Across the country, the lines between a home's indoor and outdoor spaces are blurring. From al fresco kitchens to poolside gathering spaces, buyers are increasingly investing in their outdoor spaces, and transforming those formerly underutilized areas into practical extensions of the home.
In response, landscape designers are finding increasingly creative ways to enhance the comfort, function, and aesthetic appeal of outdoor spaces. BUILDER talked to Phoenix-based landscape design and architecture firm Creative Environments about the top trends clients have been requesting this year. Here are nine features they predict will be in demand in 2018.
As outdoor space becomes more limited, vertical gardens—which offer an alternative way to add greenery in small spaces—have become increasingly common. Plant walls use a vertical structure, such as a fence, wall, ladder, or arbor, as a space for growing a variety of plants. The walls share some of the same benefits as raised gardens: they are ideal for confined spaces and minimize the need for gardeners to stoop and bend. Plus, they may also be used to enhance the privacy and aesthetic appeal of the property, and they support better plant health by exposing plants to more sunlight and fewer pests.
Touting a timeless look and historical significance, reclaimed Chicago brick is re-emerging. These bricks are made from blue-colored clay that was deposited in the Chicago area by glaciers during the last ice age, and when fired in a kiln, the clay acquires a salmon-toned hue. Original Chicago brick was used to rebuild the city after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and as these old buildings have been torn down over the past several years, the bricks are being salvaged and repurposed as structural or decorative staples. Since authentic Chicago brick is in such high demand, some manufacturers are recreating their look on different types of bricks or other materials.
Gardens are not the only areas in which homeowners are showing a preference for the organic: they are also favoring organic materials for flooring, surfaces, and design schemes. Popular choices include granite for countertops and shelves in outdoor kitchens, as well as limestone, which is an excellent option for patios because its light color deflects the sun and creates a cool surface on which to walk. Another growing trend is the use of Mexican beach pebbles, which are smooth, naturally tumbled stones that create a serene aesthetic when used along with outdoor walkways. The stones also help counter erosion and support proper soil drainage.
Slanted roof structures
In any climate, access to shade is essential to staying protected from the sun and comfortable when enjoying time outdoors. Many homeowners are opting for slanted roofs for covered patio structures throughout their yards. In addition to offering an effective barrier from the elements, slanted roofs facilitate run-off of rainwater.
Offering the illusion of a swimming space without defined boundaries, zero-edge pools have transformed pool and spa design over the last few years. The water—which appears flush with the surrounding surfaces—creates a visual effect that seamlessly merges the pool with the landscape. The water that spills out of the pools flows conveniently into a trough, from which it is then pumped back into the pool.
Floating stepping stones
Many homeowners are enhancing properties with visually interesting pools that incorporate spaces for gathering and lounging. Some pools have bars, beds, or other seating areas that emerge as islands in the middle of the water, which are accessed via “floating” stepping stones, anchored by columns not visible at first glance.
Raised garden beds
Many consumers are showing a preference for organic, locally grown foods. As a result, edible home gardens have surged in popularity in recent years. Raised garden beds—which may include flowers and other plants alongside fruits, herbs, and vegetables—are particularly desirable because they are more comfortable for gardeners, who can tend to their small crops without having to crouch or kneel on the ground. In addition, raised gardens are generally compact, making them ideal for smaller spaces.
Built-in fire pits have been one of the most popular additions to outdoor living spaces over the past few years, and the trend will likely continue in 2018 and beyond. In addition to providing a source of warmth on cool nights, fire pits create an eye-catching, relaxing centerpiece around which to gather and spend time with friends and family. In keeping with the preference for organic materials, homeowners are favoring fire pits that reflect the property’s natural landscape and contain materials like wood or stacked stone.
As outdoor living spaces become increasingly well-equipped, the indoors are moving out as the barriers between the two are diminished. One way to create a seamless flow between the patio and the home’s interior is to use the same type of flooring in both spaces. In order to achieve a surface that is durable enough for the outside and stylish enough for the inside, homeowners are opting for high-quality, natural-looking materials, including tiles with a tongue-and-groove pattern.