More Than A Pool: Redefining the Outdoor Living Space

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Photos courtesy PHTA

As we start to settle into our new lifestyles that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon us, consumers are reprioritizing what they want from their outdoor living spaces. With people working from home, studying from home, entertaining themselves at home, and overall spending more time at home, their views on what they want from their home environment have changed.

Feras Irikat and Kate Wiseman, MLA — both faculty advisors for GENESIS — have seen new trends emerging in the last several months that show a focus on the importance of outdoor living.

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“People need a place to call a sanctuary,” says Irikat, director of design and marketing for Lunada Bay Tile, “the place where you can relieve anxiety and chaos and stress. This is why our business — interior design, landscape design, the pool business — has skyrocketed,” says Irikat. “People are re-evaluating how they use these spaces. It’s no longer just about having a pool or a backyard or a firepit. It’s how these features contribute to their new lifestyle to create this sanctuary.”

People are viewing their outdoor space as an extension of their homes more than they did in the past, notes Wiseman, principal landscape designer for Sage Outdoor Designs. “If you’re thinking of your yard as an extra room in your house, it changes the amount of effort you’re willing to put into it,” she says.

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One way to make the outdoor space feel more integrated with the indoor space, Wiseman suggests, is the use of bifold or La Cantina doors. “Essentially, the entire wall opens up,” she says. “Every developer is putting them into developer houses, which you wouldn’t have seen much of before because it was too expensive.” But now, as people are investing more money into their outdoor spaces, having an easier way to implement that indoor-outdoor integration is key.

Irikat takes this one step further by explaining that people want their outdoor living space to connect with the surrounding environment, as well. “People no longer want their pool builder to just dig a hole and make a place to jump in the water,” he says. “The outdoor space is a canvas, and your layout is the painting that goes on that canvas.” He notes that floating decks have become more popular in the past year because of their more sculptural, artistic quality.

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Wiseman and Irikat agree that functionality has also become a priority. People are adding more features that speak to them, features they will actually use.

“Some of the accessory outdoor living things that we didn’t often include are now much more normal in the average person’s living space,” Wiseman says. “For example, I would certainly do outdoor televisions for my high-end clients before, but now just about every project has one. That wasn’t typical in the past.”

Wiseman has seen a welcome increase in people focusing on their own needs, rather than gimmicks. “I do think the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ thing has become a bit of a moot point right now, because people are less focused on what other families are doing,” she says. “In outdoor living spaces, people are trying to put their own personal touch on it, and use the space however they actually want to see it — instead of how they think they are supposed to use it.”

“Part of personalization is creating a specific function for that person or that family,” says Irikat. “I’ve seen little croquet areas or putting greens going into backyards. I’ve seen people who are using an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven in it. That’s a highly personalized element, a pizza oven.”

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Wiseman used to discourage her clients from investing in duplicate features, such as having both a fireplace and a fire pit, but people now have a reason for it. “There’s so much more family taking up the same space,” she says, “that now clients want this outdoor living room over here, and a second one over there. The adults will sit here at the fireplace, and the teenagers will be there at the fire pit.”

Personalization is the overarching trend that encompasses all the other trends, Irikat says. Personalization can take on many forms: functionality, playfulness, fantasy, theme. People want their space to represent them and fulfill their unique needs.

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“More than ever, people need to connect with themselves, with their family, and with what’s important to them,” says Irikat. “People want to take care of themselves by creating a personal space that contributes to mental and emotional healing.”

In a word, sanctuary.

GENESIS is a company of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

This article first appeared in the July 2022 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.

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