Breaking Down Outdoor Living Trends by Region

With different styles and color choices prominent in certain areas, everyone wants an attractive, low-maintenance and comfortable outside living space.

While traveling and visiting new cities, people notice interesting outdoor living spaces and amenities that differ by region. Whether there is a reason behind the way a patio or deck is designed or if it is solely for looks, design elements truly inspire and delight across America.

With outdoor living becoming increasingly popular, it is no surprise that there are trends and themes in different regions, as well. As homeowners decide to spend more time outside, decks and patios have become a version of an outdoor room. ESTATENVY caught up with George Gehringer and Karen Pearlstein of Metaphor LLC to learn more about what colors and trends people are embracing in all corners of the U.S.

Gray decking has been becoming increasingly popular across the U.S., with its dominant presence in the Northeast, and making its way down the coast to the Mid-Atlantic and Southern regions. For example, a popular color choice for homeowners is Slate Gray from AZEK’s Harvest Collection, but as decking trends shift to darker colors, TimberTech’s Tropical Collection in Amazon Mist is gaining traction among consumers in these regions, as well. One of the reasons gray has picked up steam is because it is a nice contrast to the frequently used white siding across these regions.

From a style standpoint, Gehringer comments that updated traditional is the strongest trend in the Northeast. Updated Traditional is a more experimental mix of materials, but with a throwback for classic taste with a modern twist. The palette is warm and inviting with a lot more white colors and traditional patterns than other styles.

“We’re seeing very typical silhouettes and finishes, as you would see in traditional indoor furniture, but they have other exaggerations to them,” said Gehringer. “For example, the legs might have exaggerated characteristics to them.”

That leads the Metaphor team to a general trend across the entire U.S. for “deep seating.” The team notes that this includes swivel rockers and lounges, in addition to deep seating for dining tables and sectionals.

“This is probably the most important category across the country,” said Pearlstein. “Outdoor spaces are becoming more of a family room, including sofas and additional seating besides an area for dining. This also brings the idea of cushions into the picture, so we’re finding that with this new deep seating, there are a lot of overstuffed cushions and accessories like pillows and headrests present in the outdoor areas.”

Across northern and colder areas, the Metaphor team mentions that fire pits have continued to stay popular, extending the seasonality of the outdoor living space, and also supporting communality.

“When people gather around fire pits, it allows them to come together and be social later into the evening while also having a second purpose of extending the season,” Pearlstein said.

Moving into the Mid-Atlantic and Southern regions, expect to find mid-tone brown decks like AZEK’s Autumn Chestnut from the Harvest Collection to be the most popular. In the Mid-Atlantic and in urban areas along the coast, casual contemporary is well embraced as well as updated traditional as the prevalent styles. Casual contemporary is defined as an outdoor room with TVs, more indoor-inspired lighting, and carpets, with more outdoor versions of indoor seating. As homes get closer to the coast, there are more lights and bright colors seen as accents in the outdoor living spaces, holding all the way down the Eastern coastal shore, comments Gehringer.

A universal trend that plays up bringing the indoors outside is the general idea to have more containers for ice and cooling. In the Florida market and Southwest region, more and more people are incorporating a cooler, ice bucket, or ice trough into their furniture. Some of the ice troughs are also convertible to become a fire trough, extending seasonality. There are some new areas coming in transformational furniture with a variety of accessory types, including places for ice in bars and tables. And bar carts are also starting to be a more frequent installation on decks and patios.

What we’re seeing is anything that expands what you do indoors to outdoors is where most companies are going right now,” said Gehringer. “Consumer demand is to use the outdoor living space as broad or general as possible.”

Another popular trend in the warmer, Southern states is the ceiling fan. Creating a breeze in the heat is important to keep cool while also enjoying the fresh air, and in particular, they have been a mainstay on porches for decades.

It’s not unusual to see a typical ceiling fan installed on a porch,” said Pearlstein. “One of the things fans do is help keep bugs away. Another growing trend in the south is to screen in your porch. This allows you to be open to the outside, but keep the bugs from coming in –this is actually a revival. Screened in porches were popular a long time ago because people wanted to be outdoors without the bugs, and they’re reconsidering this option again.”

In the Southwest and West Coast, there are regional styles based on rustic and desert looks. Country Rustic Americana is a look of hand-scraped wood, and flooring that looks like indoor hardwood floors. Highlighted by smaller scale floral prints, stripes and plaids, corduroys and homespun linens, there is more of a complex color and texture involved with this style. Pearlstein notes that the West Coast continues to lead the way in outdoor trends because they have four seasons, fewer bugs and people are generally outside more. She says that the retro look has gained speed in the West and homeowners have been buying old metal style furniture and having it re-powder coated. As a matter of fact, major manufacturers are seeing this as an opportunity with the retro look being embraced by Northern California up into Portland and Washington, as well.

As for the actual decking colors, mid-tone and darker browns are more popular in the Western region of the country, like the Antique Palm color from TimberTech’s Tropical Collection. Its saturated tones create a bold aesthetic that’s sure to stand out in backyards.

But in the central region of the U.S., beiges and mid-tone browns tend to be the dominant choice for decking, like TimberTech’s Legacy Collection in Mocha. Its warm, rich color and hand-scraped, artisan-look complement any home regardless of its exterior design. You will also see more updated traditional and some more rustic trends happening in those areas – Americana or country – continuing to expand.

“In the Midwest, shade and privacy become much more important and so is the ability to have areas in which you can try to control the bugs in some way,” said Pearlstein. Because of this, she adds that retractable screens will continue to be installed to allow people both privacy and insect control.”

In general, across all markets, the two main styles the Metaphor team is seeing are casual contemporary, including more clean, minimal lines, and tending to be more squared off and boxy, and the other most popular style is updated traditional, which basically takes traditional furniture forms and freshens them up with exaggerated elements, some new color, new finishes, and the actual look transitions from indoor to outdoor.

“Especially, in some urban and higher price suburban areas, people will buy some more expensive furniture and combine it with lower cost furniture, giving their outdoor space more variety and more options. We are seeing that quite a bit,” said Gehringer. “We have been trying to use the word transitional because [people] in many regions we’ve been in are hesitant to use the [descriptors as] contemporary or modern because they don’t feel that’s their market. But as we use the word transitional, all of these various parts and pieces [let homeowners have a] variety of different types of furniture to mix and match.”

When all is said and done, low maintenance, comfort and looks are the name of the game. People want to spend time enjoying their outdoor space, now spending time cleaning and maintaining it. Homeowners in every region just want to kick back and enjoy their space, whether with a cup of coffee and a book or a cocktail party with friends.