Rooms Without Roofs: 5 Outdoor Living Trends for 2021

In 2020, backyards around the world suddenly became so much more: gyms, offices, bars and restaurants. As the new hot spots for social gatherings, outdoor living spaces took on new importance—and popularity. As an expert in consumer research and a leader in the outdoor living industry, Fernanda Pedroso, Polycor Inc.’s Global Vice President, Marketing, has a unique perspective on what homeowners want now, and what they are going to want in the future. Much of what she forecasts for 2021 and coming years is greatly influenced by the seismic shift the pandemic caused in day to day life. More and more homeowners now view their outdoor living spaces as an extension of their interior spaces—“rooms without roofs”—and are treating the space with the same design considerations.

A patio constructed of INDIANA LIMESTONE- FULL COLOR BLEND™, and an outdoor fireplace and brick pizza oven combination clad in Indiana Limestone Rockford Estate Blend® split and tumbled sawn thin veneer is the showpiece of a Queen Anne Victorian’s new outdoor kitchen in Narragansett, Rhode Island.


“Over ten years ago, the to-do list and budgets for hardscaping were very simple, and focused mainly on curb appeal,” said Pedroso. “Now it’s about outdoor living—about three quarters of the budget for projects goes to the backyard. Things have shifted tremendously.”

As more people begin to think of their outdoor spaces as a natural extension of their home, and not just a place to host the occasional barbecue or let the kids run around, interior design trends continue to have a major impact on the look and functionality of their outdoor counterparts.

“We need to feel that our house is really our sanctuary and the place that we want to spend more time,” said Pedroso. “The house has to adapt and evolve to the new you, based on your life story and your lifestyle and what is surrounding you. I am seeing more and more that people want to bring the idea of the vacation, or the idea of how to relax, or how to be entertained, to the living happening right outside their door.”

Eva Amurri’s backyard patio area, featuring WOODBURY GRAY™ granite thermal pavers, creates an indoor/outdoor way of life for her family to enjoy.

According to the Houzz Landscaping & Garden Trends study, 45% of homeowners most value designs that focus on outdoor living, while a whopping 80% think easy maintenance is the most important aspect of function. Here’s a look at five of the outdoor design trends that Pedroso sees homeowners requesting now that will add long-term value to their homes.

1.Bringing the indoors out

Homeowners see their backyards as an extension of their homes, in terms of both matching aesthetics and functionality. Depending on the climate, year-round living means having a full set of indoor spaces replicated outside: kitchen, living room, dining room and even bathroom. And just as open floor plans have grown in popularity indoors, the walls between indoors and outdoors are coming down, too.

“The walls are disappearing more and more and you’re no longer seeing that division between inside and outside,” said Pedroso. “So your outside really becomes an extension of the home.”

Photo credit: Jeff Sinon Photography

A two tiered Woodbury Gray granite patio and steps extend from this Lake Sunapee home. Project by Pellettieri Associates, designed with Joe Rolfe of Stone Mountain Masonry.

These outdoor spaces are getting the same level of attention for décor and comfort as their indoor counterparts. These thoughtful decisions bridge the divide between indoors and out. Products, like Swenson Granite Works’ granites and natural stone products, are equally suitable for both spaces. Plus, as sustainable materials, they are an eco-conscious choice compared to man made options.

“Homeowners are focused on making these spaces as comfortable as they can be, with even the same accessories that are inside of the home, like your rug area, pillows, everything,” said Pedroso. “It’s incredible. The outdoor furniture market has really evolved to supplement this as well.”

This Polywood chair sitting atop a CAROLINA CORAL™ granite patio is made of recycled materials, such as milk jugs and products that are oceanbound and are able to sustain all weather conditions just like the stone. The versatile pillow and pouf from SmithHönig can be used both outdoors and indoors. Also pictured here are Woodbury Gray granite wall caps and Berkshire™ thin veneer with split face.

NOTE: Though the Carolina Coral granite pavers are not currently a stock item at Swenson Granite Works, they are are carried by all nine store locations and are available in a reasonable time frame.

2.Enjoying Year-Round Outdoor Living

Providing interior-like comfort and style that can be enjoyed in any season is something that homeowners are looking to bring to their patios and decks. Their outdoor spaces will need to work harder to create the experiences and comfort homeowners crave. To provide the seamless indoor-outdoor transition they expect, outdoor products need to meet the same needs as indoor ones.

“We’re going to see a lot of technology come into outdoor living, like it is already embedded inside of our home,” said Pedroso.

These tech upgrades will include everything from smart lighting to anti-glare televisions to pool water features. At the other end of the year-round spectrum are upgrades that are intrinsically more primitive, but just as necessary: fire pits, fire tables, and outdoor fireplaces. A crackling fire is especially alluring on long, chilly nights and homeowners are increasingly willing to invest in products that will help extend the use of their space after sunset and into colder weather.

Fire pits are a fantastic way to add instant appeal to any outdoor living space, creating a cozy nook for family gatherings. A WOODBURY GRAY™ granite fire pit sits atop pavers constructed from the same granite, surrounded by an Indiana Limestone – Full Color Blend garden wall.

Project by Seoane Landscape Design

This natural stone outdoor fireplace with a Woodbury Gray granite hearth and mantel features a television, creating the coziest of cozy spots for outdoor relaxation and entertaining.

“Any element that brings you heat and gives the opportunity of staying longer in your outdoor living space, I think that is that is key,” said Pedroso. “The opposite is also true. Someone living in Phoenix needs protecting from the sun, just like someone living in the north needs protecting from snow.”


Homeowners in hotter climates are even more willing to invest in elements that will offer respite on hot, sunny days, including pergolas, patio umbrellas and misters, to extend their time enjoying their outdoor space.

Project by Northern Lights Landscape Contractors

This cozy patio with a pergola features full color natural cleft bluestone. Boston Blend ledgestone thin veneer, along with 2” thermal top Woodbury Gray granite wall caps and countertop, accentuates the space.

3.Clean, Modern & Natural Aesthetic

Homeowners are increasingly inspired for their outdoor spaces by the aesthetic of the commercial settings they have been missing, like five-star hotels and upscale restaurants. This is resulting in a shift toward sleek, contemporary designs and materials, smooth surfaces and clean lines. Modern exteriors with clean lines and simple designs are increasingly requested, with a particular emphasis on subtle texture and larger dimensions to unify the space.

This contemporary patio features large Woodbury Gray granite pavers and a custom hearth.

“We can already see with tiles right now, nobody wants the small little tiles with thousands of joints that just accumulate dirt and dust,” said Pedroso. “We want low maintenance. It has to be very practical and it has to look seamless, just like with countertops. You want that beautiful big slab all the way through. So I think that’s really where things are moving.”

Innovations in hardscaping—equipment for cutting and installing pavers give more options to place extra-large slabs—make it easier than ever to create a clean and modern outdoor space. These extra-large natural stone pieces don’t just make a big impression, they give the space harmony.

Project by Great Works Landscaping

Woodbury Gray granite coping and large custom cut pavers create this pool patio design in Rye, NH.

“One of the great advantages of natural stone, is that you can bring the same product that you’re using in your walkway, and in your backyard,” said Pedroso. “The continuity of having the same product around your house is something you couldn’t do before. But now you can.”


Biophilic design, the understanding that people thrive in spaces with natural elements, has been a big trend in commercial design for years and is now becoming a force within the world of residential design as well. Raw colors, authentic finishes, plants and natural products provide an opportunity to escape from ever-present technology and reconnect with mother nature.

Indiana Limestone garden steps harmoniously blend with the natural look of the sandstone boulders and rustic Berkshire™ veneer.

“Biophilia is about that seamless connection with nature and only a natural product can do that right,” said Pedroso. “Natural stone products blend with nature because they come from nature, are authentic to their origin, and also blend well with other building materials.”

For outdoor spaces, natural stone provides homeowners with an exceptional balance of aesthetics and performance; they are low maintenance and highly durable. There’s a reason man made products often mimic them. Plus, natural stones like Swenson Granite Works’ granites and limestone are sourced from North American quarries, making them a naturally sustainable choice.

5.The Colors Of Nature

A minimalistic and harmonious approach applies to the colors homeowners are looking for as well. It makes sense that creating a soothing color palette focused on recharging and relaxing has become increasingly important. Monochromatic design schemes that feature shades of grey and greige (a blend of grey and beige) remain on-trend. True greys—a blend of white and black only—as well as warm and cool shades are popular requests, as they fit in most landscapes and locales without feeling out-of-place.

“Grey is really the one color that is the symbol of being contemporary and new,” said Pedroso. “A beautiful grey blends into any landscape. The natural stone colors that are in our hardscapes and masonry portfolio really capture this.”

“You don’t want your paver to be like the star of the show, it has to blend in.”

A monochrome hardscape design with light and dark granites: Woodbury Gray and CAMBRIAN BLACK® granite

Accents in brighter hues, like Pantone’s 2021 colors of the year “Illuminating Yellow” paired with “Ultimate Gray” help enliven a sophisticated space.

Cleansing whites are another frequent ask, with an emphasis on warmer—not stark—takes on the hue. “The soft whites are so important,” said Pedroso. “If you watch HGTV, you’re going to see a lot of the design shows talking about bringing back to white to the inside of the home, bringing the light in.”

Home is where the heart is, but over the past year, the backyard has become the soul of many homes. From clean lines to biophilia, all of the year’s trends place importance on nature, sustainability and function in this important space.

“When you look across all these trends, you can see how natural stone hits the mark on all of these, and in most cases better than anyone else,” said Pedroso. “Natural stone has that balance of aesthetics and performance, on top of being sourced locally, and a natural, sustainable material. Materials come and go, while natural stone is an authentic, long-term affordable and sustainable product.”

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