Whether you’re cooking, exercising, or just hanging out, spend more time outside this year as backyards, decks, and patios evolve into comfortable extensions of the home
The pandemic has changed how we live, especially when it comes to homes. It has initiated a new homebody culture and backyard-centric lifestyle. More than ever, homeowners now think of their formerly neglected outdoor areas as literal extensions of their home’s interiors. No longer just a spot for kids or pets to jump around, balconies, decks, patios, and terraces are being transformed into sophisticated living spaces.
With travel restrictions and cabin fever in full swing, homeowners took the vacation vibe they had been deprived of into the backyard. Outdoor work, sleeping and kitchen spaces have become popular, along with functional, durable and comfortable seating and furnishings.
While we’re all ready for life to return to normal, there certainly have been silver linings from this sudden societal shift: more family time, more quiet time, happier pets spending more time with their people. For anyone in the residential design/build industry, it’s also been a boon for business.
People who live in apartments without galleries are looking to upgrade to a home connected to a balcony where they can enjoy some fresh air and keep certain types of greenery.
“People who live in apartments without galleries are looking to upgrade to a home connected to a balcony where they can enjoy some fresh air and keep certain types of greenery,” says Naser M. Ahmed, Group CEO, Tanseeq Investment Group of Companies. “Similarly, homeowners and tenants who already have the latter type of living space are in turn looking to move into villas where they can cultivate their own private garden.”
The home furnishing and home improvement sector saw a consistent spike in sales through 2020 and 2021. “Redesigning outdoor spaces became a natural extension of re-décor drive,” says Sayed Habib, Director Business Development Franchise and E-Commerce, Danube Home. “The search for safer outdoor hangouts became a hot trend among homebound people and that explains the increased focus on sprucing up the outdoor living spaces.”
Sagar Sawlani, Director, Royal Garden Centre, observes a renewed interest in kitchen and vegetable gardens. “There has been a trend towards
growing edible items in outdoor spaces like herbs, veggies, etc., as well as outdoor dining like barbecues, dining table sets and outdoor wash basins/sinks,” he says.
Dake Rechsand, a Dubai-based company offering sustainable solutions in water conservation and desert farming, has registered a significant increase in queries for Breathable Sand, which can enable lush greenery with minimal water. “We can safely say that gardening, and upgrading outdoor spaces, are not just shortlived trends; they are the new norm,” says Chandra Dake, CEO, Dake Rechsand.
Health and well-being
The pandemic has made it clear how essential well-designed backyards are to health, well-being and social interaction.
The search for safer outdoor hangouts became a hot trend among homebound people and that explains the increased focus on sprucing up the outdoor living spaces.
“Well-designed and quality landscaping is vital to maintain good mental and physical health during challenging times,” says Ahmed. “Having a refreshing outdoor living space allows families to enjoy regular fresh air and improved vitality and relaxation from being outdoors.”
A well-executed, landscaped outdoors outfitted with greenery, manicured lawn, and an organically decked out poolside is said to produce a calming effect.
Courtyards and balconies are no longer seen as an avoidable luxury. “The pandemic has shown the value of landscape design in creating a person’s ideal outdoor living space,” says Sagar Sawlani. “Creating a well-designed outdoor living space gives people a place they can escape to even within their own home.”
The pandemic also brought renewed focus on sustainability, health, and wellness. “This development led many to grow their own vegetables in backyards and balconies, to develop self-sufficiency,” says Dake. “I see these as a positive response to a challenge.”
Creating a well-designed outdoor living space gives people a place they can escape to even within their own home.
From mirroring indoor interior design with comfy lounging furniture and soft textiles to installing outdoor buildings that can be turned into home offices or homeschooling rooms, experts are expecting to see more demand for ‘transterior’ spaces.
“Winter is a much-anticipated season in the UAE, a time when at-home entertaining and family barbecues increase exponentially,” says Ahmed. “Many people will opt for an outdoor barbeque station with an outdoor patio and seating furniture as an absolute must. Gazebos and pergolas are also a popular addition to the garden.”
During the pandemic, people discovered that the best way to relax and de-stress is to spend quality time outdoors engaging in a whole range of activities, which include cooking, working, exercising, relaxing, and swimming, says Habib.
People’s tastes vary, as Sawlani observes. “Every person would have a different ideal outdoor experience; some may want a beautiful space where they can host family and friends, cook fresh food and then dine together while others may just want to create a serene and zen space where they can unwind.”
Natural greenery is also something that people are also aiming for, says Dake. “In the Middle East, natural greenery has not been achievable sustainably as it takes a large amount of water, fertilisers, and capital. People are now in the market for plausible solutions like Breathable Sand. Many want natural greenery, which can make any activity — working, having guests over, or exercising — more worthwhile.”
In the Middle East, natural greenery has not been achievable sustainably as it takes a large amount of water, fertilisers, and capital. People are now in the market for plausible solutions like Breathable Sand.
Popular outdoor layouts
What type of outdoor layouts are rising in popularity? “At-home large family gatherings are a central component of the social fabric of the Emirates,” says Ahmed. “This necessitates the incorporation of spacious outdoor patios, shaded structures like gazebos and pergolas, outdoor barbecue station and perhaps an outdoor kitchen, and a wide range of beautiful greenery that is preferably suited to the local climate as well as being low-maintenance.”
Customers are increasingly looking for designs that are low-maintenance, eco-friendly and minimalist. “People want to transform their balconies, terraces, backyards and frontyards into impressive relaxation areas by making the ordinary beautiful, installing unique décor, while keeping prying eyes away,” says Habib.
Sawlani says, “People have realised the value of having more functional outdoor spaces, so layouts have been streamlined in order to become more space efficient as people prioritise the practical uses they have in mind for their gardens and balconies.”
Within the Middle East, growing live plants instead of relying on artificial ones is the overarching trend, explains Dake. “The playing field is larger in such cases, and includes lawns, woodland landscapes, and planting beds. Individuals, with relatively less space, are more inclined towards vertical gardens, and pots in balconies and backyards.”
Future of landscape design
Sustainable landscaping practices have gained tremendous importance in recent years, but it doesn’t have to be difficult to implement. “The simple practice of incorporating indigenous plants in the landscaping design can significantly conserve water as they require 40-60 per cent less water to flourish,” says Ahmed. “Additionally, the installation of solar-powered lights can contribute greatly to energy conservation. On a more corporate and governmental level, businesses and government agencies can look to invest in high-quality grey water and black water recycling systems that look to purify waste water for non-drinking purposes such as landscape irrigation.”
Habib adds: “We at Danube Home make use of our knowledge of living spaces to create design layouts that incorporate elements of the natural environment, furniture, and latest landscaping techniques in order to create places of value and beauty.”
Designs, resource usage, implementation and maintenance are all undergoing a sustainability driven transformation, says Dake. “In regions like the Middle East, where xeriscaping or water-wise landscaping is the only way forward, the timely emergence of solutions like Breathable Sand is noteworthy. The possibilities and feasibility of water-wise landscaping will pave the way for new designs and developments.”