Updated: May 31, 2021
#3 Outdoor Spaces
Another area ripe for renewal is backyard entertaining. With Covid and all of it’s restrictions, we
are all looking inward rather than outward. The world (Before Covid, or BC as I fondly(?) refer to it) had gotten fairly small. BC, I had taking 1-2 trips to Europe for business; now this is no longer happening (cue cry emoji). The beauty in all of this is that it has definitely slowed us down and provided a pause in a way that was difficult to do before. Because we have slowed down, we are more available than ever and this is causing a surge in the desire to come together- not just because of time schedules, but also missing the availability and contact with others. Enter in a new era of (Covid-safe) home entertaining. Really it is a harkening back to what we used to do, but in a slightly different way. I don't know if you feel the same, but because we've been home, we look around at what we have and wonder how we can utilize our space in a better way.
As for my family, we are now looking towards revamping our bbq area, which has been woefully neglected because of our busy lifestyle. We have a built in bbq, and I am embarrassed to say there is stone and granite that is literally falling off of it and have been meaning to get to it for a couple of years but never can seem to find the time. We have the space, we bought it specifically so we could host gatherings yet somehow we lost sight of it- Covid has helped us remember exactly why we wanted to do this in the first place!
With the restaurant closures and modified requirements, there is a need to find other ways to gather. Designers are receiving requests from clients wanting more robust cooking areas with a few different modes to cook food. Aside from gas grills- outdoor pizza ovens, integrated smokers, and options to charcoal grill are all part of that. Implementing features such as sheltered areas, adequate lighting, sinks, bathrooms accessed from outside, heaters to extend the season, and ways to have more versatile and individual seating are all on the table for consideration in designing a space that will be flexible for having people over while still being able to social distance if needed.
Roberta Walker of Roberta Walker Landscape Design says that since Covid she has seen a 30-40% increase in calls for this time of year. "We are getting the most requests from empty nesters that are wanting to beautify their yards and make them more sustainable, lower maintenance and create accessibility throughout." The other big increase they are seeing is work from home parents needing to transform their backyards to a kid friendly space. For one recent project, Roberta designed a play area along with a bicycle pathway for a teleworking couple with young kids so they could have a safe place to play as parents the work. Justin Garrett from Pottery World says that when they were finally able to open again on May 15, within 2 weeks they had sold more inventory than they had the entire month of May 2019. He has also witnessed story after story of people having to cancel trips for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and big events only to turn around and decide to take that money and completely upgrade and update their backyards to hold the celebration there. Because of this, they are working overtime to ensure they keep up on their inventory.
In that same vein, gyms and
parks not always being accessible- and not knowing when they will be, the next best bet is having areas to utilize for both kids and adults in backyards. That can be anything from a play structure to bocce ball or ping pong. Or how about an hosting outdoor movie nights? What a great way to gather that everyone can still keep social distancing. This is a throwback to the days before handheld devices and all the technology we have readily at our hands. It is a true opportunity to have our children absorb creativity through outside, experiential experiences rather than on a screen. Isn't that what we had all been lamenting the loss of anyway??? As much as I am looking forward to all of this to end, I am grateful for the forced perspective it has given us and am excited to see how this perspective changes us for the better.
5 Key Elements: *Indoor/outdoor living space with shelter to extend the season
*Flexible, individual seating
*Access to bathroom from outside
*Yard equipped with activities for kid & adults as an alternative to parks/gyms
*Expanded ways to cook in addition
to grilling; smokers, pizza ovens,
Well friends, this (kind of) concludes our 3 part series. I have a bonus trend coming next week, so stay tuned if you want to know what it is! As I said in the beginning, this was by no means exhaustive; however, it is what we as designers are seeing as major shifts in how people are approaching living their lives. How about you? I'd love to hear what you have seen, done, or are planning to do with your space as a result of Covid.
Want more info? Check these out:
*not all covid friendly, but some great ideas for backyard entertaining.
*great article for thinking of an overall backyard plan and inspiration
*Sunset piece for covid friendly backyard
*For some information and tips on outdoor landscaping Roberta Walkers podcast