable pavers not only add character to the parking areas and walkways of this airy coastal-style home, they also filter pollutants from stormwater to help protect the three rivers that surround the development. In a separate and unique interior application, Lafitt Grana Slab added a rustic touch to the mudroom, powder room, and multi-purpose “clutter room” off of the home’s kitchen.

Creative Home Concepts Showcase Home – Hallsley (Midlothian, VA)

The hand-cobbled appearance of Bergerac pavers provided the perfect complement for the walkways and back patio of this English-style cottage, further enhanced by the rough-hewn texture of Celtik Wall on the fire pit and surrounding seat wall. Both the front and back porches were floored with the slate-like Lafitt Grana Slab in coordinating colors to add a contemporary touch.

Wayne Harbin Builder, Inc., Showcase Home – Ford’s Colony (Williamsburg, VA)

The random flagstone appearance of Mega-Arbel pavers creates a striking look for the back patio and sunken fire pit of this colonial-style home. Mega-Bergerac provides the step ledge and complements the patio trim of smaller Bergerac pavers. Weston Stone provides the ledge fascia, fire pit and surrounding seat wall and end caps in a texture, laying pattern, and color scheme that coordinates with the home’s brick accents.