Picture this: It’s June 2020, the weather outside is beautiful, and you still have to practice social distancing, because the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. You’ve been cooped up in your home for three long months, and your only escape is your own backyard. Now, if this actually ends up happening—at press time, there was no way of knowing just how long we’d be on lockdown—it makes sense that you’d want your backyard to be a relaxing, cozy area with as many conveniences of indoor living as possible. In short, you’d want your own, personal social distancing sanctuary.
In recent years, “outdoor living”—extending your indoor living space onto your porch, patio or backyard—has become increasingly popular. Comfortable weather-proof furniture, outdoor dining sets and outdoor pizza ovens are popping up on porches and in yards across the country, and the markets reflect the trend: Just two years ago, the global outdoor furniture market was valued at more than $16 billion, per MarketWatch, and is expected to reach $23.6 billion by 2025. And now, given Governor Andrew Cuomo’s stay-at-home order, having your own outdoor space seems as necessary as ever.
Karen Redick, who co-owns Wilton landscape design and construction firm Redbud Development with her husband, Geff, sees the importance of having a comfortable outdoor area ready for warmer climes—especially now. “We will better appreciate our outdoor spaces,” Redick says, “whether that is a front porch that enables us to chat with a neighbor, a rear patio to stargaze and enjoy a glass of wine or a spacious backyard where the kids and dogs are running around expending energy.”
How exactly do we transform our backyard from a nice place for a cookout a few times a summer to our sole sanctuary during these unprecedented, stressful times? Greenery is one answer. Back in February, House Beautiful magazine identified 55 landscaping ideas for a magical outdoor space, many of which range from green to greener (think hydrangea walls, overgrown terraces, tree-shaded patios, pear tree trellises, ivy-covered walls, sculpted hedges, vine-draped gazebos and charming topiaries). Ryan Cullinan, owner of Hewitt’s Garden Centers, concurs. “The lawn makes up a large area of most people’s outdoor spaces, so a great thing to do to improve your outdoor areas at your home would be to green up and thicken up your grass,” he says. “Put flowering planters on a porch or patio. Another easy way to spruce an area up is growing vegetables in containers on a deck or near the grill.”
Even for those who are lacking in the green thumb department, there are still ways to cozy-fy your outdoor space this spring. “My personal must-have items for spending a lot of time on your porch or patio would be comfortable seating (with a throw blanket, of course), access to music and some sort of lighting (candles, string lights or even a small fire pit will do),” says Redick. “If you are behind the game and just looking for a way to encourage more time spent in the fresh air and sunshine, don’t be afraid to get creative and improvise. Build a temporary seating area with old chairs, or go old-school with crates and a board. Add some colorful pillows and a side table. Even if it’s just a space to have a coffee break, it will give you respite from that feeling of cabin fever.”
The moral of the story? Whatever you can do to “zhuzh” up your outdoor space will be worth it. “If your outdoor areas at your home or your apartment are more inviting, you tend to want to be out there more, and your time spent there is more enjoyable,” Cullinan says. “Whether you are out playing with your kids or the dog, or if you are just relaxing and reading a book, having pretty flowers, a nice lawn or even a cute statue in your garden that puts a smile on your face when you look at it can make a major difference.” And during the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes a smile can be really helpful in getting you through the day.