Fire features and functionality among hot outdoor living trends

For Baltimore at Home

For years, outdoor spaces took a backseat to the indoors in the realm of home design and decor. But recently, homeowners have shifted their focus.

"Outdoor space was an afterthought," says Michael Ryan Wright, owner of MiY Home in Fells Point. "But because we're having longer, warmer seasons, it is now being given a lot of thought."

Wright and other outdoor design professionals dished on this season's big trends, from fire-centric spaces to coastal color palettes.

1. Bigger projects, bigger budgets

"People are starting to invest more" in outdoor spaces, says Ted Carter, owner of Glen Arm-based Pinehurst Landscape.

Pricey projects like outdoor kitchens have drawn increasing interest over the past decade, he says, with homeowners turning an eye toward al fresco entertaining.

"Big, bold design has been in," Carter says. "People are starting to say, I don't want the $100,000 kitchen. I want the $100,000 backyard because that's where I spend my time."

2. Hot fire features

From simple copper bowls surrounded by a few seats to elaborate fireplaces, fire features are so popular that homeowners are designing whole backyard projects with a fire source as the central feature.

"Sometimes it's under cover, with a pergola overhead, or it could just be the fireplace with a patio around it," says Shari Depasquale, principal of Stone Hill Design Associates, a Falls Road landscape architecture firm.

Fire pits are no longer restricted to the countryside, either. Technology like including new bioethanol-fueled products is making rooftop fire pits easier and safer for urban dwellers.

3. Form and multifunction

When it comes to outdoor decor, convenience is key.

"The last thing you want to do when you're relaxing is lug your kitchen up three flights of stairs to your deck," says Wright.

MiY Home is among the retailers selling multifunctional pieces, like tables with tops that double as trays, making it easy for homeowners to carry food and drinks outside. The shop also carries an end table that doubles as a cooler.

"It's gorgeous," he says. "An hourglass shape with a top with a hole so you can pull it up and plop in a bottle of champagne."

4. Weather-resistant gadgets

As outdoor rooms gain popularity, more and better weather-resistant technology is hitting the market.

"All the high-tech wingdings that used to be exclusive to interior work — like controlling sound with your smartphone — are now things you can do outside," says Carter. "There are weather-resistant TVs as well, so you can have the full living room experience. You don't need to have a full enclosed cabana or pool house to enjoy luxuries."

5. Colors from the sea

Outdoor design often takes inspiration from nature; this year is no different. "The big colors this year are in a seaside palette," says Wright.

It includes many different shades of blue, like denim, plus shades of green (such as "greenery," the vibrant green that is the 2017 Pantone color of the year). Textures and patterns add a vibrant element to the mix, as does the occasional pop of a warm color, such as bright orange.

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