19 Top Outdoor Living Trends for 2021

Some landscaping trends are short-lived while others have been around for decades. While we are accustomed to seeing trends shift throughout the years, there is, perhaps, no recent year that has affected outdoor living trends nearly as much as the last one. 2020 saw many of us staying home, avoiding restaurants and visits from friends, and feeling like our once-adequate homes were suddenly cramped and lacking functionality as multiple household members all had to share the space to work, do homework, and spend every waking moment together.

All of this has strongly influenced 2021 outdoor living trends where we see folks enhancing their outdoor living areas, creating outdoor offices, spending what would have been vacation money on adding resort amenities to their backyards, and picking up new hobbies – like gardening.

Here are some of the hottest trends we are already seeing in 2021 and that we expect to continue at least throughout this year.

Five Top 2021 Outdoor Living Trends Predictions from NALP

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) regularly surveys their members to see which landscaping and outdoor living trends are developing and which are fading away. As expected, recent surveys have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic largely impacted 2020 trends and is continuing to impact backyard trends in 2021.

Here are five of the top trends NALP members expect to see in 2021.

1. Outdoor Entertaining

It is no surprise that a year of staying home and socializing outdoors has led to an increased interest in creating or improving outdoor living areas. Creating comfortable seating areas that allow for social distancing and spaces designed for family activities are some of the top trends in this area. In urban settings, NALP members are finding more folks interested in creating outdoor entertaining spaces on rooftops as well.

2. Do-It-Yourself Projects

Spending so much time at home has led many homeowners to finally complete home improvement projects that have been on the list for years. It has also given folks plenty of time to look around their homes and yards and come up with new projects to add to the list. The difference between this year and last is that more homeowners are taking on DIY projects, since they have more time, are spending more of that time at home, and are looking for productive ways to spend that time and ward off boredom.

Folks are also enjoying doing simple projects as a family and are saving money by taking some projects on themselves instead of hiring contractors.

Outdoor Living Trends for 2021

3. Swimming Pools

Installing a swimming pool solves several issues brought on by the pandemic. First off, public pools closed last year and some remain closed this year. Therefore, folks who love swimming or who found the public pool a great way to keep kids entertained for an afternoon no longer had access to this resource. Along with this, folks are growing accustomed to being at home more and liking it, so bringing more amenities home is growing in popularity.

Secondly, we have all spent a lot of time at home over the last year, and those of us with kids quickly learned that we need a lot more ways to keep them active and occupied when at home. A pool can keep kids busy for hours on a hot day, which can allow you to work from home on your patio or work in your garden so that you can get some productivity time in while keeping an eye on them and enjoying time outdoors.

Thirdly, adding a swimming pool to your backyard can help create a resort-style atmosphere for you and your family to enjoy. Since traveling is only slowing coming back into our lives, we cannot yet head to the resorts, which makes it quite appealing to do what we can to bring the resort to us.

4. Technology

With folks using their yards more than ever before, NALP members predict that 2021 outdoor living trends will include more outdoor sound systems, more smart irrigation systems, and more landscape lighting to extend the use of outdoor areas later into the night. And, of course, all of this needs to be controlled right from your smartphone.

5. Environmental Awareness

Landscaping customers across the country are also trending towards more environmental awareness. According to NALP, “these trends include a desire for more native plants, pollinator gardens, water conservation, and organic lawn care.” (NALP.com)

This is nothing new for Southern Californians. Water conservation has been a trending priority for well over a decade, native plants and choosing plants to attract pollinators to our yards are ongoing trends, and folks who still have natural grass lawns lean more towards organic lawn care here. However, in Southern California, the trend has been away from natural grass lawns and towards grass alternatives for many years now.

2021 outdoor living trends

Other General 2021 Outdoor Living Trends

In addition to the trends mentioned above, we are seeing several other trends continuing or developing. Some have been trending for years and look like they are here to stay, while others have been clearly influenced by the effects of the pandemic and all the time folks have been spending at home and apart from their family and friends lately.

1. Play Spaces

Spending so much of the last year working from home while homeschooling kids and trying to keep them busy has heavily influenced the trend towards including outdoor play spaces in landscape design. Parents need somewhere safe and nearby where the kids can play to ward off boredom and burn off energy. Creating or enhancing play spaces has proven to be a great way to keep kids busy and active while giving parents a little time to take care of conference calls or other obligations. Although some folks are starting to go back to work and kids are starting to go back to school, we see this trend continuing for 2021.

2. Outdoor Offices or Workspaces

Working from home is here to stay. Some companies are not calling employees back to the office until later this year, some have announced that they will continue having employees work from home for at least part of each week, and some companies have committed to keeping their employees working from home in the future.

On the employee side, many have found that they can be more productive working from home and that they are able to achieve a better work-life balance while also saving money on commuting, lunches, and work clothes.

Now that many of us will be working from home from now on, folks are looking to their outdoor living areas to create workspaces or offices. This trend is partially driven by the desire to have more flexible spaces for working from home and being able to spend more time outside. It is also driven by folks needing multiple work areas to accommodate everyone who lives in the household.

By adding an office pod, converting a shed, or creating a workspace on the patio, homeowners are creating more options to accommodate multiple working adults or kids doing schoolwork.

3. Enhancing Outdoor Entertainment Spaces

Last year, people were enhancing their outdoor living spaces because they were spending so much time at home with their family or the few friends in their pod. This year, folks are upgrading their outdoor spaces because they are so excited to finally be able to entertain again. In anticipation of folks getting vaccinated and dinner parties once more being a thing, homeowners are upgrading their grills, adding outdoor kitchens to their patios, adding pizza ovens to existing outdoor kitchens, investing in new furniture, enhancing their outdoor dining situations, and installing fire pits with the hopes that one day soon they will be gathering around them with friends.

Top Outdoor Living Trends 2021

4. Resort-Style Living

Since folks cannot go to resorts, they are starting to bring the resorts to them. For some, this means cozy sanctuaries where they can settle in and destress. For others, this means adding resort-style amenities, such as swimming pools, salt rooms, fire pits, or putting greens.

For folks living in houses on or near the beach, this trend has led to upgrading outdoor spaces to make their primary homes feel even more like vacation homes. This includes adding palapas and cabanas, upgrading patio furniture, installing outdoor showers, and upgrading outdoor lighting.

Five Top 2021 Outdoor Living Trends for Urban Backyards and Rooftops

Urban dwellers are often fine with smaller living spaces and little or no outdoor space, because of the access they have to nearby community spaces, such as parks, coffee shops, and cafés. When these community spaces were taken away last year, urbanites had to make some major lifestyle adjustments, and many regretted not having outdoor spaces of their own that they could enjoy. Because of this, 2021 trends in urban outdoor spaces focus on creating or improving available outdoor areas to maximize their function.

With this in mind, here are five of the top trends for Urban outdoor living areas.

1. Creating Outdoor Spaces

One of the top trends in urban landscaping is creating outdoor living areas where there once were none. This might include creating a seating area on a tiny balcony or creating a rooftop retreat where you can enjoy time outdoors.

2. Maximizing Existing Outdoor Spaces

Urban dwellers with some outdoor space are looking to maximize it with multi-functional spaces, adding comfortable seating for spending more time outdoors, and making the most of vertical spaces. This includes creating entertaining areas that can host small dinner parties at night, and then easily transform into a play space for the kids during the day.

3. Tiny Food Gardens

Another trend we expect to continue seeing in 2021 is the urge to grow at least a small amount of food. In urban settings, this may be an herb garden in a window box or just a few containers on a balcony, but the movement to grow your own food is here to stay. Folks with a little more space are planting urban gardens to feed their family and share with neighbors, while some folks with limited space are turning to vertical gardening to grow food and make the most of their outdoor areas.

4. Work and Homework Spaces

Spending months working or taking online classes at home has encouraged many of us to find ways to spend more time outside while still getting our work done. This includes creating workspaces outside. In urban settings this might mean setting up a small desk on a patio, building an office pod in a larger space, or finding the perfect rug and bean bag chair where you can work with your laptop on your lap.

5. Front Yard Gardens

Some folks living in urban areas have little or no backyard but do have some small patches of earth in the front yard. This is often next to the stoop or near the sidewalk. People are taking advantage of these areas more by using them to plant food gardens or cutting gardens right in their front yards. This allows them to spend time outside tending to their gardens and to experience the joy of growing their own food, even if it is just a few plants.

best outdoor living trends 2021

Four Top 2021 Outdoor Living Trends for Small Spaces

Staying home for the past year has inspired folks with small outdoor spaces to find creative ways to maximize the space they have and create backyard offices, retreats, or play spaces to keep kids active and occupied.

Here are four of the top trends we see among folks who are achieving these goals in small spaces.

1. Using Vertical Space

One of the easiest ways to maximize space in a small backyard is to go up. This means taking advantage of vertical space to make your outdoor living area more functional. One example would be vertical gardens installed on walls or fences to grow food or ornamental plants in a small footprint. This allows you to enjoy more natural features in your yard, grow your own food, and add more visual appeal to a small space.

2. Small Food Gardens

Growing your own food continues to gain traction as a general trend, so it is no surprise that folks with small outdoor spaces are getting in on it as well. To grow food in small backyards, some folks are using the above-mentioned vertical garden option, while others choose a container garden with planters that can be moved around as needed to make space for other activities. To maximize growing space, you can grow food in borders along your fence, in hanging planters, in window boxes, or in small, raised herb gardens with a minimal footprint.

3. Multifunctional Spaces

Our homes and yards have played bigger roles in our lives than usual over the last year, which has helped us prioritize functionality and versatility. This is particularly true when you are dealing with small indoor or outdoor spaces. Folks are looking to get the most out of small backyards, which means designing them to serve multiple functions and to easily transition from one activity to the next. For example, a Murphy table that can be pulled down to create a workspace or an outdoor dining room can then be stowed in its closed position to create a play space.

4. Artificial Grass

When you are working with a small space that needs to serve multiple purposes, you need that space to be useable as much as possible and to be easy to maintain and keep clean. This is why so many homeowners with small backyards are choosing artificial grass as a groundcover. Synthetic turf is easy to clean, requires little maintenance, does not require storing large equipment like lawnmowers, and can be used right after a rainstorm with no worries about tracking in mud or slipping on wet blades of grass.