Outdoor living

Indoor-outdoor living features are gaining popularity across the country. (Visbeen Architects/William J Hebert)

Whether it's a luxurious swimming pool and cabana, an open-air kitchen and dining area or a cozy fire pit for roasting marshmallows, you’ve likely dreamed of having one, if not all, of these amenities at your home.

You’re certainly not the only one dreaming of outdoor living. Homebuilders, residential architects and landscape construction specialists are seeing more and more homeowners looking to include outdoor living – or better yet, a design that allows for a flowing indoor-outdoor living space – in their home design.

Even in parts of the country where cold winter months keep most people indoors, homeowners are seeking outdoor living options that allow them to get more enjoyment out of the exterior of their home.

“It’s not uncommon anymore to have an enclosed porch or some type of full outdoor area that’s covered,” says Woody R. Fincham, vice president and Virginia regional manager of appraisal company The Trice Group.

[See: The Little Things: Small Decisions That Can Impact Your Home’s Sale Price.]

Earlier this month, the American Institute of Architects released the results from its second quarter 2017 Home Trends Design Survey, which reported requests for outdoor living have increased for the sixth consecutive year. In fact, 70 percent of the 500 architecture firms surveyed reported an increase in requests for outdoor living from clients.

The survey measures reported increases in client requests for certain types of rooms, which AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker says helps reflect the expanding popularity of a particular trend. The history of the survey shows when trends go out of style, as the home office did post-recession, when it had previously been seeing growth in requests. The survey has also shown when special-function room requests become the standard – Baker notes the "great room" concept with an open layout between the living room and kitchen started as a trend, but is now the standard for home design.

For outdoor living, respondents report continued growth in popularity. “That seems to suggest we’re not going to see any slowdown anytime soon – it’s still building momentum and still not in every place yet,” Baker says.

It’s also possible that the concept of transitional indoor-outdoor living will become the norm in new construction, similar to an open floorplan. Wayne Visbeen, founder of Visbeen Architects, a home design firm based in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, says nowadays 100 percent of the homes his firm designs throughout the U.S. include indoor-outdoor living.

But it’s not just fire pits and grill stations – transitional living design is changing to better adapt to individual homeowners’ desires and climatic restrictions.

A Different Kind of Home Addition

As its popularity grows, the concept of outdoor living is quickly evolving to take on new meaning. Rather than a simple dining set on a patio, people are opting for porches with a switch to transform the space into a screened enclosure, or door walls that open completely for a smooth transition from the indoors out.

“It is just as important in our cold states as our warm states. And now with the invention of a lot of different products, we can add them seamlessly, as well as make use of those spaces for longer in the year,” Visbeen says.

He points to NanaWall systems, which are framed floor-to-ceiling glass panels that can open to the outdoors, and Phantom Screens, which engineers retractable screens for doors and windows. Visbeen notes the options allow for more insulation in rooms that would otherwise only be able to be used when the weather is warm.


Outdoor living

(Visbeen Architects/Ashley Avila)


But before you purchase a custom home in the middle of Minnesota, complete with a wall of windows that opens up into a backyard kitchen and living space, consider how your investment will fare in the long run.

The Return on Investment Isn’t Always There

Despite the fact that homeowners appear to be generally excited about outdoor living features, it doesn’t mean you’ll be adding significant value to your home by sprucing up the patio.

“They can be an overimprovement in certain markets as well. But really, what determines that is how many participants in the market are doing these types of things,” Fincham says.

Whether your indoor-outdoor living options have a positive effect on your home’s value is based on what people in similar houses are doing. The same applies to a swimming pool: If every house in the neighborhood has one, yours is key to keeping your home’s value on the high end with similar houses. If no one else has a swimming pool, the fact that you have one doesn’t add much value, if any.

In northern states where frosty winters keep leisure time outdoors to a minimum, spending tens of thousands of dollars on an outdoor living space likely won’t give you the same in monetary return when you sell. In a state like Arizona, on the other hand, indoor-outdoor living can be considered a valuable addition to appeal to future buyers looking to be able to enjoy outdoor living in the year-round heat.

[Read: Why Your Home May Not Be Selling, Even in a Seller’s Market.]

Fincham also stresses that while higher-end homes in a market may benefit from including indoor-outdoor living options, it doesn’t mean the starter homes in the same city will receive a similar boost.

If you purchased a home on the lower end of the market and are living below your means, adding features more common among the higher-priced properties won’t necessarily mean you can sell your house for more. At the end of the day, the people who want to buy a house in a starter-home neighborhood are looking for starter-home prices.

“It doesn’t often translate out into any additional value one way or another because they’re doing something no one else in their marketplace is doing,” Fincham says.

Measuring the Whole Benefit

Even if no one around you is embracing indoor-outdoor transitional living yet, you may still want that outdoor fireplace and TV. When you consider the potential personal enjoyment and take a look at some of the outdoor living options that can serve as an indoor space, the cost may be well worth the net benefit.

“People are so busy; they’re so involved in their jobs and their activities that when they have a chance for some peace and rest, being able to sit even in their small backyard – if that’s what they have – if they can get a little piece of paradise or resort living in their backyard, they’re going to try to find it,” Visbeen says.

That’s not to mention the fact that adding features to an outdoor space or including them in a new home’s design can be cheap compared to upscale renovations inside your home.

[Read: Are 3-D Printing and Virtual Reality the Future of Housing Construction?]

“The outdoor space is, relatively speaking, inexpensive compared to doing something formal inside the house,” Baker says. “And it’s also an affordable option to add a little footprint to your home that doesn’t overwhelm the design of the home.”

Any change to your home that costs money should be measured for the monetary cost and potential return on investment you’ll receive at the time of sale. But with the variation in cost you have with outdoor living or transitional living options, the enjoyment you get should also be carefully considered.


9 Outdoor Living Renovations to Splurge on This Summer


Slideshow

Soak up the sun with a little luxury.

Laughing group of friends eating dinner on backyard deck on summer evening

(Getty Images)

There are few things you want to do more during the summer than lounge in the beautiful weather – and it would be all the better if you could do so in your own backyard. Forty-one percent of homeowners who plan on making home improvements in 2017 intend to invest in outdoor projects, according to a survey of nearly 2,100 homeowners from LightStream, a division of SunTrust Banks Inc. And upgrades for comfort or simply to outdo the neighbors are getting more intense, as backyards are becoming as luxurious as home interiors. Swimming pools excluded, here are nine outdoor living renovations to splurge on this summer.

Patio or deck

Patio or deck

Chairs on upper deck as it overlooks lake.

(iStockPhoto)

Many backyard aficionados will point to a patio or deck as a must for comfortable outdoor living. National stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s offer deck materials and installation services, although many homeowners hire local construction companies to design and build. Most homeowners will spend between $4,075 and $9,997 on a new deck, according to HomeAdvisor. You can stick to a tighter budget by designing a smaller space or opting for a material that may not be as weather-resistant, like wood you would stain or seal yourself.

Smaller scale: $9.86 for 1.25-inch x 6-inch x 16-foot board, Severe Weather Max, Lowe’s (price may vary by location)
Go big: $27.36 for 1-inch x 5.4-inch x 16-foot board, ChoiceDek Foundations, Lowe’s (price may vary by location)

Fire pit

Fire pit

(Getty Images)

Whether you want to extend your time outdoors into fall or you’re simply a fan of s’mores, a fire pit is considered a key piece in many modern outdoor living setups. “What’s becoming the norm now is not necessarily building [fire pits] in, but building a space for them, and that way that space can be opened up for entertaining when the fire pit’s not being used,” says Nick Hanna, owner of NRC Landscape Construction in Vienna, Virginia.

Smaller scale: $84.98, Fire Sense, Hayneedle Inc.
Go big: $1,179.99, Real Flame, Home Depot

Outdoor fireplace

Outdoor fireplace

outdoor patio deck bbq

(Getty Images)

For an alternative to a fire pit, take another step toward a true outdoor living room with a fireplace. In addition to the fireplace itself, factor in the cost of installation and, if it’s a gas or electric fireplace, keep room in your budget for the appropriate hookup away from the house. Of course, you can always really break the bank with a custom build from a local company. Hanna says a homeowner can spend as much as $20,000 on an outdoor fireplace if you really “go to town with the whole thing.”

Smaller scale: $2,942.55, Cal Flame, Home Depot
Go big: $9,625, American Fyre Designs, Woodland Direct

Couches and chairs

Couches and chairs

There’s nothing like vacation – and no place like home. Good thing you don’t have to choose

(Getty Images)

Make your backyard feel just as comfortable as the inside of your home by leaving those lawn chairs at the curb and opting for outdoor couches and chairs worthy of applause. Your seating choices can transform your outdoor space into an area where everyone will want to spend as much time as possible. Especially when the furniture is situated around a fire pit or outdoor fireplace, your family will see little reason to stay inside when the weather's nice.

Smaller scale: $680 for sofa and two one-seat sections, IKEA
Go big: $6,495, for sofa and two lounge chairs, Restoration Hardware

Master grilling station

Master grilling station

Modern outdoor living:

(Getty Images)

Everyone loves a barbecue, so if you’re really looking to impress your guests, why not show off a built-in grill in your outdoor kitchen? “Spending $70,000 on an interior renovation for your kitchen inside is a no-brainer now, and spending $20,000 on an outdoor kitchen is almost the norm now,” Hanna says. An outdoor kitchen budget can easily get out of hand with trash compactors, plumbing connections and the like, but you can manage costs based on how crazy you want to get.

Smaller scale: $1,687.49, Blaze Outdoor Products, BBQ Guys
Go big: $4,747.26, Cal Flame, Amazon

Table for entertaining

Table for entertaining

A group of mature friends are sitting around an outdoor dining table, eating and drinking. They are all talking happily and enjoying each others company. The image has been shot from above and taken in Tuscany, Italy.

(Getty Images)

An evening or weekend afternoon with perfect weather will make just about anyone take their meal outdoors, whether that means dragging out kitchen tables or laying down blankets to eat picnic-style. While an outdoor dining set is common in many a backyard, take it up a notch with enough seating around the table to host an entire dinner party. Outdoor tables can be purchased to match most outdoor living setups, made with wood, wicker or glass and metal. You can even invest in an outdoor table that extends to fit the party size.

Smaller scale: $589, IKEA
Go big: $3,247, Pottery Barn

Outdoor sound system

Outdoor sound system

Modern Luxury House With a Teak Wooden Terrace, Modern, Luxury, Teak, Wooden, Terrace, Green, Grass, Windows

(Getty Images)

Hanna says an upgraded outdoor sound system, complete with buried subwoofers and speakers installed in trees, is seen as a logical next step for many homeowners who’ve already got the pool, deck, outdoor kitchen and fire pit. But an elaborate sound system isn’t just for those who have a lot of parties in their backyard. Hanna says these kinds of upgrades often come from homeowners who like to impress the occasional guest, too. “It’s pretty crazy how keeping up with the Joneses is getting very expensive,” he says.

Smaller scale: $1,699, Origin Acoustics, World Wide Stereo
Go big: $11,500, Sonance

Gazebo or pergola

Gazebo or pergola

Inviting Backyard Patio Deck With Pergola

(Getty Images)

You’ve got the deck and comfortable seating, now why not add a little shade? A gazebo or pergola make an ideal addition to many outdoor living spaces for both a cool spot to get away from the sun as well as a more finished look. The solid roof on a gazebo can make it possible to enjoy your outdoor living space even when it’s raining, and many brands that make manufactured gazebos, pergolas or cabanas offer covers to block the sun or mosquito netting to keep out bugs.

Smaller scale: $271.99, Threshold, Target
Go big: $3,769.99, Best Redwood, Wayfair

Water feature

Water feature

Water fountain with plants on an outdoor patio. Horizontally framed

(Getty Images)

A backyard swimming pool is a different beast, but if you’re simply looking to enhance an outdoor living space, consider a calming water feature. The relaxing sound of flowing water can help drown out traffic noise, create a great atmosphere for meditating or simply help spice up an otherwise boring space. Just make sure the water continues to flow to avoid inviting more mosquitoes to your backyard.

Smaller scale: $255, Sunnydaze Decor, Wal-Mart
Go big: $1,039.99, Henri Studio, Hayneedle Inc.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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