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Who’s ready to take 2021 outside? I know I am! If you’re curious about how the outdoor market is shaping up and evolving for the spring and summer in terms of trends, I’ve got you. In a year where everything is still, well, up in the air to some extent (no pun intended), you can expect some outdoor staples like metal bistro sets, Sunbrella textiles, and cabana stripes to persist. They’re classics for a reason.
That said, some change is afoot in terms of materials, furnishings, and really the way those of us lucky enough to have outdoor spaces are interacting with them, which ultimately means new ideas and technologies in brands’ collections. “Our fundamental connection to our homes has shifted,” says designer Nate Berkus. “Spring is an opportune time to say, ‘This square footage matters to me, and I can carefully consider what I choose to surround myself with.’” To that end, I’ve rounded up a few different ideas for sprucing up your outdoor space that you can keep in mind once it’s warm enough to be outside all day every day.
1. Creative Greenery Installations
Okay, you’re probably saying to yourself, “It’s the outdoors — of course, there’s greenery.” This year though designers are thinking outside of the box when it comes to grass and plant applications, and you don’t have to have a sprawling lawn to get in on natural touches. Berkus, who created the chic outside sitting area shown above in collaboration with Sam’s Club, put his own spin on a checkerboard floor, which was inspired by an image of a French chateau he had pinned during the pandemic. Using square pavers and grass in lieu of marble, Berkus transformed a 12-foot square space into a tiny oasis, proving that a little bit of greenery can go a long way, even if you’re in an urban setting and don’t have much room to work with at all.
Berkus also recommends weaving other greenery into your setup like topiaries in classic pots, which tend to grow up rather than out and thus are great small space options. Don’t be afraid to look up and go overhead with your greenery as well, particularly if you are fortunate to have a trellis, overhang, or larger trees in your outdoor area that you can use to hang things. Berkus suspended several spheres made of bulk greenery here to piece together what almost looks like a living ceiling. Garlands and swags of greens are great solutions for terraces. No grass or garden? No problem!
2. Bringing the Indoors Outside
Berkus also thinks everyone’s favorite indoor creature comforts are moving outdoors, whether it’s unfussy stoneware and linens to set your outside dining table or throws and decorative pillows cozying up your seating. Build on whatever motifs and color palette you like or have going on inside your home. “Tell your story through your selects,” says Berkus. That could be bright and funky with Fiesta tableware and a punchy colored patio set if your style skews more eclectic, or go more neutral to play up the natural beauty of your greenery, which is what Berkus did in his modern urban greenhouse. Either way, think of your outdoor space as an extension of your living room and decorate it as such. Don’t forget lighting. You might not be able to add a chandelier or pendant to anchor your patio set, but you can certainly trot out some bistro lights.
Who doesn’t want their furnishings to work harder for them? When it comes to outdoor spaces, the multi-purpose pieces you’re craving for your home right now are just as relevant for living en plein air, and thankfully, many outdoor retailers have noticed and are catering to this trend, too. “Flexibility and modularity have become increasingly important,” says Sebastian Brauer, vice president of product design at Crate&Barrel. “Whether you are in a small apartment with a balcony or you have a beautiful sunroom, we always try to think about different configurations and different types of rooms and settings that allow our product to be able to accommodate different lifestyles.” Look for dual-purpose items like ceramic stools, which can also be used as occasional tables, and things like stackable chairs. You might even find a table with a removable cover that reveals a fire pit!
There’s something about wicker, rattan, cane, and jute that just collectively scream outdoors; it’s likely the light, bright, and airiness of their texture. Work one or two touches of something woven into your space, be it an indoor/outdoor rug, dinnerware, or even a side table made of an all-weather version of one of these materials. These types of natural touches help to create visual contrast with typical backyard materials like concrete, wood or composite decking, and grass.
If you’re looking to invest in a new set of patio furniture, consider something sustainable. Direct-to-customer brand Outer just launched their second-ever collection, Teak, which boasts clean modern lines and warm, honey-colored teak that’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified. Yardbird’s Langdon Collection is 100-percent recyclable, crafted from all-weather wicker that’s made with repurposed ocean plastic. Whether you lean modern or more traditional with your outdoor style, there’s a high-tech, low-environmental-impact set for you out there that, with proper care, you can enjoy for years to come.
Peace and tranquility are just a few key plantings away, according to Burpee. For 2021, the seed and plant company says a garden full of flowers in soothing colors — plus, the gentle sound of swaying ornamental grasses — is the way to go if you’re looking to turn whatever backyard you have into a little slice of serenity. “Plant taller grasses, like little bluestem and panicum behind lower grasses like Carex,” says Venelin Dimitrov, horticultural product and technique expert at Burpee. “Then line the border with impatiens or petunias.” If you don’t have the footprint for a full garden, you can always use containers to some extent here, too. Potted plants will never go out of style.
No, I’m not talking the clear neon hot pink blow-up chair you had in your bedroom growing up (or was that just me?), but more sophisticated air sofas, chairs, and loungers that almost mimic the look of velvet with their soft, brushed finishes. Intex makes a range of products, which can be great for extra seating for outdoor gatherings or outside movie nights. This trend takes the inflatable pool craze of 2020 and expands upon it, so you can turn your backyard into a cushy lounge with pieces that can be deflated and stored easily or taken in the car when road tripping.