Outdoor Living

Create an oasis with upgrades that maximize functionality of outdoor spaces

It’s no secret that the year 2020 has proven to be far from what we expected. Onsite schooling was cut short. Forms of homeschooling became the new norm. Home offices stopped collecting dust. And families as a whole have spent more time in the home in the last five months than they likely have in years. But with all that time at home comes the desire to update, freshen, and enliven the living space. “People were home, not working, and had extra time to get home projects done,” says Mandy Newman of Northshore Nursery, “which included working in their yards.”

Pools made their way into neighborhoods. Decks got upgrades. Outdoor cooking spaces became more than just the grill and a cooler. And across the country, the phrase “backyard oasis” took on a whole new meaning. “Because of COVID, people are staying home more and want that ‘resort’ feel when they step into their backyard,” Newman says. So Cityview sat down with some of the region’s industry leaders to bring you the best of what’s trending in outdoor upgrades, so that you can go into fall creating your own oasis.

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Spark joy with multi-seasonal landscaping. Newman and her team at Northshore Nursery specialize in the natural upgrades and this year are seeing customers gravitate toward landscaping that they’ll be able to enjoy all throughout the year. “They want plants and trees that bloom at different times of the year, so there is always something pretty to look at in the landscape,” she says. Which means if you invested in this kind of backyard upgrade during the summer, you are in for a treat in the fall. And even if you haven’t, there’s still time to get there.

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Upgrade the grill to an all-out kitchen. There’s nothing quite like preparing your meal outside without needing to go inside endless times for platters, fixings, ice to freshen up your drink, or to clean the serving dishes. That’s why the outdoor kitchen has made such an appearance this year. “Having all these amenities in one area brings the indoors out,” says Dale Madden of Earthadelic Landscape and Construction. Outdoor kitchens can include large countertops, sinks, pot boilers, refrigerators, ice makers, and of course the grill. Add in seating, such as a traditional table and chair set if you have the space or multifunctional seat walls, and you never have to leave. “It’s all about being able to prepare a meal and enjoy a meal all in the same setting.”

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Take the living room outside. Similar to the kitchen, down time outside couldn’t be more popular, which is why so many continue to invest in their outdoor living spaces. Fire pits continue to be well-liked, but there has been a shift this year to outdoor chimneys and living rooms. There’s an architectural interest in chimneys, being able to hang an outdoor television above the fireplace, the focal point on which to center the rest of the space. “Covered space is the ideal so you can enjoy it in any type of weather,” Madden says. “Folks are wanting to use these areas not only in the summer, but in three seasons, and, if they can, four seasons.” And even if you can’t splurge on the most expensive of fireplaces, infrared heaters continue to be a great added go-to.

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Bring the magic of the water home. Homeowners can move their living space outside and can bring it to the next level with water features, making the backyard truly an oasis. “People aren’t traveling and they look out their window and say, ‘It’s a shame we don’t have the magic here,’” says John Adams of Modern Design Aquascaping. “Everything gravitates to the sight and sound of moving water. That’s the magic.” Recreational and natural swimming ponds with materials sourced from the Smokies or riverbeds in Eastern Tennessee can bring that magic. Or take a slightly different route and opt for the smaller, more accessible pools without deep ends that are trending now.

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Invest in quality outdoor lighting. As the summer winds down, the days will get shorter, but the desire to utilize that outdoor space won’t end. Ensuring you can still see and use your space will be critical. “Customers say they like coming home from work in the fall and winter to a well-lit home,” says Heath Myrick of Lighthouse Outdoor Lighting of Knoxville. “It looks fantastic and feels safer.” Above all, it extends a property’s usability and helps homeowners enjoy their investments. And while LED technology is nothing new, it can add an efficient touch to the lighting design. Work can be done to ensure the lighting apparatus remains hidden, but the light emitted creates a worthwhile ambiance.

Other aspects of outdoor living to consider include creating shade and adding warmth. Arbors and covered patios turn scorching hot spaces into restful retreats to use on the hottest of days. Conversely, outdoor fireplaces and firepits provide cozy warmth when the temperatures start to drop. Just add a blanket to curl up in and make your outdoor space enjoyable year-round.

Is it possible to vacation in your backyard and not feel like you’re still in quarantine? It just might be. The upgrades and attention to detail are what will make or break the oasis feel. The trends are helpful to know because they mean the process of creation is being perfected by the minute, but the biggest piece of advice we received from these industry leaders is to not skip the details: the colorful pillows, the pots full of flowers, the mulch in the garden beds. 

Think ahead to not just how this space will impact your 2020, but how it will function years from now. “It needs to be a one-time investment with all things considered,” Madden says. 

But let’s face it, this fall is when your efforts will pay off. It will be a competition amongst friends and family to see who has the best backyard setup to watch the big game. And if you can cook an entire meal, entertain, relax, and never miss a first-down, then you might just come out the victor. Even if it’s just you who is benefitting.   

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