Outdoor living has come a long way since throwing a blanket down for a family picnic. Advances in exterior features have made al fresco relaxation as much a part of everyday life as spending time in your kitchen or living room -- meaning you have more options than ever before to bring indoor comforts to the outdoors.
On top of that, we've all been staying home a lot more lately. That triggers inspiration to brighten up our backyards. But even as people regain a sense of normalcy, that interest in outdoor living isn't slowing down this year. Here are six trends pros say are on the top of homeowners' to-do lists in 2022.
1. Working from (an expanded) home
Once we got over the shock of having all our meetings in "Brady Bunch"-style Zoom boxes, work-from-homers started carving out unique spaces for themselves, including plenty of patios-turned-workstations. Outdoor pavilions with shade structures create ideal havens for working outdoors. (You may want to invest in a Wi-Fi extender while you're at it!)
2. Bringing the indoors out
Outdoor offices are only the beginning. You can replicate indoor amenities in an open-air environment with the right design. For example, retaining walls, fire pits and seating create permanent outdoor entertaining areas. With enough overhead protection, you can build an outdoor kitchen that rivals anything you'll see indoors. Pros say hardscapes and outdoor living areas are here to stay.
3. Building creative hardscapes
If you've ever watched a child play with building blocks, you know they can create countless combinations from a few essential pieces. The same goes for building outdoors with bricks and pavers -- the options are limited only by imagination and budget. Homeowners are investing in retaining walls, steps and structures to enhance their lawns, and pros say they're seeing more and more creative designs develop.
4. Following winding paths
If your yard sees a lot of activity without many built-in pathways, foot traffic will create them for you -- and they won't be pretty. You can add structure to your yard (and get rid of unsightly lines of trampled grass) by building walkways that guide people through the space and define connections around the yard.
But that much hardscaping can cut into the budget for that dreamy hot tub or must-have pergola. Luckily, you can get as many pathways as a "Pac-Man" game screen at a fraction of the cost by using alternatives such as gravel, mulch or stepping stones.
5. Installing hassle-free water features
Nothing instills luxury and a sense of outdoor calm like a sparkling fountain. However, a koi pond or extensive water feature adds both cost and ongoing. Instead, pros suggest low-intensity water features that don't take much work after installation.
Ask for a pondless system, which filters the water and holds it underground, so there's no standing water.
6. Wiring the yard
Who says electrical, heating and gas are only for indoors? By bringing home's interior perks to the exterior, you can boost your comfort and use your space later in the evenings and deeper into cold weather. Heaters and extra outdoor lighting can extend your social time later into the evenings, and TVs mounted into safe outdoor spaces with overhead covers can help entertain.