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Survey Identifies Top Outdoor Living Trends for 2013

American homeowners increasingly are drawn to adding outdoor rooms for entertaining and recreation on their properties, according to the 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The results also show demand for both sustainable and low-maintenance design.

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Outdoor Living

2012 ASLA Professional Award winner, Maple Hill Residence. Stephen
Simpson Associates, lead landscape architect.  Photo: Charles Mayer
Photography and Rosemary Fletcher Photography.

Landscape architects who specialize in residential design across the country were asked to rate the expected popularity of a variety of residential outdoor design elements in 2013. The category of outdoor living spaces, defined as kitchens and entertainment spaces, received a 94.5 percent rating as somewhat or very popular. It all but tied with gardens and landscaped spaces at 94.4 percent.

Across all categories, 97 percent of respondents rated fire pits and fireplaces as somewhat or very in demand for 2013, followed by grills (96.3 percent), seating and dining areas (96.3 percent), and lighting (95.1 percent).

“In this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.”

Decorative water elements—including waterfalls, ornamental pools, and splash pools—were predicted to be in demand for home landscapes (90.9 percent). Spas (81.5 percent) and pools (75.3 percent) are also expected to be popular.

Terraces, patios, and decks are high on people’s lists (97.6 percent), as are fencing (89.6 percent) and ornamental water features (84.2 percent).

Americans still prefer such practical yet striking design elements for their gardens as low-maintenance landscapes (93.9 percent) and native plants (86.6 percent), with organic slightly increasing in popularity (65.3 percent compared to 61.2 percent in 2011). In keeping with the local food movement, more people are opting for food and vegetable gardens, including orchards and vineyards (82.7 percent).

Besides planting locally and organically, other sustainable elements continue their popularity with homeowners. Native or drought-tolerant plants (83 percent), drip irrigation (82.5 percent), permeable paving (72.8 percent), and reduced lawns (72.6 percent) are making their way into outdoor living spaces across the country.

Additional information on residential landscape architecture can be found at

Outdoor Design Elements (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Outdoor living spaces (kitchens, entertainment spaces) – 94.5%
Gardens/landscaped spaces – 94.4%
Outdoor recreation amenities (pools, spas, tennis courts) – 76.3%
Sustainable design practices – 74.8%
Vegetable/fruit gardens – 76.4%
Turf lawns – 52.2%

Outdoor Living Features (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Fire pits/fireplaces – 97.0%
Grills – 96.3%
Seating/dining areas – 96.3%
Lighting – 95.1%
Installed seating (benches, seat walls, ledges, steps, boulders) – 90.3%
Weatherized outdoor furniture – 82.3%
Counter space – 74.4%
Utility storage – 64.4%
Stereo systems – 58.5%
Outdoor heaters – 50.6%
Sinks – 49.1%
Refrigerators – 48.7%
Wireless/Internet connectivity – 47.8%
Televisions/projection screens – 45.2%
Showers/baths – 43.3%
Outdoor cooling systems (including fans) – 31.1%
Hammocks – 24.1%
Bedrooms/sleeping spaces – 8.0%

Outdoor Recreation Amenities (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Decorative water elements such as ornamental pools, splash pools, waterfalls, grottos, water runnels, or bubblers – 90.9%
Spa features (hot tub, Jacuzzi, whirlpool, indoor/outdoor sauna) – 81.5%
Swimming pools – 75.3%
Sports/recreational spaces (tennis courts, bocce ball, etc.) – 54.3%
Movie/video/TV theaters – 34.4%

Landscape/Garden Elements (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Low-maintenance landscapes – 93.9%
Native plants – 86.6%
Fountains/ornamental water features – 84.7%
Food/Vegetable gardens (including orchards/vineyards, etc.) – 82.7%
Organic gardens – 65.3%
Xeriscaping or dry gardens – 63.8%
Ponds/streams – 58.3%
Rain gardens – 58.2%
Rooftop gardens – 50.4%
Plant walls/vertical gardens – 47.9%

Sustainable Design Elements (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Native/adapted drought-tolerant plants – 83.0%
Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 82.5%
Permeable paving – 72.8%
Reduced lawn – 72.6%
Recycled materials – 62.5%
Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 59.1%
Compost bins – 55.1%
Solar-powered lights – 40.6%
Geothermal-heated pools – 28.4%

Outdoor Structures (Overall rating for 2013)

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

Terraces/patios/decks – 97.6%
Fencing (includes gates) – 89.6%
Ornamental water features such as fountains or splash pools – 84.2%
Arbors – 83.5%
Pergolas – 81.6%
Decks – 80.9%
Steps – 80.6%
Porches – 71.5%
Kitchens/ovens – 67.1%
Utility sheds (tool sheds, garden sheds, etc.) – 64.8%
Art (sculptures, murals, etc.) – 61.0%
Play structures (tree houses, swing sets, etc.) – 56.3%
Awnings, including retractable – 51.9%
Pavilions – 47.8%
Gazebos – 44.8%
Columns – 44.5%
ADA-accessible structures (ramps, bars, accessible shelving, etc.) – 22.1%

About the Survey
The survey asked residential landscape architecture professionals about the estimated popularity of various design elements for 2013. The survey was fielded January 28 through February 12, 2013, with 166 responding.

Comments February 19, 2013 3:27 PM
That has to be one of the most unscientific "surveys" I have ever taken. You guys should know better that to publish this dribble. February 19, 2013 4:18 PM
If you go back in history and study some of the magazines of the 50th and 60th such as House Beautiful, Sunset Magazine and Home and Garden you will find that the outdoor living was at that time very popular. We did not have kitchen equipment as we have it now, but we provided fireplaces and all the items you mentioned many, many years ago. It is nothing really new. If you look at architecture that created visual connections between the inside and the outside. This is when sliding glass doors became important, but this was years ago. It might have started in warmer climates, and then became more popular in other climatic conditions. Your survey should have also addressed the people that are garden designers as well as the contractors. Many outdoor spaces become structural elements which require architectural or enginering experience, which some of the smaller offices may not have. You also talk about low maintenance, but no one seems to define what this actual means. Planting natives does not automatically mean low maintenance. Thank you for reading my comments. February 11, 2014 6:15 AM
These outdoor living trends help to increase the beauty of the home. Great designs!
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