As the weather heats up, do you have some burning questions about your outdoor living project? Keep reading for answers to some common questions people have when turning their attention to the outdoors, answered by our founding landscape architect and resident outdoor living expert.Q: Why should I invest in an outdoor living space? A thoughtfully planned and well-done outdoor living area is one of the few things in a home environment with the power to meaningfully elevate the quality of life for the residents. The power of an outdoor living area is the ability of the space to conform to the inhabitant’s lifestyle and functional requirements. From a peaceful personal sanctuary providing reprieve from the stressors of daily life to a lively family hub, this space is that “fifth room” in the house that can become what you need and want it to be. Likewise, spending time outside, whether solo or as a family, has many health and mood-enhancing benefits stemming from increased relaxation, activity, fresh air, sunshine, and quality screen-free time with the family. Finally, in some cases, a well-designed and executed outdoor living space can increase home value and curb appeal.Q: Is outdoor living becoming a more popular trend? Why?Outdoor living is absolutely becoming a more popular trend and we couldn't be happier about it! This can be seen in impressive growth statistics in the casual living sector that encompasses outdoor furnishings, grilling products, decor, etc. We believe this is due to the rebound in the economic and housing markets, advancements in the durability and style of outdoor-rated material, and an elevated concept of outdoor living spurred by the popularity of visual social media channels such as Instagram and Pinterest.Q: Where is the optimal spot to stage an outdoor living area and why (i.e. right outside your back door or beyond that)?Typically, an outdoor living space is best placed right off the house for convenience and fluidity between indoor and outdoor living spaces. This is particularly true for dining areas where convenience is an important factor. However, as an alternate consideration, sometimes a “getaway destination” or pavilion positioned further from the house for privacy can provide a welcome retreat. This concept of a destination is particularly well suited for relaxation areas like a hot tub or hammock area. An enclosure for this designated hideaway can enhance the experience of privacy and escape. Q: What are the latest trends in design, material and furnishings for an outdoor living space?One of the most notable trends we observe is the concept of bringing the indoors out. Specifically, this is the idea of bringing luxurious comfort, convenience, and style, traditionally reserved for the indoors, to the outdoors. We attribute this to, what we consider to be, a renaissance in outdoor furnishing and décor material, particularly fabric and fill that can rival indoor material with comfort and exceed in durability and ease of cleaning. Gone are the days of stiff vinyl cushions on rickety plastic patio chairs. Today’s outdoor-rated performance fabrics and cushions are virtually indistinguishable in style and feel from their indoor counterparts. Likewise, people are gravitating towards plush conversational furniture sets such as sectional sofas and club chairs that are substantial in aesthetic and provide a place to luxuriate and entertain. Ample outdoor pillows, rugs, and even outdoor-rated throws are used to create a living room-like space for entertaining or relaxing. Hanging lounge furniture and fire features such as fire tables are also seeing their day in sun, along with beautiful, fully functional outdoor kitchens and even showers and bathtubs. Basically, if it’s found indoors, it’s coming outside. Q: If you were designing your own outdoor living area, what would you equip it with today to best accommodate guests and increase comfort and practicality? We love outdoor living and we love entertaining so when conceptualizing an ideal outdoor living space, addressing the basic necessities of comfort is paramount. This includes a shade element, lighting, comfortable furniture suitable for your preferred type of entertaining (i.e. large sit-down dinner parties vs. a few friends lounging with a glass of wine and appetizers), and, in some climates, a fan to promote air flow and deter insects. A fire element, whether it be a fire pit, fire table, fire place, or simply a portable wood-burning fire bowl is also wonderful for bringing people together and providing warmth on cool evenings. Paving is also an important consideration for the comfort and livability of a space. There are many options whose merits can vary depending on your climate and aesthetic taste, but, ultimately, you want a stable surface for furniture and something that feels solid and clean underfoot. We also enjoy and frequently recommend a water element for sound and a feeling of lushness. This can simply be a small, recirculating fountain that is easy to install and requires very little water. Lastly, we find outdoor cooking to have an almost primal draw that is great for entertaining as you can remain with your guests during food preparation instead of being sequestered inside in the kitchen. A cooking setup can range from a standard grill, hibachi, or a fully functional outdoor kitchen, depending on budget and space.Do you have questions about your project? Let us know in the comments!