Outdoor Design and Living Trends to Watch in 2021

Summer is returning to Chicagoland, and people across the area are getting ready for a season spent eating, relaxing, and entertaining outdoors. Whether you’re putting down roots in a new home or getting your property ready to show to eager buyers, have you thought about how you can make the most of your outdoor living spaces? 

Outdoor living and design trends are a red-hot topic of conversation this season. After the events of 2020, many buyers say that more outdoor space is extremely high on their wishlist for their next home. The past year also saw an undeniable surge of interest in gardening, al fresco dining, and open air workouts — all practices that seem poised to remain popular, well after the pandemic has become a memory. 

As more homeowners and buyers gain a renewed appreciation for outdoor life, our outdoor living spaces will have to evolve to keep up. Here are five of the outdoor design and decor trends that experts are watching for 2021 and beyond: 

1.) A More Socially Focused Front Yard

As people got creative and found new ways to connect in 2020, one unexpected area emerged as a new go-to entertaining space — the front yard. The pandemic saw a rise in drive-through celebrations, block parties, and everyday front yard conversations among neighbors dropping off supplies or checking in with each other during difficult times. 

As a result, design experts expect there to be a new focus on making this part of the home more social with functional, informal design features — think hanging swings from trees or porches; simple porch seating; benches integrated into landscaping; small outdoor bistro tables; welcoming outdoor lighting; charming plants all around the front porch; and inviting, brightly painted dutch doors. 

2.) The Rise of Outdoor Kitchens

The kitchen is often thought of as the heart of the home. Outdoor kitchens are functional, stylish, and a great way to expand your home’s usable space, while embracing the fresh air and sunshine. Interest in outdoor kitchens spiked in 2020, with some industry groups projecting that as many as 60 percent of homeowners have considered adding one to their space. 

While outdoor kitchens come in all shapes and sizes, “the humble freestanding grill will no longer cut it” for some, according to a trends report from Architectural Digest; one designer notes that her clients are now looking for “fully equipped outdoor kitchens with fridges, storage space, and custom-built grills.” According to Better Homes & Gardens, others are looking for “satellite kitchens,” situated “just outside the door of an indoor kitchen” and featuring versatile elements like pizza ovens. And of course, outdoor dining areas go hand-in-hand with outdoor kitchens, as people look for ways to enjoy their meals in al fresco comfort. 

3.) Edible Gardening

2020 was a “back to basics” moment for many people, as we all took stock of the importance of home and all its four walls hold. As a result, people took up a number of relaxing and soothing hobbies to make the most of their time, including gardening and cooking.

Edible landscaping and gardening are at the perfect intersection of these two hobbies, giving novice and experienced home cooks access to fresh, homegrown ingredients they can use to whip up something tasty, while also providing an opportunity to flex that green thumb and enjoy the benefits of working in nature. 

As a result, it’s no surprise that edible plants will be a major design trend to watch out for in 2021 and beyond, with gardeners devoting larger sections of their plots to greens, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, edible flowers, and more. 

4.) Multipurpose, Multiseason Outdoor Living Areas

Once you’ve gotten used to answering Zoom calls from your balcony or relaxing around your firepit in the fall and winter, it can be hard to picture doing anything else! Design experts are predicting a big focus on multipurpose outdoor living areas that can be used throughout the year. 

A functional, multi-season outdoor oasis might feature elements that can help provide shelter and privacy, including pergolas, awnings, and accent walls, as well as resilient multipurpose furniture — such as small outdoor ottomans that can do double duty as seating, or modular tables that can expand and contract based on your entertaining needs. Many homeowners will also focus on integrating new tech into their outdoor spaces, with smart lighting, outdoor TVs and movie screens, and open air sound systems.

5.) Focusing on Sustainability

Green, sustainable design elements have long been a sought-after component in Chicagoland homes — and in 2021, sustainable design will continue to grow in influence, both indoors and out. In terms of outdoor living, our cultural focus on sustainability may take many forms. For instance, many homeowners are refocusing on cultivating native plants, which can provide numerous benefits to our local ecosystem. Other sustainable landscaping ideas include adding a rain barrel to store and reuse water, and starting to compost food and plant waste to help nourish your garden. 

When it comes to outdoor design, design experts expect a move toward more environmentally friendly materials for decking and hardscaping, as well as the integration of reused or repurposed furnishings — particularly earthy materials like bamboo, rattan, and wicker.

When Home Means More, You Need a Team With More to Offer

Is your home working for you? For many of us, the way we think about our homes has changed — and that might mean you’re ready to make a move to find one that better fits where you are now. After all, home is about so much more than just four walls. Sometimes, you need more of what’s outdoors.

Buying or selling a home is a big deal, and with everything we experienced in 2020, our homes have never been more important. That’s why your local Baird & Warner agent is with you at every step of the way, with the tools and support you need to make your real estate journey easier — including in-house connections with local experts in mortgage and title. 

So whether you’re looking for more space to run and play or just enough for a seat in the sun, your Baird & Warner agent can help guide you through every part of the buying and selling process to find the place that’s just right.  

Written by




Stay Connected

Get the latest news, stories, and advice from the Baird & Warner blog delivered straight to your inbox.


Stay Connected

Get the latest news, stories, and advice from the Baird & Warner blog delivered straight to your inbox.


Stay Connected

Get the latest news, stories, and advice from the Baird & Warner blog delivered straight to your inbox.