Gone are the days when people only ventured into the backyard to water the plants or clean up after the dog. Today, homeowners see their yard as an extension of the inside of their home, and they are increasingly willing to spend money on converting their backyards into comfortable living spaces if it means they can spend more time there.

The trend of outdoor living shows no sign of slowing down, and, in fact, homeowners are only getting bolder about the features they want (and what they are willing to spend for them).

“Fireplaces, kitchens, dramatic al fresco ‘living rooms’ that go way beyond yesteryear’s uncomfortable patio furniture – the transformation of the American yard is a long-simmering trend that’s really taken off in the last two years, said MSN. “It’s kind of about creating a unified space between inside and outside – so that you can’t tell so much where the one space ends and the other begins.”

MSN notes that in the last year, “48% of 600 residential architecture firms surveyed reported that upscale landscaping” is on the rise. “Experts give many reasons, but the upshot is the same: “When you extend your living space outside, suddenly you have so much more space for living in general. And comfort isn’t the only benefit. If you want to raise the value of your home, start thinking about ways to add structural interest and comfort to your backyard, patio, deck, side yard – you name it.”

Erasing the barrier between indoors and out

Today’s outdoor spaces “have become a tricked-out extension of the indoors”, said HGTV. “The new outdoor room features luxurious features, beautiful fabrics and treatments to make outdoor space as well-appointed as indoor.”

MSN notes that while year-round outdoor living used to be reserved for “warm climes like the South and Southern California…it’s no longer limited to those places.”

Looking to focus your outdoor efforts (and your budget) on one area in particular? The obvious place to start is the…

The Outdoor Living Room

In the ideal outdoor living room, MSN sees a move from a more “utilitarian” space to one that is “more like the indoors. Think ottomans, televisions – all sorts of creature comforts normally found in your living room. Now available are flat-panel LCD televisions designed specifically for the outdoors… with all-weather construction that allows them to withstand rain, dirt and extreme temperature ranges.”

All-weather living room furniture, once a specialty item, can now be found everywhere from Pottery Barn to Home Depot. Ask MSN and they say that the appeal of today’s outdoor spaces is, in large part, because of this furniture. “We’re using a lot more upholstered furniture outdoors… with more interesting fabrics that can stand up to outdoor use. They have more of the feel of a cotton yet they’re weatherproof, for the most part.”

Staying comfortable is also about temperature control. For warm climates, ceiling fans can be mounted on your patio cover to help circulate air. Likewise, a heat lamp can help keep you toasty on cool nights. Or, you could buy into our next trend…

Outdoor Living Room
Pool&Spa Outdoor

Fire features

Built-in fireplaces and fire pits offer attractive, comfortable, romantic ways to enjoy your outdoor space no matter the season. “The real breakout stars of the (recent) American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) survey are fire pits and fireplaces at 97% popularity,” said HGTV.

Agrees MSN: “Outdoor fireplaces also are increasingly popular as centerpieces. Even in the South, they can extend the outdoor season by taking the chill out of a late-autumn evening.”

Outdoor Fire Place Trends
House Beautiful

Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor Kitchen Space Trends
Texas Pool

Having a simple grill in the yard is soooo last year. Full-blown kitchens with a grill built-in as well as spaces for prep, seating, and keeping drinks cold comprise today’s must-have space. “People don’t build homes without summer kitchens anymore,” said MSN. And we’re not talking some crusty old Weber grill out by the birdbath. Built-in barbecue grills, refrigerators, even icemakers. Even outdoor pizza ovens – not a feature everyone will want, but in line with the trend of personalizing outdoor spaces to meet individual lifestyle needs.