One of the bigger home design trends that has emerged from lockdown life has been what to do with outdoor space.
Home has become one of the most important priorities in people’s lives. Whether they have a backyard, terrace or balcony, homeowners have grown to better appreciate the benefits of nature, fresh air and sunlight. It helps immensely with mental well-being. That’s particularly true for those of us who work from home.
Designers are jumping on the trend, says Brian Gluckstein, the principal designer at Gluckstein Design Planning Inc., the firm behind North Drive’s 10 Prince Arthur, One Forest Hill and 36 Birch condo projects.
“Over the last few years there has been a trend towards developing outdoor living spaces,” he says. “There has been a growing desire to create these outdoor rooms – sofa sectionals, dining, chaise lounges to stretch out on, and bars, barbecue areas. That was a big trend before COVID-19. But COVID emphasized the importance of outdoor space because we weren’t going anywhere. COVID magnified the need for it, how much people used it and relied on it. Maybe we took outdoor space for granted before.”
The size of outdoor space is increasingly on buyer’s checklists, he adds. That’s particularly true for people moving from big houses to condos. They want outdoor space that goes beyond narrow decks, gardens and terraces. They are looking for wider spaces now that accommodate a dining table and chairs, since people have not been able to eat out at restaurants as much.
That demand is being met in boutique condo projects such as North Drive’s, which have larger units. Its clients are looking for larger outdoor gardens, beautiful flowers and trees, and even areas in which to grow herbs and vegetables, especially as people are cooking from home more.
Outdoor fireplaces or fire pits are now key components in yards. More comfortable seating, soft lighting, outdoor carpeting and potted plants are the choice for terraces or balconies.
Dawn Chapnick, principal designer at Dawn Chapnick Designs, says greenery outside on your balcony or terrace helps create a sense of calm in turbulent times. Even for smaller balconies or terraces, hedging or greenery with outdoor area rugs and comfortable seating and outdoor lighting can help create the feeling of being on vacation.
“Adding the right décor pieces can help bring your imagination to life,” she says. “Vacation plans may not be immediate, so creating that ‘hotel’ vibe outside means we can have our own little or large oasis. Adding plug-in waterfalls can help to create this ambience. Soft, cozy outdoor throws, ottomans and plush towels will be so important to add to that retreat feel. In the right temperature with a comfortable sofa and blanket you may even want to sleep under the stars.”
Entertaining at home is a bigger focus now, Gluckstein says. People will have friends or family over to sit outside this summer, but not so much in the home. At least not yet.
During the day, that wider terrace space can function as a work area as well. Designers will include such features as a big table and umbrella to shade from the sun.
“Definitely the work outside is a nice break after having been cooped up inside your house or apartment,” Gluckstein says. “You want that light. You want that fresh air. You want to be able to change spaces.”
You need to make sure your WiFi is good, so perhaps invest in a booster for that, and have ready access to power sources and noise-cancelling headphones.
“The idea of an out-of-the-house work hut has become a very desirable item. As more and more people are discovering work from home, they are realizing that the dining room table just isn’t appropriate,” says Brian Woodrow, senior designer for Tomas Pearce.
Having a tiny backyard cottage for an office keeps work demands separate from home life, which is important, Gluckstein says.
“That becomes a controlled, quiet environment for workday concentration and tasks, as opposed to the sanctuary of home,” Woodrow says.
Ashley Rumsey, partner at Mason Studio, which is working on Lifetime Development’s Oscar Residences in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, says one of the biggest challenges of working from home is creating boundaries between personal and professional life.
“This has led to an increased need to create spaces dedicated for work,” she says. “People are looking to what they have around them that could be repurposed – from garages, garden sheds, or even extra space in a backyard to build a work pod.
“The benefits of working outside in nature are well-documented and numerous,” Rumsey says. “From an overall increase in well-being to greater productivity and focus, being outdoors is great for the mind and body. Especially now with many of us confined to our homes, it is a necessary change of scenery to work outdoors. Even if you don’t have a backyard or balcony, parks or other shared outdoor environments can provide a change of perspective from our interior environments.”
Mimi Ng, senior vice-president of residential sales and marketing for Menkes Developments Ltd., says a balcony is now considered a must have. Outdoor amenity spaces are also vital to city dwellers: Menkes’ Sugar Wharf under construction along Toronto’s waterfront has a sizable outdoor terrace that features barbecue and dining areas, including communal seating and private dining alcoves, which are also ideal for working outdoors.
“Buyers are also asking more questions about the local parks and green spaces that are available in the neighbourhood around our projects,” Ng says. “Sugar Wharf is a master-planned community that will include a new two-acre public park.”
If you have work to do, you could do a lot worse than grabbing your laptop and a coffee and heading down to a space by the lake for a few hours.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.