The hot new decorating spot? Outdoors

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Craving more space at home these days? Look no further than your own backyard.

Across Metro Detroit, homeowners are creating or maximizing outdoor living spaces to give themselves more room to stretch out, relax or entertain. Following months of being holed up during the COVID-19 lockdown, demand for outdoor kitchens, living room or firepit areas is surging.

At this summer's 2020 Design & Construction Week, held in June in Las Vegas and featuring 90,000 residential design and construction industry experts, outdoor living was one of the hottest trends, with a range of new products for patios, outdoor kitchens and more. And a 2020 survey by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, a stainless steel cabinetry maker, found nearly two-thirds of designers have seen increased interest from clients in outdoor living spaces.

Dawn Condon has created four outdoor living areas for her family at their home in Howell. There's a fireplace area, a pergola with sofas and another seating area. The furniture is from a range of stores and the curtains are from Home Goods or Pottery Barn.

One living space is just outside the walkout basement, below the deck. Another is by the family's hot tub. Each one shows that you don't have to live on a big estate with tons of acreage to create an outdoor living area.

"Although our property looks large with all the areas, we’re in a subdivision under an acre," said Condon. 

Local interior designers say they're also seeing more interest from clients who want to create outdoor spaces, from kitchens to places to entertain.

“I think people are realizing how underutilized their outdoor living spaces have been,” said Marianne Jones, a Birmingham interior designer.

Space to entertain

Jones finished a project last year in Oakland Township for a couple with five grown children who loves to entertain. Working with architect Glenda Meads, they resurfaced a pool area and added a large outdoor TV at the end of the pool area directly across from an outdoor room.

This Oakland Township outdoor room features a dining area, sitting area and large screen TV. Interior designer Marianne Jones worked with architect Glenda Meads on the space.

"The room has phantom screens that retract into the ceiling, to stave off bugs," said Jones.  "Our firm, created the layout in conjunction with Glenda and selected the exterior finishes for the furniture and grill area. The wood ceiling is a stained cedar."

Jones said her firm has created several outdoor spaces in the last four year -- all with the same time and attention, time and detail as indoor areas.

Designer Jill Schumacher and her firm Rariden Schumacher Mio Interior Design also worked on a stunning outdoor room for a family in Bloomfield Hills. Working with architect Alexander Bogaerts, they added several areas for seating around the in-ground pool. Inside the outdoor room is more seating, a TV and fireplace.

“They wanted a casual, comfortable and stylish setting – multiple seating areas for large gatherings,” said Schumacher. “They entertain often.”

Interior designer Jill Schumacher and her firm, Rariden Schumacher Mio, worked on this outdoor space in Bloomfield Hills for a couple who likes to entertain. The furniture is from Kannoa, Century & Mr. Brown. The fireplace surround and flanking countertops were made locally by Line Studio.

One great way to make an outdoor space functional even longer during Michigan's finicky weather, says Jones: screens. Phantom Screens are a retractable type of screen that can be used for patios, porches, decks and outdoor kitchens, keeping out bugs or cooler weather. Another option is Accordian doors such as NanaWall or LaCatina Doors, says Jones.

"This gives the homeowner the benefit of being outdoors three-quarters of the year," said Jones.

Indoors, outdoors connection

For many homeowners, it's about connecting the indoors and the outdoors, says local interior designer Dan Davis of Dan Davis Design. 

Davis created his own outdoor living space at his home in Ferndale surrounded by more than 3,000 plants. Woven throughout the plants are many architectural pieces, several from the Hudson’s building and some from Detroit in general, said Davis.

That space "is one of the reasons so many of our clients ask us to be involved in their outdoor spaces, whether we design them or consult with them on their landscaper’s designs," said Davis.

More than 3,000 plants surround interior designer Dan Davis' outdoor patio at his own home in Ferndale. "Entertaining is so much easier outside with people practicing social distancing," said Davis.

For his own clients, Davis said it makes sense that people want to create functional spaces to live and entertain outdoors.

"The seasons have become so short here in Michigan, and the weather so unpredictable, that people are really trying to embrace every enjoyable moment outside," he said. "We have heard this from several clients in the last 2 years. 

Right now we are specifying more shade areas, misting fans, outdoor fans, as this summer has been a particularly hot one. Last year it was more hot tubs, and entertaining areas."

And the pandemic has opened all of our eyes to maximizing the outdoors.

"Being forced to stay home, not only are people looking at their spaces and thinking either it’s time for change, or how can I expand my living area, so it is not just inside the house," said Davis.