By Ed Roskowinski, CR
When the word “trend” comes to mind people first think of hairstyles and fashion, few think of design trends for how they use their home’s outdoor spaces. Like fashion, the way we live in our yards and interact with our neighbors has a tendency to follow some distinctive trends.
Remember the 1980’s when everyone was building backyard decks with bulky wood railings? Then we surround our entire back yard with an eight-foot high privacy fence! I like to refer to that time period as the “cocooning days.” People wanted privacy, they wanted to feel safe and secure, and didn’t want the neighbors nosing into their business. The only thing missing was the moat and drawbridge.
In the early 1990’s something changed for many of us, maybe as a result of 9/11, but we suddenly wanted to know our neighbors, we wanted to feel connected to and involved in our community. Down came the privacy fence and up went the picket fence. I remember driving through my own suburban neighborhood and seeing people gathering and grilling in their driveway. How strange this seemed, until I realized that these homes were built without front porches or front gathering spaces of any kind. People were literally coming out of their “cocoons” and abandoning their backyard deck and gathering in their driveway.
Like skinny jeans, the front porch is once again back in style. Have you noticed communities reintroducing boulevard sidewalks? Both of these trends were popular in the 1920’s and 30’s. Nearly all of the homes had front porches and all of the neighborhoods had sidewalks. The front porch, or gathering space, has taken some unique forms as of late. They may be the more traditional porch, or a terrace, patio, or just a small seating area or bench within your landscaping. It’s just a place to have a glass of wine or a beer after work and interact with your neighbors at the same time.
Now all this connecting with your community can sure make you hungry, so an outdoor kitchen may be in order. Whether it’s part of your front gathering space or a side or back yard space, an outdoor kitchen can really attract some attention. It all started with your basic grill, but with the increase in grilling as a means to healthier cooking, the basic grill isn’t measuring up. You need storage, varying cooking surfaces, and of course some place to sit down and enjoy that great healthy food.
So, you’re cooking, eating and socializing outdoors on a patio or terrace, the same way you would in your kitchen. But if you stay out past dusk, you’ll be eaten alive. Re-enters the screen porch. Being outside and eating and not having wasps and mosquitoes attack is the ultimate in outdoor living.
Like the mullet, is this new resurgence of the outdoor living lifestyle only a fleeting trend, or is it a way of life that is here to stay. I know as I get older, connections with friends, neighbors and community become increasingly more important, and rewarding. So my vote is that this trend stays a while.
Ed Roskowinski is General Manger and VP of Vujovich Design Build, Inc., a 35-year design build firm specializing in building and remodeling unique Twin Cities homes for unique homeowners.