Design Trends: Backyards take center stage

May 8, 2020 -  By
Outdoor patio space (Photo: MSI Surfaces)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the U.S., homeowners are spending more time in their outdoor spaces. (Photo: MSI Surfaces)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, backyards and outdoor living are becoming even more important.

“People are home and thinking about their outdoor spaces,” says Emily Holle, director of trend and design for MSI Surfaces, a distributor of flooring and natural stone.

And, people are seeing these spaces as not only places to entertain, but as areas that play an important role in their daily lives, especially as more time is being spent at home.

“During COVID-19, these outdoor spaces are also key places to live a more balanced and healthy lifestyle,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes for Belgard. “They’re beneficial to overall health and well-being.”

As more homeowners turn their attention to their outdoor spaces, experts say some new trends are emerging in hardscapes and water features.

Bold colors, seamless sanctuaries

One trend MSI Surfaces has seen is a bold use of color. Holle says this means bright colors, contrasts of black and white and complex geometric patterned tile with a Moroccan influence in places like outdoor grill islands, fireplaces and waterfall backgrounds. This bold use of color is playing off a trend that is popular indoors.

Another trend, according to Holle, is taking an indoor tile and matching it to an outdoor paver. She says homeowners are not seeing indoor and outdoor spaces as separate; they want them to flow naturally. Holle says MSI calls this trend a “seamless sanctuary.”

“We have several lines that have an indoor tile that can flow seamlessly outdoors by switching to a paver,” she says. “It takes the guesswork out of matching indoor and outdoor patterns.”

One with nature

Raboine says more residential spaces are blurring the lines between hardscapes and the backyard.

He says design elements pull in natural stone so there aren’t as many hard lines and it blends in with the natural surroundings.
Belgard calls this trend “entanglement with nature.” And Raboine says it’s addressing how homeowners now want to use their backyards, green spaces and gardens on a day-to-day basis. The trend incorporates details such as edible landscapes and permeable pavers that aid in replenishing groundwater — and Raboine says all this is a nod to health and well-being.

“People are much more attuned to where they live and spend money,” he says. “It has a collective significant effect on the environment in a positive way.”

High-tech, low-maintenance water features

When it comes to ponds and water features, homeowners are seeking options that are easy to maintain and offer some customization.
Demi Fortuna, director of product information for Atlantic Water Gardens, says younger homeowners who are used to smartphone integration want to control items such as lighting, music, pumps and filters with a smartphone app. Atlantic Water Gardens offers Wi-Fi-controlled pumps and filters that can modify the rates and speed and control algae.

“They wanted to flip a switch and be able to turn on music and water features,” he says. “They don’t want to do maintenance.”

Fortuna says there are a lot of water features that are easy to install, including large water walls and features with a simple, small plume of water running over moss.

A small plume of water, Fortuna says, “can be completed in under an hour and costs next to nothing to run. It looks like a liquid torch.”

Plus, Fortuna says the water is filtered so homeowners can set it and forget it.

Fortuna encourages contractors to educate their customers on the benefits of adding a water feature.

“Between the aesthetics of having water and the ease of bringing these to the customer, they’re going to make some money, but (customers) need to know how easy it is to maintain,” he says.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Design/Build+Installation, May 2020
Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at

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