Decked Out: New Trends to Help Make Your Outdoor Space Really Pop This Season

These 10 trends are taking over outdoor living spaces across the country.

Backyard spaces across America are now more versatile than ever, thanks to new advances in all-weather decking materials and comfortable new furnishing options. These benefits help maximize the usefulness and enjoyment of backyard spaces, allowing homeowners to extend the entertaining season.

With summer fun and functionality now taking center stage, ESTATENVY consulted the experts on some of the hottest new design trends.

Trend 1: Moving Away From Wood

With redwood and cedar costs on the rise over the last year, composite decks made of PVC polymers are rapidly rising in popularity.

“Hardwood prices are up across the board, but redwood and cedar in particular have risen anywhere from 15 percent all the way up to 40 percent, nationwide,” said Patrick Barnds, General Manager of Decking, Railing and Accessories at AZEK® Building Products, the maker of leading composite decking brands AZEK and TimberTech. “Composite decks used to be more expensive than wood decks, but, in many cases, now they’re on an equal playing field. When you consider the expected life span of those products, over 30 years on average for a composite deck versus 15-20 years for a wood deck—with additional annual maintenance for the wood—then it becomes a pretty easy choice.”

Unlike wood, capped composite decking resists fading, scratching and mold and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water. Composite decking is also made from recycled materials, making it a more environmentally friendly choice.

Trend 2: Mixed Colors

Composite decking also presents a host of color and pattern options that traditional wood decks can’t offer, and in styles that look more realistic than ever before.

“We’re seeing a lot of requests for earth-tone grays and browns in projects we’re working on this season,” said Keith Camacho, owner of Stellar Decks, based in Seaford, NY and serving New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties. “People are really moving toward deck boards that are variegated, or multi-toned, in order to create a more tropical type look. Composite decking provides a lot more options that fit those design needs.”

“Homeowners are mixing colors more than ever before on their decks,” agreed Barnds. “And, that’s another way composite separates itself. If you try to achieve the look with wood, you would typically have to individually hand-stain each board either on-site or at an off-site location before being transported to the jobsite. With composite, you can just order the different colors and mix and match as needed. There is a lot of additional flexibility there and it’s a significant savings of time.”

Trend 3: Separation

Larger and multi-level decks are growing in popularity this year, but the trend reaches beyond just size.

“This trend is about creating visual interest in that outdoor space,” Barnds said. “People are separating their decks into separate areas, almost like a living room and dining room. One side of the deck would be configured for outdoor dining, with a central table space for eating or playing games, and a sitting area for an after dinner drink. Then the other side is generally more sun bathed with comfortable seating and maybe a fire pit or entertaining area. We’re seeing a lot more of that this year.”

Homeowners are breaking those spaces up into special purpose areas with simple touches like waist high plantar boxes or small privacy screens.

Trend 4: Patterns

Patterned decks are another major emerging trend in 2017, in large part because they can also help break up space and make otherwise pedestrian decks exciting to look at.

“The most traditional example is a herringbone pattern. Most deck builders offer that as a common option. But, the bigger trend now is boxes and squares, breaking it up into 3x3 or 4x4 foot squares, creating almost a tiled look on the deck. If you have a rectangular or square deck, breaking that up into more of a squared off look is a big trend we’re seeing. The chevron pattern is another big trend. It ends up looking like a mini-herringbone pattern on the surface of the deck and creates visual interest and movement,” Barnds said.

Trend 5: Curves

Curved decks are also growing in-demand, in large part because of the flexibility offered by state-of-the-art composite materials.

“Traditional lines remain the most popular and they are still the focal point of everyday projects, but curves or radius decks can provide an edgier look and appeal," Camacho said. “This look can be really attractive, but it has to work well with the other areas and lines of the home to create a continuous look and theme. It’s important to have the design well laid out when you’re constructing what the curves of the deck will look like.”

“That can be accomplished by having the deck follow the contours of another feature in the landscape, like a pool or a natural landscaping feature. Doing that with a traditional wood deck requires a tremendous amount of effort to bend and fasten the wood, with steam-bending required to achieve anything more than a very gentle curve. Because of that, it’s a budget breaker for most people. PVC products are much more forgiving in that regard. You can bend them in tighter radii without compromising the structural integrity of the board. You can always curve a deck by cutting boards, but that’s a crude way of doing it. It’s really dramatic how much composite has helped this trend advance in recent years,” Barnds added.

Trend 6: Lighting The Way

Adding lighting options to your deck is one of the most versatile ways to bring the outdoors alive more often, and lighting options are more versatile now than ever before. Advances in LED technology have presented new possibilities for lighting design, incorporated into areas that were impossible before. Gone are the days of garish corner spotlights or harshly lit sections that left others dark and foreboding, replaced instead by focal point features like walkway lighting, well lights to illuminate foliage and small structures, riser lights incorporated into deck stairs, and recessed deck lights, inserted directly into deck boards, for a subtle touch that creates the perfect outdoor ambiance of relaxation.

“Accent lighting can bring the feel of a well-designed indoor area to the outdoors,” Barnds said. “In-deck and in-post lights—installed directly inside the deck or rail itself—are the biggest trend. LED light bulbs allow you to install it once and then forget about it for 10 or more years in some cases. That makes unique lighting options much more affordable than ever before, plus the LED bulbs lower your electricity costs.”

One trend Barnds says hasn’t taken off yet is colored lighting.

“We see various colored lighting options here and there, but not enough that it’s a trend yet,” he said.

Trend 7: Expansive Railings

Both traditional and updated, modern designs remain in high demand when it comes to railing, but safety is one of the biggest factors driving decisions for homeowners now.

“Building codes have tightened up a lot on this, but it is still a concern, especially when the decks are more than a couple of feet off the ground. People are ranking the importance of safety now as high as the importance of their design choices, particularly when you talk about rail systems. The good news is: there are a lot of great options that take both factors into account,” Barnds said.

Configurable or semi-custom rail systems, constructed with a traditional square post and a range of top and bottom rail and in-fill options, are one of the hottest trends this year.

“For homeowners looking for a more modern look, many are using thinner balusters, often made of aluminum or other metals, cable systems and glass panel inserts to achieve a minimalist look. Of course, not everyone wants a clear view of what’s next door or over in the next yard. But, for those with a view to admire, these systems allow the homeowner to better see landscapes, mountains, oceans, lakes and city skylines, and the results can be really breathtaking” Barnds added.

Another growing trend is the ‘cocktail rail’ concept, which provides a wider, flat surface on top of the railing for homeowners to place drinks, food plates and other seasonal items.

Trend 8: High Tech Decks

A growing amount of technology is now being built into decks—including directly into rail systems.

“We’re seeing things like flat-screen TV’s built into the wall or even directly into a section of the rail. The TV actually collapses into the railing to get out of the way, then rises up when you want to use it. These are really innovative and exciting design options now that we just didn’t see even a few years ago,” Barnds said.

Trend 9: Heating Things Up

Outdoor heaters are growing in popularity, especially in chillier climates across the Midwest and Northeast, where summer nights can sometimes turn out to be cooler than expected.

Heaters allow homeowners the flexibility to use their outdoor space during a wide variety of weather conditions,” said Camacho. “We’re seeing more and more homeowners requesting heating options for their decks so that they can take advantage of the space more often. And, the good news is that there are easily installable, often inconspicuous options that can fit just about any outdoor space.”

“Outdoor gas heaters are becoming a lot more popular, mostly because they’ve come down significantly in cost,” Barnds agreed. “You do have to be careful with open flames, just as you do with outdoor fire pits. But, most models on the market now are designed with safety in mind. And, they can really extend the enjoyment of your deck.”

Trend 10: Integrated Landscaping

Outdoor spaces work best when they are complementary. Even the most beautiful decking project can be lost in a poorly landscaped area.

“Integrating landscaping into deck spaces is really growing in importance for homeowners we’re working with,” Camacho said. “People like to plan room for planters, trees, and floral areas on or around the deck spaces to make it more inviting. The key is to make it your own. Create your perfect outdoor space that will bring you enjoyment year-round for years to come.”