No Barriers: Indoor-Outdoor Living Trends

2020 became the year of upgrading your backyard: as many homeowners worked to create or customize their outdoor spaces, demand for everything from pools to space heaters skyrocketed. And that trend isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association 2021 Design Trends Research, there’s a 65% increase in overall interest in outdoor living projects, with outdoor kitchens as the top project planned. For their yards, homeowners seek a balance of aesthetics and performance with an emphasis on a lifestyle without limits, blurring the boundary between indoor and outdoor spaces.

“The expectation of the customer is that the products they use outdoors, they have to have the same level of sophistication that they see inside of their homes,” said Fernanda Pedroso, Polycor’s Global Vice President, Marketing. “The design now is almost like you don’t see the barriers anymore from indoor to outdoor. Homeowners are expecting that same style, the same quality of products that they’re using inside of the house, outside of the house.”

To create these sanctuaries of solace and sanity it all comes down to this: people want all of the comforts of inside on the outside. People want spaces that swaddle them, their families and friends from the chaos of the world, outdoor spaces with everything from fireplaces to big-screen TVs to pizza ovens. They want the kinds of resort-level amenities that they enjoyed when they traveled and indulged in vacations while still reflecting a shift toward daily living outdoors. It’s not about having an outdoor entertainment space it’s about having a true outdoor living space.

“I am seeing more and more that people want to bring the idea of the vacation, or the idea of how to relax, or how to be entertained, to the living happening right outside their door,” said Pedroso.

And a simple freestanding grill and cooler is no longer enough for many homeowners, who are instead wanting fully-equipped, sophisticated outdoor kitchens. The challenge is making these spaces look like they belong outside, to blur the boundaries between the built and natural environments. Pedroso says that when speaking with an architect or landscape designer, they will tell you the material has to be authentic to its origin to feel authentic in a space.

An easy way to dissolve the barriers between indoors and out is to use natural products, not man made ones, as often as possible. Natural stone achieves this by providing homeowners with an exceptional balance of aesthetics and performance: capturing a look that aligns with the home’s style in a material that can be exposed to the elements. 

“I think that is a tremendous advantage for a product like natural stone,” said Pedroso. “If you’re already using it for your countertops inside of your home, why not use outside? That blend, that continuity of product makes so much sense when you’re trying to really bring the indoors and the outdoors together, to use the same material across both. And only a natural product can truly bring that seamless connection with nature.”

To create multi-purpose, multi-function and multi-season outdoor living spaces, “rooms without roofs”, it’s essential to provide interior-like comfort and style that can be enjoyed in any season, she says, and immediately points to a popular example. “GEORGIA MARBLE – PEARL GREY™ is a great example of a material that works both indoors and out,” Pedroso comments. Although people may immediately think of marble as an indoor product, for countertops or fireplaces, people are realizing that it can easily—and beautifully—be used in the same way outdoors.

Berkshire™ veneer in Pearl Grey marble clads a statement fireplace that reflects this historic Queen Anne Victorian’s rugged Rhode Island surroundings.

While natural stone intrinsically meets the same needs indoors and out, other materials need to work harder to create the comfort and style homeowners crave in both locations. And people are looking for more updated and upgraded materials that bridge the divide between their homes and their backyard, porch, or patio. This means outdoor furniture and accessories, which have long relied on durability as a primary selling feature, need to be as stylish as their interior counterparts.

“Homeowners are focused on making these spaces as comfortable as they can be, with even the same accessories that are inside of the home, like your rug area, pillows, everything,” said Pedroso. “It’s incredible. The outdoor furniture market has really evolved to supplement this as well.”

Image via Contemporist

They want to unwind in a luxury-feeling space, with stylish, yet cozy textiles to ensure spaces feel as good as they look. The ability to entertain and luxuriate in a true second living space, to provide an immersive al fresco experience, is what homeowners desire. But as people are taking the creation of endless ‘vacation vibes’ into their own hands, functionality is still an important factor.

“People want low maintenance products—they have to be very practical and it has to look seamless,” said Pedroso. “Just look at countertops. No one wants a countertop that has joints, right? You want that beautiful big slab. And hardscaping and masonry products are getting more sophisticated to match those expectations.”

Outdoor kitchen with Berkshire™ veneer in INDIANA LIMESTONE ‐ FULL COLOR BLEND™, Pearl Grey marble countertops and CAROLINA CORAL™ granite pavers

The incorporation of these natural elements will be increasingly juxtaposed with high-tech upgrades. We’re going to see a lot of technology that is already embedded inside of our home come into outdoor living. Think smart lighting, audio systems, poolside system controls and anti-glare televisions or home theaters.

Indiana Limestone pavers flow into a poolside living room. Image Courtesy Paces Construction

“In five to 10 years, we will see a lot of technology coming into outdoor living like it is already embedded inside of our home,” said Pedroso. She says that home automation that allows all the technology to be managed and controlled from a mobile phone, tablet or other device will be more and more desirable for homeowners to use outdoors as well.

The most important thing to consider, she said, is the homeowners’ lifestyle. If they like to cook, space for an organic vegetable garden or kitchen might be the right upgrade, if they like to host friends and family, a large entertaining space is key.

Indiana Limestone patio. Image Courtesy Mariana Landscape

“The products now exist where the outdoors can become your full home without a roof,” said Pedroso. “Not just a patio space, but true rooms without roofs.”