With warmer weather here, the great outdoors is beckoning. And we’re going to guess that over the past year, you’ve already heard your backyard’s siren song—using it as a local watering hole, workout studio, and school.
Whatever the case, being stuck at home looking at four walls for months on end during the pandemic may have you thinking about ways to improve your backyard, side yard, front yard, or patio.
But where to start? For inspiration, we consulted with top designers from coast to coast to uncover the hottest outdoor living trends in 2021—what you need and what you’ll totally want. And let us just say: We are completely wowed. Get ready to spend as much—or more—time outside as you do inside with these comfy and chic ideas.
1. More comfortable outdoor furniture
Sure, creating an outdoor living room has been popular for a while.
“Yet now there’s also outdoor furniture made in the style of indoor furniture,” says Mark Cutler of Los Angeles–based Mark Cutler Design.
Gone are the days of limiting yourself to wicker and metal; now you can snag a comfy couch or even an accent chair you’d swear would never withstand the elements. (You’d be wrong.)
And furniture that feels more indoor-comfy than outdoor-functional makes for more relaxed interactions outside.
“Furniture like this is also allowing people to mix and match styles in a way that was never done before outdoors,” adds Cutler.
2. Enhanced lighting
Skip the purely functional lights of yore and instead, look for fixtures that are stylish enough for the interior of your home but durable enough for the outdoors, says Andra DelMonico, interior design expert at Next Luxury.
To make your outdoor living space feel peak cozy, place a couple of vintage lamps around and hang fairy lights in trees or shrubs. Or use LED strip lights to create accent lighting for a stunning effect after the sun sets.
3. Dedicated potting areas
Over the past year, interest in raising plants and vegetables has exploded. While planting may have been a hasty undertaking in 2020 as lockdown set in, now people have time to plan their gardening needs.
And so the potting shed, or even simply a potting table, has become a popular addition in many backyards.
“It gives a dedicated space for replanting, supply storage, and a unique talking point in the garden,” says Cutler.
4. Birds and bees
Backyard flocks of chickens are now increasingly common for urban and suburban folks alike.
“Coops are a source of fresh eggs and a fun addition for a family with kids,” says Cutler. “Backyard hens are the new potbelly pig.”
An ever-growing number of people (including Chris Hemsworth) are also entering the world of beekeeping motivated by sustainability.
“Bees are environmental champions and play a crucial role in pollinating our food crops and other wild plants,” says Rita Tennyson of Flow Hive, which sells backyard hives. “And they bring us honey.”
5. Homey front porches
“From drive-by celebrations, cocktail parties, and general neighborhood camaraderie, the front porch is stealing the show and emerging as a new entertaining space,” says Mark Feldman, chief home officer at Riverbend Home, a home decor online marketplace.
Whether you have a wraparound porch, corner-wrap porches, or a half-width porch, make your porch more appealing by adding an outdoor rug, hanging hammock, or a bench and planters.
6. All-season upgrades
Your great outdoors isn’t just for summer anymore. So look to warm up those chilly days and nights with some all-season upgrades.
“For those with more backyard space and flexibility, custom-designed fire pits ringed with benches or Adirondack chairs are in demand,” says Tim Bakke, home design expert at The Plan Collection, an online destination for home design plans.
If you’re limited by space and budget, fire pits now come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. And if you’re space-constrained, heat lamps are an affordable solution to chilly spring, autumn, and even winter evenings.
7. Backyard igloos
Move over, Sunbrellas: There’s a new kid in town.
“A frequent request from my friends and clients these past few months is for a garden dome igloo,” says New York–based Gina Harper, who runs Harper’s Nurseries, a site that’s all about urban gardening.
While there are still those who love the typical umbrella shade, many people want to install a stylish igloo in their yard. Why? You can still enjoy the view from inside the igloo, and it can withstand rain, strong winds, and all seasons of the year.
Bonus: Igloos are a great place to hang out with family and friends, or to achieve your ultimate glamping dream. Simply add a sofa, a table, and decorative plants inside.
8. Outdoor office spaces
Working from home became the norm in 2020 and may be here to stay. As spring hits, many workers are further breaking the ties to cubicle life by moving their indoor workspace to the backyard to work from outside. (WFO is the new WFH!)
Whether it’s your porch, patio, or backyard, the keys to success for an outdoor office include shade to limit glare on your computer screen and decorative screens or planters to create separate workspaces, says Feldman.
9. Entertainment upgrades
Another big trend in the outdoor space this year is to add technology such as hidden speakers, a flat-screen TV, or LED lighting.
“With the rapid evolution of technology, we’ll see more elaborate systems outdoors, such as TVs, projectors, and outdoor sound systems,” says Alan Wiener, chief operating officer of Elegant Strand, a luxury decor site.