Residential Outdoor Living Trends for 2011

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Residential Outdoor Living Trends for 2011

According to a recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), many outdoor living and landscaping design elements identified in 2010 are developing in 2011. Homeowners at nearly every level are still very much interested in creating livable outdoor spaces that function like indoor rooms, according to Nancy Somerville, ASLA’s executive vice president.


“The economy is trimming back a little bit on activity and preferences, but it’s certainly not keeping people from adding outdoor rooms,” she says. What’s keeping the market going is the value—up to 13 percent—that creating outdoor living spaces and landscaping adds to a home, she says.

In 2011, homeowners’ landscape design and outdoor living plans are still scaled down somewhat because of economic concerns, but they’re not eliminating the elements that make outdoor spaces comfortable, attractive, and usable. They still want seating, lighting, and cooking features, but they’re willing to do without fully outfitted kitchens or audio/video entertainment systems. It’s only the high-end clients who are moving forward with such expensive luxury features and finishes, Somerville notes.

Topping the list of most popular outdoor living features for this year, rated as somewhat or very popular according to ASLA members, are exterior lighting (96.2 percent), fire pits/fireplaces (94.2 percent), seating/dining areas (94.1 percent), grills (93.8) percent, and installed seating such as benches, seat walls, ledges, and boulders (89.5 percent). Weatherized outdoor furniture (83.6 percent) and counter space (74.2 percent) also are popular elements that deliver on consumers’ desire for function.

Other results of the survey indicate that respondents ranked decorative water elements (84.7 percent), spas (including hot tubs, Jacuzzi, saunas, etc.) (75.9 percent), swimming pools (69.4 percent), and utility storage (61.3 percent). Other popular features included stereo systems,  sinks, refrigerators, sports/recreational spaces, internet connectivity, television/projection screens, outdoor heaters, showers/bathing, outdoor cooling systems (including fans), and bedroom sleeping spaces,

Homeowners are also paying attention to sustainability, rating the following trends, from most highest response rate to lowest: low-maintenance landsapes, native/drought-tolerant plants, native plants, drip/water efficient irrigation, fountains/ornamental water features, food/vegetable gardens, permeable paving, reduced lawn, organic gardens, recycled materials, rainwater/greywater harvesting, ponds/streams, rain gardens, dry gardens, compost bins, solar powered lights, geothermal heated pools.


Homeowners’ growing interest in sustainable outdoor spaces seems to be keeping pace with the overall increasing focus on sustainability indoors. There’s been a gap between their desire for sustainable landscapes and their understanding of what that entails, but that gap is closing, according to Somerville. “Four years ago homeowners were interested in sustainability, but very few knew how to landscape sustainably,” she says. “But now they’re better educated and [ASLA] members are being asked more about features like permeable pavements and rain gardens.”

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