Lead People Outdoors

The properties that contain these types of amenities have a measureable effect on assisting in leasing units. In urban settings–where ground is at a premium–rooftops are an ideal location to create amenities that might not be available otherwise. In addition, the rooftop decks provide views that many tenants may not have.

Lastly, this market is dominated by Gen-Y tenants who demand both interaction and experiences while providing a market distinction to the property.

“Our prospective tenants and existing residents just love the outdoor areas here. It’s a critical component of our sale. They don’t want to feel boxed in, and they love all of the courtyards, pools, cabanas, and fireplace lounge areas,” says Stacy Brown, Business Manager for Main Street Village, an apartment community located in Irvine, Calif., by Met Life.

Amenities In Demand

That’s not all residents love. When it comes to the great outdoors, what do residents value most?

According to the 2011 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Residential Trends Survey, fire pits are high on the list, but that’s merely the beginning. The survey asked residential-landscape architecture professionals to rate the expected popularity of dozens of different outdoor living and landscape features.

For 2011, the top outdoor-living features are fairly basic: light, fire, food, and a place to sit and enjoy it all.

Overall, 96.2 percent of respondents rated exterior lighting as somewhat or very popular, followed by fire pits/fireplaces (94.2 percent), seating/dining areas (94.1 percent), grills (93.8 percent), and installed seating, like benches or seat walls (89.5 percent).

While the most popular outdoor features reflect an enduring sensibility, the interest in modern technology, like stereo systems (58.3 percent), Internet access (46.3 percent), and televisions (45.4 percent), adds to the growing trend of taking what we enjoy inside to the outdoors.

Every Little Detail

Outdoor spaces require the same care and detailed design as the interior counterparts, so what are the latest trends in styles, colors, materials, and social factors?

For the Gen-Y market segment, the color direction is definitely dynamic–bright, saturated colors along with everything environmentally conscious. Natural elements playfully interacting with cool, contemporary ones is the new direction.

A comfortable and relaxed atmosphere is what is important to this tenant–a place to gather and kick back with friends. Design outdoor spaces that include areas for dining and socializing, as well as more private space for sitting and reading a book or relaxing on a lounge chair.

Key objectives for outdoor kitchens are functionality and relaxation. Just as interior kitchens are used for cooking, congregating, and entertaining family and friends, outdoor kitchens should also serve multiple purposes.

When designing an outdoor kitchen, always consider the flow of the space, especially if it includes a pool. Outdoor kitchens are now being built to accommodate catering events more than cooking.

Multifunctional outdoor spaces can be used to entertain all types of residents, so consider your options. There are no limits to the appliances and electronics that you can use outdoors. Many are engineered to withstand climate changes.

Outdoor televisions add a dynamic element that creates an opportunity for special events–sports, TV watch parties, or just another place to congregate.

The aesthetics of an outdoor room are equally as important as its functionality. Adding personality to outdoor spaces creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. From layout to size, every detail should be taken into consideration to make outdoor rooms comforting spaces.

For instance, unique lighting fixtures or an outdoor area-rug can make the outdoor living space more unique.

Outdoor rooms can be created with ease by utilizing the latest designs in outdoor furniture. Trellises can mimic a wall; covered pavilions can mimic a ceiling; and tables and chairs provide beauty as well as function.

How Much?

The challenge in creating all of this is that it costs more than merely providing a few lounge chairs.

Specialty outdoor furniture can be expensive, and providing all the amenities described above become costly. However, creating an environment that lures new tenants and keeps existing ones is well worth the expense.

There are many companies that provide outdoor fabrics that resist fading and stains and can add gorgeous color and plush comfort to the outdoors.

In order to keep costs down, it is better to design these spaces early in order to provide the necessary infrastructure requirements, such as gas, water, electricity, drainage, cable, etc.

Everyone is trying to create dynamic exterior spaces, but the real trick is to lead people directly and seamlessly outdoors. Costs can be an issue here as well.

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