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“In the beginning…” people lived in harmony with nature. Nature formed us and gave us all that we as human beings needed to live and prosper. Gradually we learned how to gain power over nature and with that knowledge, cultures advanced and mankind prospered.

But as culture became more technology advanced, we took nature for granted. We abused it and polluted it, taking too much out and not giving enough back. We’ve gotten further and further from our roots and the life-sustaining power nature provides.

So much so that today the EPA finds Americans spend 90% of their time indoors in artificial environments. Our physical health suffers, but more so, our emotional well-being and spiritual essence.

The 60s anthem “Woodstock” describes it as “being caught in the devil’s bargain,” and proposes the way out: “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

For the last 50 years, people across the globe have awakened to the Faustian bargain we’ve struck living in discord rather than harmony with nature.

Nature deficit disorder

In response, people are changing their lifestyles and behavior to get more time in nature as an antidote to people’s stress-filled lives.

The Global Wellness Summit reveals, “The need for nature was already on the rise before the pandemic hit. The crisis has only served to amplify what many wellness experts were already saying – humans have an innate need to convene with the wider world (not just their screens).”

The organization says people are suffering from a Nature Deficit Disorder. “This 24/7, digitally-dominated, Instagram-able world is depriving humankind of some very basic, very important nourishment that comes from being outdoors.”

Designers have an excellent opportunity, even a responsibility, to help their clients’ mental and health by creating an outdoor oasis for them to refresh and renew their spirit.

Consumers know they need it. In a recent Wakefield survey conducted among 1,300 homeowners on the home improvement projects they plan to undertake in the coming year, outdoor improvements take first place.

Some 36% said deck/patio, as well as landscape improvements were on their to-do list, followed by 33% planning bathroom remodels and 29% a kitchen update.

For designers, there is no question: design is moving outdoors.

Design is moving outdoors

Unity Marketing, in association with The American Marketing Group, just complete a study, entitled Design Is Moving Outdoors and Trends To Get You There, that includes the results of a survey with ~200 professional designers, architects and builders to quantify the opportunity in the outdoor living space.

Among the key findings:

  • Nearly 90% of the designers surveyed have been active in outdoor living projects in the last two years. Of those who didn’t work outdoors, their clients simply didn’t ask for it. This may be a problem of perception. Designers are often thought of as “Interior Designers,” which by definition limits their scope and expertise to interior home spaces. Designers need to help their clients see the bigger possibilities. They can work both inside and outside the home.
  • Over 80% of designers surveyed identified outdoor living projects as their top growth category, followed by whole-house design (73%). While a majority (60%) also see their interior-only business growing, demand is greatest for outdoor and whole-house projects.

Outdoor living trend setters

Included in this report are profiles of designers who specialize in outdoor living. They explain the most important outdoor living design trends and how designers can lean into them, like these:

  • “It’s words and concepts like comfort, sanctuary, meditation spaces. People want a place to escape. That is what they are using their backyards for,” says Tom Mirabile, Springboard Futures
  • “Everything you used to do indoors you now do outdoors too. People are living in their gardens,” says architect and designer Monica Armani.
  • “Clients are investing more time and money on their surroundings for health and wellness. Outdoor areas need to be filled with quality products that give a good feeling,” says designer Bob Segers, Studio Segers.

And outdoor living experiences are critically important when designing shared spaces for hotels, resorts and multi-family developments, like Philadelphia’s luxury 29-unit 2100 Hamilton complex along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the Rodin Museum in its backyard.

”I love land. I love openness. I love gardens. I love fire and water,” said developer Tom Bock, Bock Development Group. “We decided on over-the-top private gardens as our special feature, along with a 40-foot waterfall and fire.”.

Also included are highlights from the survey, like this comment from a survey respondent:

  • “Outdoors is no longer a separate space, but a continuation of what’s happening on the interior. With Covid-19, nature has become an essential resource to stay healthy and happy and that means outdoor will be increasingly important. The line between what looks indoor vs. outdoor is becoming ever more blurred. Outdoor fabrics are becoming softer while maintaining durability and performance, colors are limitless, and the materials and shapes mimic interiors more and more.”

Get a copy of this 40-page report and get ready to move your design business outdoors.