PARADISE PROLONGED

BY JEFF HAMPTON

The vacation in the islands was fabulous, and you came home refreshed and longing to extend the magic. But then you looked out your back door and your heart sank because that patio and pool just don’t have the sizzle they once had.

The feeling is not unusual, say Tamara Ainsworth and Lesley Hughes Wyman, founders and partners at MatchLine Design Group. They work primarily in the hospitality and multifamily housing markets, and from that vantage point they see pool and patio design trends spilling over into the single-family market.

“When people are traveling, they want their guest rooms in hotels to feel like home and be comfortable, but when they come back home, they want that kind of hotel luxury. It’s definitely trending,” says Wyman. “Whether hospitality or residential, everyone clamors to be outside. Everyone wants the same thing: the cool hangout.”

A hot trend that began at hotels and has rippled through retailers and catalogs onto residential patios is outdoor furniture that is large, contemporary, comfortable and flexible.

“There’s a lot of deep seating and overscale furniture, with clean lines, a built-in look and pieces that can double as a bench or a stool,” says Ainsworth.

Metals and plastics have given way to natural materials, such as teak, walnut, sapele and rope, and the bright tropical palettes of the past are being replaced by muted, relaxing tones.

“Colors are very earthy now,” says Wyman. “You get the grays but then you get the colors of the natural wood. And then we’re just doing fun color pops here and there with pillows.”

Everyone is drawn to a cozy fire on a chilly evening, and fire pits and fire tables have become just the thing for bringing warmth to intimate outdoor settings.

“We use fire tables that are made of thin-cast concrete. You’re getting these natural materials again. They’re oversized with real clean lines. We’ve seen them for a while, but now they’re coming into homes,” says Wyman.

Fire tables burn bio fuels, which eliminates the expense of installing gas lines. And while some people may miss the smell of firewood, many of these units have wheels for easy moving to create new seating configurations.

Lighting is a must for patios, and a popular touch are lanterns that can be moved around and are lit with LEDs that look like natural flames. Music helps set the mood, too, and outdoor speakers can be integrated with planters and lighting, hiding them from sight.

Landscaping is another consideration, and planters are a good way to keep the seasonal colors changing.

“We do a lot of the lit planters and orbs that sit around your yard and enhance the landscaping,” says Ainsworth.

A key decision when planning an outdoor space is size and ratio.

“The lounge areas now are just as big if not bigger than the pool areas, because that’s where everyone wants to be. They just want to dip their feet in the pool, wade or sit on the edge,” says Wyman.

Still, pools are big draws for families with children, and that should prompt decisions about the present as well as the future.

“How do they want to use the space? Do they want three-quarter lounge and a little plunge pool? Do they have three kids and want lots of active space too? It’s always a good idea to figure out ways that it can be flexible through the years, because designing your backyard is not cheap,” Wyman says. “Everyone wants to sit outside at their fire pit and have a cocktail. That’s been going on for a while, but now they can do it in their own backyard.”

Jeff Hampton is a freelance writer based in Garland, Texas. Find out more at jeffhamptonwriter.com.