Trends in Outdoor Living

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Americans want more screen time in 2021?

You bet. According to Pinterest’s senior insights manager, searches for “screened in porch ideas on a budget” are up 940 percent over last year. Headlines like 12 Fabulous Screened-In Porch Ideas We Love for 2021 and 40 Screened Porches We Wanna Chill On are everywhere. It would seem the pandemic has made Grandma’s oh-isn’t-that-quaint screened-in porch one of the hottest trends in home improvement this year.

That was then

Twenty years ago, the consensus was that screened porches had been “relegated to the graveyard of architectural features.” (New York Times, May 19, 2002) In the aforementioned NYT article, a man named David Stafford, who was Executive Sales Manager of a company called Enclosures Plus at the time, was quoted as saying: “With the old-fashioned screened porch, you had wooden frames, which could rot, and the stapled-on screens that would rip. The new glassed-in patios made of aluminum are so much more viable. You put them up and you never have to touch them again.”

Porches in general—and particularly screened porches—were definitely out. Seen as old-fashioned and high-maintenance, they were generally reincarnated as a family rooms or sunrooms. Decks, on the other hand, were decidedly in. In 2002, the National Association of Homebuilders reported that decks were the most popular outdoor feature on a home.

”Decks are one of the bells-and-whistle items that get a buyer to buy,” said Christina Hoffman Spira, then-spokeswoman for Remodeling magazine.

This is now

But that was then. Twenty years and one pandemic later, this is now, and screened porches are rising from the proverbial graveyard to a place of prominence in our ventilation-conscious culture.

According to a 2021 National Kitchen & Bath Association membership survey, overall interest in outdoor living projects is up by 65 percent and—among those surveyed planning outdoor living spaces—nearly one-third were adding screened porches and three-season rooms. The most requested features for these enhanced outdoor spaces? Expanded and upgraded seating, fireplaces, and weather protection—all of which can be neatly packaged in a screened porch.

“COVID may be encouraging homeowners to get more year-round usage from their outdoor living areas,” the report states.

Staying in your comfort zone year-round

New York architect Alexandra Barker has been working with clients to expand usable spaces to meet COVID distancing and ventilation requirements, and she has had multiple requests for screened porches that will be used year-round.

“Swapping glass for screens is definitely the standard procedure,” she said. “However, I could see screened-in porches working with a heat curtain as a high-ventilation solution for entertaining guests in our home in winter.” (Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2021)

In cool (ok, cold!) climates, such as we enjoy here in northern Michigan, glass and/or a heat source would certainly be required for comfortable year-round use of a screened porch. One solution? New, modern fixtures like these Infratech Slimline Single Element Heaters. They virtually disappear and will provide years of outdoor service. They are noiseless, odorless and produce no greenhouse gases. Ideal for surface mount applications up to 10 feet, they are available in 1600-, 2400-, 3000- and 4000-watt models.

Other ways to add comfort to outdoor spaces include adding lighting—it gets dark earlier in the cooler months!—and other cozy indoor elements like pillows, throws and blankets to share. With a little planning, you can continue to gather safely and comfortably with family and friends when temperatures dip.

What to do?

If you would like to enhance your outdoor living spaces, do yourself a favor and consult a design professional. An architect has the education, training and experience to help you 1) define what you want to build, and 2) help you get the most for your construction dollar. A good rule of thumb is if you plan to spend 5 percent or more of the value of your home on an upgrade, you should hire an architect. You’ll be glad you did–dollars spent on design on the front end of a project pay off big in the finished product. —Andrea Lee

For more information about what architects do and how they can add value to your home, click here.

Andrea is Marketing & Business Development Manager at JLA, an architecture firm located in Northern Michigan. Before joining JLA, she was Associate Editor at a publishing house, where she wrote copy for dozens of custom publications and contributed regularly to Great Lakes/Seaway Review and Great Laker magazines.