Words: Doug Lueck, Co-Founder, and Chief Innovation Officer

Photos: System Pavers

Homeowners showed a strong interest in renovating in 2021, the highest it has been since 2017, according to a recent Houzz study. Moving into 2022, outdoor projects are predicted to continue rising in popularity. With outdoor renovations still trending strong and winter in full swing, how can contractors capitalize on homeowners’ interest in outdoor living? By optimizing the design of outdoor spaces for all seasons with a holistic approach, including luxury features such as shelter, heat, lighting, and easy access.

It is common for homeowners to store their outdoor furniture and return to cooking in their interior kitchens. But what if contractors could help homeowners find a way to revitalize their outdoor space for the winter season? Through thoughtful design and planning, homeowners can extend the time spent outside, giving them a greater return on their investment. Whether it is heating, lighting, or other elements, many different features allow homeowners to extend the use of the space as days get shorter and the weather gets cooler. With this comes many opportunities for contractors to expand the scope of the project.

Provide Shelter 

The pergola’s architectural design dates back to the Italian Renaissance. These breezy outdoor structures are used to bring a casual, indoor-like feel to yards while broadening usability. Consisting of an open frame of columns, pergolas have a basic roof that is flat or peaked – some have a finished roof to block the elements entirely, but more often, the design is somewhat open. 

No matter the weather, providing shelter in an outdoor design extends the possibilities for homeowners. Stormy day? An attached pergola allows homeowners to relax on their patio to the sound of the rain. Summer heat? Homeowners can seek relief in the shade of their free-standing pergola as they grill on their BBQ island. Heavy snow? A louvered pergola can protect the outdoor dining or living room from the elements. Adjustable louvered pergolas, typically made from aluminum or vinyl, allow homeowners to tweak coverage, depending on the weather, while lattice pergolas have a simple, modern design with a slatted roof that’s ideal for growing vines, and allows sunlight to filter in while providing partial shade.

Furthermore, the definition that pergolas bring to outdoor living design brings a sense of purpose to a yard and creates an inviting outdoor living area with year-round use. Beyond physical value, a feature such as a pergola has the capability to increase a property’s value. According to data from Realtor.com, homes with structures like pergolas saw an increase of 45% in property views in 2021 and sold 23 days faster than the same period in 2020.

Provide Easy Access 

Designing for circulation is essential when creating a welcoming environment for homeowners and their guests. While having easy access to move throughout the space is an important feature for year-round use, it can be essential in the winter months for communities that experience a greater amount of snow. An “outdoor oasis” in the corner of the backyard is wonderful until it becomes inaccessible due to the hazardous trek. 

There are various ways to enhance the design of outdoor space to prioritize circulation. Contractors should consider focusing on areas closer to the home that can be used more regularly or routinely. With a solid understanding of their client’s daily routines and regular use of the space, contractors can provide a personalized design that can be used any season. With the client’s specific case in mind, design the space for easy access. Rather than the homeowner walking over flagstone steps or muddy soil, create a thoughtful walkway or patio closer to the home with pavers. Integrating pavers can deliver a clean, easy, widely circulated design. 

Provide Heat

Heating features foster a cozy environment and invite homeowners to spend more time in their backyard spaces as temperatures drop. Outdoor heaters and fireplaces have proven to be top choices in optimizing outdoor spaces for year-round use. With this, it should not be difficult for contractors to display the value of a heating element to clients. However, the wide variety of options available presents the opportunity to personalize the feature to the homeowner. 

Overall, gas and wood fire pits have both increased in popularity, and we have seen the demand double. Past the typical circular design, fire pit styles have expanded, making it important for contractors to stay updated on these trends. Fire bowls are a great option as they provide a sculptural and contemporary aesthetic. For personalized fire pits, square, rectangular and L-shaped styles continue to be more sought after as they also lean into the modern movement. 

Heaters can be a smart, adaptable option if the space is too small for a prominent fire feature. Free-standing or ceiling-mounted heaters are both integrations that make the colder months more manageable and welcoming. 

Provide Light 

Lighting integrations have become an expected part of outdoor living designs. While it does not provide a physical heating element, the ambiance from custom lighting can result in a psychological impact for homeowners to feel warmer and more comfortable. 

Lighting can take many forms, such as the more traditional approach with walkway lighting; however, contractors have the opportunity to further personalize. For a more dynamic design, features like a candle wall or a chandelier component in the pergola can be a cozy addition. Unique lighting applications help create a destination for homeowners, especially during winter evenings.

Contractors can also impress homeowners by elevating their lighting designs to include low voltage LED lighting – ample light with significantly reduced energy costs. LED lighting is great for homeowners because they will not have to worry about changing bulbs often as it offers long-lasting performance with minimal upkeep.

Regarding planning, wintertime is perhaps the easiest season to sell a lighting addition. Contractors can express the value of lighting by highlighting the following: 

  • Extends usability time during shorter days, 
  • Decreases risk of tripping, 
  • Increases visibility in case of emergency, and
  • Boosts security efforts.

Lighting is an added element contractors should always try to integrate into plans from the beginning. As we know, adding lighting to a completed outdoor space can be difficult or even impossible, so it is vital to share that concern with homeowners.

Provide Features

When consulting with homeowners, it is beneficial to explain all options and lean into showing the value that a year-round space can provide. Some features lend themselves for great use year-round, such as built-in wall seating or water features.

Substituting soft furniture with a hardscape feature like a built-in wall seat provides homeowners with a more sustainable option for winter weather. Soft furniture often ends up in storage during the colder months, leaving homeowners with no option for seating around their fire pit. Built-in seating is reliable and can accommodate cushions or soft elements, as needed.

Water features are high quality and provide a soothing aesthetic for homeowners, enhancing their connection to nature. Backyard and patio water features add to the overall ambiance of the outdoor space, truly elevating any corner of a backyard. Especially during the winter months, water features can give life to an otherwise dead outdoor space. The features themselves are uniquely beautiful visual elements, while the moving water will create a subtle and relaxing sound, blocking out unwanted noise and adding to the tranquility of the outdoor space.

Provide Expertise

It is no secret that being a thoughtful design partner is beneficial to homeowners and your business. One way to do this is by helping clients understand the value of optimizing their space for winter. Contractors should start with the area they are an expert in. Then acquire partners for collaboration on additional services to integrate into your designs. 

A reliable way to show homeowners the value of this holistic approach is by encouraging booking projects during the winter, so elements such as heating and lighting are more top-of-mind. 

Depending on the project, planning your timeline based on seasonality can be a smart decision. The long wait times, labor and product shortages, and hot temperatures usually associated with the summer months can be avoided with timing projects during the winter or slow season. 

Technology has alleviated some pain points for design and construction processes during the winter. Aerial imagery enables contractors to get a clear look at a backyard in case of any effects from snow – supporting the design process. Homeowners can also be inclined to start their planning process during this time, so they can enjoy their finished space during the prime part of the year. 

Doug Lueck

Doug Lueck currently leads System Pavers as the Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder with an emphasis on incorporating cutting-edge technology to increase efficiency and improve overall operations. This push for forward-thinking helps the company prepare to meet the challenges of the industry both today and tomorrow. He has a strong design background, a great eye for design, and matches his knowledge with technology.