It’s no secret that our outdoor spaces have taken on a fresh importance in recent years. Here at Better Homes & Gardens, we’ve always celebrated outdoor spaces, but even we have gained a new appreciation for our front yards, backyards, terraces, and other fresh-air spaces as they’ve become offices, makeshift classrooms, dining rooms, family rooms, and year-round, all-weather gathering spaces.

We’re not the only ones: Everyone is eager to get outdoor space and, eventually, make it as comfortable and well-equipped as possible. This elevated importance has taken the outdoor space from a nice-to-have to a near-necessity. (Backyards are the must-have home feature of the year, after all.) And while the number of blossoming outdoor trends is starting to rival the number of indoor trends, many of them center around one thing: entertaining.

People are more eager than ever to get their guests out of the house and into a (hopefully) lush outdoor space, complete with all the comforts of the indoors but with the added benefit of endless fresh air. While this shift to entertain outdoors more started as a hoop to jump through in order to gather safely, now it’s simply about wanting to be outside more, ideally with friends and extended family.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered up some of the top outdoor entertaining trends we’re seeing this year. Whether you’re planning to transform your outdoor space into the must-visit neighborhood hangout or you simply want to ensure you and your guests can enjoy the space with comfort, read on for all the fresh entertaining ideas you can incorporate into your own outdoor spaces.

Taking All Preparation Out

Outdoor kitchens are nothing new—if anything, the concept of an outdoor kitchen has nearly become as much of a staple as a theater room, a craft room, or another nice-if-you-have-it room inside the home—but what people are doing with these additional cookspaces continues to evolve.

“With more meals being prepared at home, grilling fans are looking to expand their outdoor cooking options to include a variety of backyard cookers such as griddles, pizza ovens, and even an outdoor air fryer,” says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot. “We’re seeing homeowners looking to create experiences when they are hosting people and becoming more adventurous by incorporating dining themes like By the Sea grill parties, Hawaiian BBQ, and even Around the World grilling.”

Adding more cooking appliances and features typically found in a normal, indoor kitchen to outdoor kitchens means all entertaining prep can happen outdoors. No more shuttling drinks, ice, food, and dishes from the kitchen to the backyard: Now you can take care of all the cooking outside, saving yourself the hassle of moving everything once it’s prepared and allowing the host(s) to enjoy the great outdoors as much as the guests are.

This expansion of outdoor cooking facilities has been accompanied by a growing desire to cultivate edible gardens and landscaping, where homeowners can grow fruits and vegetables—and maybe even serve that straight-from-the-garden produce to their guests. Farm-to-table meals at home have never felt more doable.

Going All-in Outside

If you’re really going to lean into outdoor entertaining, a simple patio set won’t cut it anymore. Think about all the space you have indoors where guests can gather. To truly bring the party outside, you need to think big to make sure everyone has a spot to sit and plenty of space to mingle. Data from outdoor design service Yardzen points to customers focusing more on larger gathering spaces, as the company has seen a sharp increase in requests for large outdoor dining tables that seat eight or more people.

The launch of modular outdoor sets like Burrow’s and the oversized seating trend show that there’s widespread interest in larger seating everywhere, but particularly outdoors—and also a need for more of that seating.

Even more than that, hosts are hoping to keep people outside by making the outdoors as comfortable as the indoors, regardless of the conditions outside (within reason, of course). Yardzen reports an increased interest in features such as arbors and gazebos that offer some relief from the sun and even rain, and 40% of Yardzen clients request pergolas in their designs, the company reports.

Yardzen data also shows increased interest in features that help people enjoy their outdoor spaces during the day and at night without sacrificing comfort by installing outdoor lighting, firepits, and outdoor heaters, among other additions. All this indicates that people are going to make the most of the fresh air and their outdoor space, even if conditions aren’t ideal, and do the best that they can to keep all their guests happily outdoors.

Offering Cozy Corners

Even as people try to make space for everyone to be outside and lean into larger outdoor entertaining spaces, there’s still a practical need to provide quieter pockets. Both the conversation cove and the sitooteriehave had moments in the spotlight lately, offering intimate spaces for chatting and catching up with a small number of people, even while the party rages on just over the hedge.

In any overhaul of an outdoor space, be sure to consider where a smaller sub-group of any gathering might be able to sit quietly, either to have a quiet conversation or to simply take a brief break from the noise and chatter. Offering a tucked-away spot where you can have a quick conversation with any guests you haven’t seen in a while will also leave you all feeling more satisfied with the gathering.

Creating Entertainment for All Guests

Trends in high-end outdoor spaces from the last few years have leaned into clean lines, hard surfaces, and all the features adults value, such as outdoor kitchens and oversized dining tables. No more (at least not exclusively): If everyone’s going to be outside, everyone’s going to have activities to entertain them outside, and that means incorporating options for kids. (Adults are welcome to play, too, of course.)

This outdoor entertaining trend invites everyone to join in the fun. Fishburne calls out refreshed outdoor games like tumble towers and croquet as being big this year, and the popularity of home bocce ball courts is still going strong.

Kids and adults alike can enjoy these games, but there’s also a trend toward making sure kids have structures that appeal to them as much as a decked-out grilling set-up appeals to their parents. Yardzen reports an increase in customer interest in treehouses, slides, and play structures as parents try to create outdoor spaces that are fun and enriching for adults and kids alike—and with an effort like that, guests young and old are sure to enjoy any outdoor entertaining event.

Balancing Entertainment Potential With Practicality

A variety of outdoor entertaining trends is well and good, but as with most trends, you should always pick and choose those that fit your taste and lifestyle best. That said, there’s one trend that everyone can adopt: not sacrificing practicality in the name of entertaining aesthetic. A beautiful outdoor entertaining space is a wonderful addition to any home, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your garden space or general green space, if those are outdoor elements you value. If you plan it right, you can even make your practical efforts outdoors enhance the visual appeal of your entire outdoor entertaining space.

“You can’t forget about your lawn and garden!” Fishburne says. “To give it a clean, finished look, consider fresh mulch. … Remember, mulch is much more than decoration. It helps retain moisture, acts to block weed growth and as it deteriorates over time, it adds to your soil quality.”

Install all the pergolas and outdoor kitchen space you desire—just be sure to leave room for a little landscaping, too.

Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

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