For those with any semblance of an outdoor area, 2020 became the year to upgrade it: Demand for pools went through the roof, space heaters sold out indefinitely, and weatherproof daybeds took precedence over indoor sofas. Heck, even people who didn't even have a balcony to retreat to tried to make spots in their home feel outdoorsy — that's how badly the world craved nature and open expanses. None of that's changed since the start of the new year; on the contrary, an unusually tough winter and a pandemic that still hasn't ended has created a need for spending time outside more than ever before. And naturally, that's resulted in a few new outdoor furniture trends.
And no, that won't include any boring furniture sets this year. "Like a lot of design, I feel the matchy-matchy, room-in-a-box look is out for outdoor," Lisa Gilmore, principal designer at Lisa Gilmore Design, tells TZR in an email. "I think people are really seeing that they can treat their outdoor spaces with love and character and they are excited to experiment. It's no longer a place to just throw a random bistro table and chairs out and call it a day."
Instead, people will be channeling their need to escape and relax into their backyard spaces. "2020 taught us that things can be significantly delayed or even taken away, and in response we have learned to enjoy our home more and find joy there," continues Gilmore. "I feel people are taking 'vacation vibes' into their own hands, as they are likely working from home or in some cases home-schooling, and at the end of that day, they don't just want to plop on the sofa. However, they want to unwind in a luxury-feeling space."
As for what, exactly, that will look like in terms of outdoor furniture trends? Here, experts share their predictions for the year ahead.
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Outdoor Furniture Trend: All The Comfort
"With people spending more time at home, we’ve seen a larger focus placed on creating a relaxing and serene environment outdoors," Wendy Youds, VP of Product and Merchandising at Article, tells TZR in an email. "Keeping comfort and relaxation top of mind is key." Because of that, she says, the brand has noticed a need for "stylish, yet cozy upholstered seating" to ensure spaces feel as good as they look.
On-trend textiles are also getting an upgrade to help maximize both comfort and style. Youds says that '70s-inspired materials like synthetic rattan, cane, and wicker are getting "an upgraded look and feel for 2021" at Article via realistic synthetic materials that will increase the durability of each piece. Because who wants to sit on a chair that's falling apart after a month out in the elements?
Outdoor Furniture Trend: Luxurious Experiences
According to Gilmore, gone are the days of boring rattan and iron outdoor looks. "I feel there is a rise of the 'luxury outdoor experience' because people are really craving to bring that resort vacation vibe to their backyards," she says.
What that means is that now, we're seeing more intention — and honestly, just more in general. In essence, the goal is to create a second living room: "A true al fresco experience beyond just dining," says Gilmore. To do this, just have some fun. "I am a fan of swinging day beds, fun fabrics, and area rugs," she continues. "I also love to use unique lighting outdoors. I feel this is a great way to really bring some unexpected design elements to the outdoors and have some extra pizazz."
Outdoor Furniture Trend: Year-Round Living
Not only are people seeking luxurious outdoor spaces these days, but they're wanting them to function for all seasons. One way to make that happen? Heating. "I'm really into stately outdoor fireplaces right now, having fun with tile and other elements, and making it a cozy and inviting experience you can enjoy year round," says Gilmore.
While you may not be able to build an actual fireplace, thankfully an abundance of options have popped up in support of this trend. Now, there are endless ways to add warmth during the off seasons, from fire pits to propane fire tables, many of which will add some cool rustic vibes to the overall look.
Outdoor Furniture Trend: Multifunctional Pieces
As with the rest of your house, turning balconies, patios, and porches into spaces that are versatile is another key theme this year, says Youds. "Now more than ever, it’s important to create a beautiful, yet functional space that still maximizes the impact of your square footage," she explains.
So in the same way you've made your living room into a gym, office, and school, you can expect to see that happening with outdoor spaces as well. "Our team has spent a lot of time focusing on the materials and construction of our new furniture pieces to ensure that not only do the last a long time, but they serve multiple functions for our customers," Youds continues. "For example, we’ve seen an appetite for large table options that could seat all members of the family, but are also great for sprawling out when working from home."