How to create the ultimate outdoor entertaining space
A look at the 2022 trends and must-have items for a year-round outdoor area
“Location, location, location” was once everything in the property market, said Kate Saines on What Mortgage. But since the start of the pandemic it’s all been about “space, space and more space” for would-be home buyers.
Demand for properties with gardens and outdoor areas grew considerably in the “race for space” as millions were working from home. Even though people are now returning to the office, the appeal of the great outdoors remains.
Investing in your outdoor space is “an investment in your wellbeing”, said Mariel Roe on Properly. So, whatever your outdoor space, “make the most of it”.
A focus on outdoor ‘living’
Our gardens have taken on “such a greater importance” since the pandemic, said Duncan Aird, co-founder and designer at Outdoor Kitchen Expert. During 2022 he expects to see a more sophisticated approach to outdoor entertaining, as families increasingly “embrace their outside areas as permanent socialising spaces, rather than temporary ones”. There’s a focus on outdoor “living” rather than simply cooking or dining.
In this guide, the team from Outdoor Kitchen Expert pick out the top trends for outdoor living in 2022 and the must-have items to help create the ultimate year-round outdoor entertaining space.
Outdoor living trends
This year will all be about making outdoor living spaces “smarter in every sense”, said Duncan Aird. Smart outdoor kitchens are a natural progression from smart indoor kitchens and in terms of appliances, Wi-Fi-enabled BBQs, grills and smokers are now available, meaning families can cook to their exact specifications directly from a smartphone app.
Smart fridges can be installed in outdoor kitchens as well as Bluetooth-controlled heating features, such as fire pits and wireless smart heaters. Homeowners looking to go the extra mile can also consider high-tech canopies. Enabling use year-round, the canopy blades can be adjusted at the touch of a button to track the sun or tilted to catch a breeze. Rain sensors can also automatically close the roof to keep from a passing rain shower.
“As indoor/outdoor living blends, we predict that more families will seek ways to master the skies by adopting smart technology that makes the weather work for them – tilting canopies to collect a breeze or angling to extend the sunshine hours,” he said. “Clients are finding new and exciting ways to extend their entertainment time through amazing smart technology, heating and lighting options.”
Within our homes, different generations often occupy discrete and different spaces. Our outdoor living spaces are different, with families ripping up the rulebook and reinventing how they live and play together. The vast list of covetable features – LED mood lighting, sound systems, hot tubs, saunas and perfect grilling and entertaining spaces, to name just a few – means that families can create multi-generational spaces that deliver wellness for the whole family.
“Outdoor living spaces can deliver a holiday-style vibe that indoors just can’t match,” said Jo Aird, co-designer and client liaison at Outdoor Kitchen Expert. “Indoors, we must deal with chores and practicalities, but being outside is about being free from domestic duties and spending time together focused on fun and wellbeing – on laughter.
“We can have it all in the back garden, creating a mini-holiday feeling that combats the uncertainty that seems to pervade every other area of life right now. It’s about creating a space that feels safe, where a family will never tire of being at home, and that means creating something multi-use that will appeal to all generations.”
Wilding: embrace nature
Nature will also come into play in other ways in 2022 when it comes to embracing the best of outdoor living. “Wilding” will be one of the biggest trends of 2022, as families look to disconnect from indoors but still enjoy the comforts of home.
Bird song and ambient lighting – when combined with a mobile phone blocker that filters out external distractions but still allows full control over outdoor smart features – can go a long way towards creating a sanctuary that delivers an escape from modern-day chaos.
Edible climbing plants, scaling trellises, herb walls built into and around outdoor kitchen and dining spaces, planters overflowing with flowers that wash the area with relaxing scents… it’s all about creating a space that feels harmonious and natural.
A space where firing up the smoker or charcoal barbecue, or grilling over the fire pit delivers an earthy, glamping-style experience that acts as a sensory detachment from daily life.
An area to enjoy all year round
Winter doesn’t have to mean we’re confined to spending time indoors. From bespoke outdoor fireplaces and firepits to infrared heaters placed in optimum locations, outside entertaining spaces can be created for all year round.
“Why should curling up to watch the stars while sipping a cocktail be something we can only do during the summer months,” Jo Aird said. “With such an array of energy-efficient patio heaters, Wi-Fi controlled heaters, in-table fire pits and other products on offer, outdoor living spaces can enable us to indulge our love of being outdoors at any time of the year.”
Heat and coverings
This emphasis on outdoor living means that families are looking at the overall entertainment experience. A barbecue, table and chairs might once have sufficed, but homeowners are now looking for fridges, pizza ovens, state-of-the-art barbeques, hot chocolate stations, ice machines, AV systems and more.
All of this means that practical considerations are a top priority, with heating and seating coming under as much scrutiny as eating. Heat is top of the list for UK homeowners looking to create a space that can be used year-round, closely followed by protection from the elements. That means patio heaters, remote controlled electric heaters, fire pits and the like, along with appropriate coverings.
“Coverings require careful consideration, as they need to provide shelter from the rain and wind in the winter but also be suitable for the sunny summer months – and allow for plenty of fresh air to flow through the space,” Duncan Aird said. “Pergolas and awnings are popular choices, while marquees and retractable canopies can also serve well.”
Furnishings and AV systems
Furnishings also need to be practical year-round, balancing style and comfort with weather resistance. Again, it’s not just about the basics in 2022. Homeowners are now increasingly looking for outdoor rugs, water resistant cushions and blankets too, in their quest to create an outdoor living space that's suitable for every season. This is where AV systems come into play as well.
The Outdoor Kitchen Expert team is advising clients on everything from hidden TVs and water-resistant projects to surround sound systems connected to streaming apps. The British weather is always an important consideration for such systems, which need to be well protected from the rain in winter and shaded sufficiently that screens are still easily visible in bright sunshine.
Finally, lighting needs to be given plenty of consideration. LED, solar lighting, smartphone-controlled mood lighting… the choice is seemingly endless and decisions around how to illuminate an outdoor living space can have a huge impact on its overall feel.
“The right lighting can transform an outdoor entertainment area into somewhere that feels cosy and welcoming as darkness falls,” Duncan Aird said. “This is important in the winter months due to the shorter days but also in the summer for long, lazy evenings spent enjoying good food and good company.”