Ferguson: Are you seeing an increase in demand for outdoor-related products?
Bailey: Yes! Since more homeowners are working from home, they are now more keenly aware of both their indoor and outdoor space. They are investing more into their spaces. And whether they are considering updating their balcony, patio, garden or large backyard, they are making one key decision first: they are deciding whether the outdoor space is a passive space for them to enjoy from the indoors or if it is a more active space.
For someone who is using the space more passively, this might be your homeowner with a home office that enjoys the beauty of a nature scene and draws inspiration from it, they may invest in beautiful landscaping and thoughtful outdoor lighting. Landscape lighting can creatively illuminate all types of exterior environments. For example, you can draw attention to your favorite botanicals by creating shadows on an adjacent fence or use an accent light to highlight trees, a fountain or the architecture of your home. Many people working from home are reporting additional working hours so having a beautifully lit outdoor space day and night for as your muse is appealing.
For the homeowner that sees the outdoors as an active extension of their home, the possibilities are plenty. Most homeowners are looking to create a multifunctional outdoor space that allows for both relaxing, work and routine home tasks, like cooking. The grill remains the centerpiece of the outdoor kitchen. And many homeowners are looking at this at a time to consider more extravagant additions to their outdoor kitchens such as pizza ovens, wine fridges, ice makers, refrigerator drawers and more.
Ferguson: Have outdoor budgets increased in any notable way? Can any of that be attributed to working from home?
Bailey: Yes – now that homeowners are spending more time at home, they invest more in their outdoor and kitchen living spaces. They yearn to elevate these spaces with dramatic touches that travel from inside the house to the patio, balcony, backyard or garden in one seamless sweep.
Additionally, at the start of the pandemic, there were many financial uncertainties. Homeowners began focusing on selecting quality lighting, outdoor fireplaces, decorative furniture and décor to make the space enjoyable year-round. The focus on quality remains. Homeowners ask for quality outdoor appliances that include a great warranty to ensure long-term satisfaction with their choices. It reduces the risks and costs associated with replacing substandard products that don’t stand up to the outdoor elements.
Ferguson: Are clients – both homeowners and specifiers – talking about the pandemic in relation to their outdoor projects – e.g., “We’re upgrading our backyard instead of traveling this year.”
Bailey: The idea of a “staycation” has been around for a while and referred to a relaxing time off from work and regular life duties where you enjoyed local excursions within a couple hours’ drive. So, where they once would fly to enjoy a luxury hotel and spa, they want their homes to reflect that same feel as the “staycation” becomes the vacation of the future. When thinking about outdoor spaces, I can think of several luxury hotels around the world that offer outdoor rooms, are set among vineyards, offer rooms with remarkable balconies for yoga or fire features for making s’mores – homeowners are looking to recreate that same experience. Having that special retreat for a staycation or where you can work while watching your kids run around in the backyard elevates this time and allows you to change your perspective.
Additionally, many homeowners are looking to create an intimate outdoor space off the primary bedroom and bath suite to bring the hotel or spa experience home. Homeowners in more moderate climates are the first to adopt this trend. Of course, privacy is critical. Therefore, in addition to greenery and shade structures, homeowners incorporate premium lighting and thoughtfully placed fireplace and shower features.
Since homeowners want to create a luxury, personal retreat when building off their primary bedroom and bathroom suite want a luxurious shower experience. Outdoor shower panels offer body jets and hand sprays with integrated shelving and come in various styles to complement both your home and outdoor space. Natural materials like treated bamboo, neutral color finishes like white and black powder and stainless steel are popular for both looks and durability.
Ferguson: What new or increased WFH-inspired features (e.g., vegetable gardens, meditation spaces) are homeowners and specifiers working on?
Bailey: The mudroom, sometimes overlooked, is now getting more attention due to the pandemic. Since this is a transition space from the outside in and you don’t want germs entering your home, it makes sense to think about the functionality of this space. This is especially true for families with essential workers who are at a higher risk for COVID-19 exposure. To minimize the spread of germs, homeowners are creating inviting spaces, complete with a washer, dryer and sink, where they can carefully and safely transition from the outside world to the privacy of their homes.
Ferguson: What work from home-inspired changes are your staff suggesting to homeowners?
Bailey: We are really stressing the importance of lighting in outdoor spaces, that way, the homeowner feels like they have a space that they can escape to any time of day. Lighting is a key element for an outdoor kitchen and having the proper lighting allows the homeowner to cook all meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner and the occasional midnight snack – outdoors.
General lighting near the main seating area is important; make sure it is a warm hue and a similar brightness to your indoor lighting. Lamps and chandeliers specifically made for outdoor use are a popular decorative accent to outdoor porches, pools, cabanas and other covered outdoor spaces.
Ferguson: What other products does Ferguson sell for outdoor living – and what’s trending in those categories?
Bailey: Outdoor lighting is crucial for outdoor living, not only for aesthetics but also for safety. The most popular types are sensor and low voltage LED. Some of the outdoor lighting designs are mirror images of the designs in interior lighting; the main difference is their durability and weather resistance. Finish colors are popular bronze, black metal and silver finishes, and styles similar to the indoors are wall sconces and pendants in outdoor-quality products.
Heating and cooling essentials are also important to homeowners, ensuring all-weather comfort. On cold days, an outdoor fireplace, fire pit or patio heater can warm up the area, making it a cozy place to relax. There are many options based on the size of the area you want to heat up. While the custom-built fireplace is the ultimate in luxury, many homeowners are opting for chimineas and pizza ovens, which can be used as a standalone cooking and baking feature and complement an existing outdoor kitchen.
Ferguson: Anything you’d like to add about outdoor trends in the work-from-home age that I haven’t asked above?
Bailey: We’re reminding homeowners that thoughtful features can be extended into the outdoor areas. There are grills that offer voice-activation technology and mobile apps. These advances are helpful if you need to step inside for a business call. You don’t have to worry about overcooking your meal because your smart device will be there to give you updates. There are also grills that offer entertainment tech features so that you can enjoy the outdoors while listening to your favorite music.
Wellness Design Consultant, author and speaker, Jamie Gold spoke to Kate Bailey earlier in the summer to learn more about this outdoor smart home trend. Read more about it in her story, What’s Hot in Outdoor Living on Kitchen and Bath Design News.