Planning And Designing a Modern And Smart Outside Dining Space

Words: Ashley Johnson

Words: Ashley Johnson

Dining and living outside has become abundantly more prevalent, meaningful, and focused as a majority of the population face a pandemic-induced quarantine. The function of these outside rooms is also evolving beyond just an addition to the home to hang out, read a book, or have a glass of wine. Instead, they aspire to provide an experience, bring the family closer together, and allow friends to catch up while also maintaining social distancing recommendations. 

Time, money, and energy all are being invested at a greater pace and amount in an attempt to embrace and adapt to this new standard of living. With more people opting to stay home, outside spaces will serve as a blank canvas on which to infuse creativity, design aesthetic, and modern conveniences. 

Homeowners are demanding modern, unique, innovative methods and materials to renovate and revitalize their existing exterior residential footprints. Contractors, builders, landscape architects, stonemasons, and a multitude of other critical industry professionals are finding themselves inundated with a diversity of new clients and projects.

These permutations in landscape design aesthetics and practices emulate earlier trends but with a couple of key differences: sustainability and technology. The introduction of low maintenance design and smart technology has materialized to transform and facilitate an entirely new area of outdoor architectural form and function.

Functionary formulary foundations

Because of the impact and time spent outside, the materials and designs used for patios and walkways are critical to unifying and prolonging the space. It’s important to select materials that will grow with space and support its longevity.

Brick tiles, tumbled granite cobblestones, and flagstone pavers are pillars of landscape architectural design because of their durability and timelessness. But they also exude a traditional, classic feel.

Modern materials and styles are much sought after by clients who desire a contemporary, stately quality to their outdoor living spaces. Man-made stone derived from concrete can be cast in any number of shapes, textures, and colors. 

Rectangular porcelain tiles that resemble hardwood flooring lend a simplistic, tranquil ambiance that is also durable, easy to clean, and low maintenance. These wood-inspired tiles inspire modernity when edged with grass.

Decks and patios designed with inlays of wood or stone and featuring multi-width planks or tiles are becoming prominent. This style and integration of mixed materials, textures, and patterns emphasize a space, delineates boundaries, or offsets sections. 

Biophilic design

Blending a love of nature with architectural composition, the biophilic design incorporates organic elements with man-made components. As more people transition to urban living environments, the compulsion and call for greenery are intensifying. Materials, architecture, and design focus and reflect this need for wildscapes. 

Green walls are a common and easy solution to augment small spaces. They can expertly and elegantly be planted with low-maintenance plants like succulents or ground cover. More commonly constructed in urban environments, vertical gardens provide insulation, soundproofing, and softens the harshness of industrial architecture. 

Permeable pathways and walkways laid with natural, manmade stone-like Blu 60 Slate or a Borealis patio slab ( seamlessly incorporate nature with daily life. They also facilitate precise percolation of moisture from rain or snow to avoid flooding, standing water, snow, or ice.

Low maintenance designs

Simplicity and minimalism are paramount as homeowners seek to spend time with family and friends. They don’t want to spend hours on end maintaining their yards. 

Drought resistant plants not only save clients time, but they are better for the environment. Xeriscaping uses native plants that do well in dry, arid climates to save water by 20 percent to 40 percent.

Low maintenance lawns are also prevalent with many homeowners looking into and opting for false grass. Astroturf has come a long way and today can look identical to natural grass but without the investment in time and money.

Illuminating living spaces

Proper lighting not only sets the mood and tone of outdoor living spaces, but it acts as a safety measure for pathways and patios.

Dominating architectural elements and landscape features is discreetly integrated lighting. Clients desire lighting elements, but don’t want to see it. By blending fixtures into surrounding spaces, outdoor living rooms achieve a clean, modern experience without the hardware. 

Displaying lights out of sight is taking creative liberties while emphasizing functionality. Linear lights tucked along walkways and mounted on stairs gives the appearance of floating steps. String lights and linear fixtures built into the foundations of pergolas and awnings offers upscale lighting without actually seeing it.

In addition to the amount of lighting and how it is designed into a backyard renovation, the type of lighting is equally important. A focus on LED and low-voltage bulbs contribute to energy savings, are less expensive over the long run, and last considerably longer. 

Lighting that is compatible with nighttime entertaining reduces light pollution and strain on eyes. Lights that point straight down prevents light from escaping. When selecting bulbs, it’s important to take note of the BUG, which stands for backlight, uplight, glare. A lower rating translates into lower light pollution for the environment. Additionally, bulbs marked as DLC premium rated ensure dark sky compatible lighting.

Integrating technology outside

Smart technology has exploded in the last five years with virtually every area of the home now controlled automatically or remotely from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Landscape design presents an enormous opportunity to integrate and embrace this technology. 

Using an app on a smartphone or tablet, landscape lighting can be scheduled to turn on and off at any time, even when no one is home. Not only can lighting be automatically controlled, but the same applications provide insightful data on energy usage while offering recommendations to increase energy efficiency and savings. 

LED bulbs connected by wifi and controlled by an app allows clients to select any color from the spectrum. They also can be dimmed and brightened to any level. 

Outdoor appliances integrated with wireless technology improve cooking precision and quality while preventing burning or overcooking. Smart grills moderate food temperature, display step-by-step recipes, and offer insight on cooking processes that includes the best place on the grill for food. 

Technology is not just being integrated into existing products and architectural elements. Continuing with the outdoor living theme, televisions and audio are moving outside. Hidden speakers and sound systems allow homeowners to connect directly to their phones to play their favorite music. 

Retractable televisions and movie screens allow families to enjoy the outdoors at night together while also offering protection from the weather. Maintaining outdoor spaces also can be controlled automatically through irrigation systems set up to water plants at specific times. Controlling precisely how much water specific plants need prevents overwatering. 

As technology continues to evolve and our planet faces increasing environmental threats, it will be critical to judiciously design and plan out the spaces in which we live and play.

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