What's On Your Outdoor Living Wish List?

By Cheryl Weber

Like a Japanese torii or ceremonial gateway, the trellis on the terrace of Plan 930-19 frames the sitting area and the garden beyond.

When you envision the ideal outdoor living space, what do you see? If it’s a garden that looks tidy without needing a lot of tending (like Plan 930-19, above, from Sater Design Collection), uses natural resources sparingly, and is—of course--a wireless hotspot, you’re in good company. A recent American Society of Landscape Architects survey rating the popularity of various outdoor design elements put native and drought-tolerant plants at the top of the list (81.60% of respondents), followed by low-maintenance landscapes, vegetable gardens, and permeable paving. Internet connectivity came in at 70.77%, followed closely by rainwater harvesting. The example below, with easy-maintenance gravel and only a small strip of lawn, is Plan 888-2 by architect Nick Lee.

With extreme weather and a warming climate in the news, native and adapted plants, paired with rain catchment systems and paving that absorbs storm water, are becoming go-to choices for savvy homeowners. But this is the first time wireless connectivity made the top ten project types. [Note: 
some indoor modems work in the area just outside the house but there are also companies that make more powerful modems for outside.] It’s not surprising. Who wouldn’t want the option to, say, peruse the Wall Street Journal digital edition while lounging by the pool or stream a Netflix movie on the patio wall? “The fact that more consumers want outdoor wireless access shows that they want expanded options for remaining connected to their devices,” said Nancy C. Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “Well-designed residential landscapes provide social interaction, enjoyment of nature, and physical activity, while also reducing water use and storm water runoff.” Below is the dining patio of Plan 124-691.

The survey, conducted earlier this year, asked landscape architects to rate the expected popularity of residential outdoor design features in 2017. Here are the top ten project types with the expected highest demand:  
•    Native/adapted drought tolerant plants – 82.31%
•    Native plants – 81.60%
•    Low-maintenance landscapes – 79.25%
•    Food/vegetable gardens (including orchards, vineyards, etc.) – 76.52%
•    Permeable paving – 76.31%
•    Reduced lawn area – 72.66%
•    Fire pits/fireplaces – 71.51%
•    Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 71.05%
•    Wireless/internet connectivity – 70.77%
•    Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 70.32%

Plan 891-3 by Cathy Schwabe shows an outdoor living room with built-in seating and a portable firepit. 

Drilling down in the sustainable category, recycled materials were high on the list (64.91%), along with solar-powered lights (51.16%), compost bins (46.35%), and geothermal heated pools (28.36%). Meanwhile, other outdoor design elements ranked as follows, and point to a strong preference for alfresco entertaining and entertainment:

Lighting – 67.83%
Outdoor furniture – 62.69%
Seating/dining areas – 62.14%
Grills – 55.51%
Planters, sculptures, garden accessories – 52.95%
Counter space – 51.28%
Outdoor heaters – 46.69%
Stereo systems – 45.59%
Movie/TV/video theaters – 43.75%
Outdoor cooling systems (including fans) – 36.77%
Utility storage – 36.03%
Refrigerators – 34.19% Sinks – 32.90%
Showers/baths – 29.78%
Hammocks – 27.94%
Bedrooms/sleeping spaces – 11.21%

If there’s an internal logic to these lists, it is this: an environmentally smart planting and hardscape design leaves more time to chill (and grill) in the great outdoors (Plan 901-120, above).

For a collection of Plans Designed for Outdoor Living, click here.

Cheryl Weber, LEED AP, is a senior contributing editor to Custom Home and a frequent contributor to Builder.                   

Fri Mar 31 00:00:00 PDT 2017