One of my clearest childhood memories of my father is watching him barbecue in our backyard. The notable part of this is not the fact that he was cooking meat—barbecuing is an American pastime after all. The interesting part is where this meat cooking occurred. I was raised in New York City, and our “backyard” was about the size of a foyer in most suburban homes. My father and our charcoal brazier took up the majority of available space.
But we loved that yard. And it was beautiful. Every square inch was thought through in some way, from the tiny fountain—a wrought-iron bird in flight—to the herb garden and short, but graceful, winding flagstone walkway.
And we used it. That miniature backyard was a focal point of my childhood home, regardless of whether we were picking a sprig of mint or enjoying the peaceful view from the dining room.
The Effects of Being Outdoors
Research has shown that greater exposure to natural environments correlates with better health and well-being. Recently, England’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs looked at how nearly 20,000 people experienced weekly contact with nature. The respondents reported time spent outdoors in 60 minute blocks. Not surprisingly, participants who spent more than two hours each day in some sort of green space reported significantly greater health and well-being. Interestingly, the effects peaked at about four hours. The results were consistent regardless of age, health, or the reported length of each block of time.
How Are Remodels Affected?
We’ve been hearing for years about the trend of creating a seamless visual connection between the inside of a home and the outdoors, but today that’s no longer the whole story. Currently, Americans place a greater emphasis on wellness than ever before, and we desire natural environments in our homes for the health benefits as much as the aesthetic appeal.
Research has shown that greater exposure to natural environments correlates with better health and well-being.
In addition, a new approach to design is influencing how these spaces look and feel. Many remodelers I speak with report that homeowners are now seeking outdoor areas that are truly reflective of their unique styles rather than a design that may be perfectly on point, but could belong in any updated home. Interestingly, I’m seeing this less in kitchens and bathrooms where taste seems to be driven more by current trends.
Why is this happening? Could it be that our desire to get closer to nature taps into some elemental part of us that is deeper than our desire to fit in with our communities? Or maybe many homeowners are at a time in their lives where, like me, they are feeling nostalgic for a unique outdoor space remembered from childhood. In any event, it’s a trend that comes in handy for designers.
What are you seeing out there? Drop me a note and let me know.