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Beyond the Tiki Torch (Trends in Outdoor Living, Especially Lighting)

Written by Rebecca Christian

Last week I chatted with Larry Spada of Outdoor Living Brands about trends. With everybody suffering from frugality fatigue, people are investing in their outdoor spaces again for one of two reasons: making their home more enjoyable if they plan to stay in it, or making it more attractive to sell. (In sales shorthand, that's the "love it or list it" phenomenon.) Spada sees landscaping on the most wanted list of homeowner improvements, with lighting a high  priority.  "We are illuminating a lot of facades for night drivebys of houses that are on the market," he says. Here's a Before & After.

People are also getting rid of their antiquated coachlights with flame bulbs (which are to the exteriors world what shag rugs and avocado appliances are to the world of interiors). They're also converting to LED and choosing looks that are soft, warm, and low voltage. Homeowners are uplighting trees to add drama, too. Doesn't this look cozy?

It's all part of the trend of seeing the outdoors as bona fide living space—outdoor rooms as opposed to a yard that has to be mowed. That might mean adding a propane heater on a rod so you can use your patio longer when the weather cools, or putting a retractable awning over the postage stamp of lawn outside your townhome, so you can be comfortable when the sun is brightest. The awning addition could cost as little as a thousand bucks, while a big dramatic outdoor room could cost $135,000 (more than many homes are worth). How's this for posh? (It shows the outdoor room with and without lighting).

Among Spada's tips on staging for sale are updating exterior fixtures near doors and walkways and showcasing architectural or landscape features.The Cleavers would be right at home in this All-American scene.

Another trend is that of hardscapes becoming more popular than decks. Natural stone and pavers are growing in popularity for their durability and low-maintenance, especially stacked stone. Tranquil, Zen-like water features are sought after too, with many a koi-stocked pond in the south. Here's a particularly pretty pool.

Of course, part of living more outdoors includes cooking and eating; hence the popularity of outdoor kitchens with pizza ovens, refrigerators, trash bins, recycling centers, and multi-use sinks. Fireplaces and fire pits are still hot and smokers, especially, are smokin'.

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