Photo by Shepenupet on Flickr

Decks and patios are finally getting the attention they deserve. Once little more than a place to store the family barbeque, today’s decks are multi-purpose environments where families cook, play, relax and garden. Whether you’re thinking of renovating an old deck this spring or building a whole new patio, you’re going to want to know about the latest and greatest in deck design.

Emerging Trends

The outdoor kitchen has been a popular patio option for a while now. If anything, outdoor kitchens are becoming more and more elaborate, with sinks, ranges, ovens and cabinet space built right into the deck. A full outdoor kitchen represents a significant investment, of course. Some people prefer to just build their BBQ into the patio next to a simple food preparation area.

Container gardening and perimeter plants are very popular, and they give the impression your outdoor room blends seamlessly into nature. Plant choices range from privacy hedges and flowers to containers of aromatic herbs and vegetables.

Fire pits of stone or concrete are also an emerging trend, although care must be taken to ensure the pit is a safe distance from the house and nearby plants. Check with your municipality first as some communities have zoning laws forbidding fire pits.

Material Options

Wood remains the most popular choice for patio and deck construction. Homeowners increasingly seek out sustainable wood choices for decks; it seems we’re willing to pay more for green patio materials. Wood is often combined with glass and wrought iron railings and banisters, which add durable accents to your outdoor room.

Natural stone is making a comeback as a patio material. Stone can be dyed or stamped, and it lends itself to classical mosaics.

Accessories

As decks make the transition to complete outdoor rooms, consumers are incorporating outdoor accessories to improve their leisure time. Outdoor stereo systems are a must-have. Low-voltage and solar lighting allow the patio to be used after dark, and some decks even include outdoor movie projectors.

That classic patio accessory, the sun umbrella, is undergoing its own transformation. Instead of struggling with removable umbrellas, many patios now boast permanent wood umbrellas with wood shades. Installing the umbrella as part of the deck prevents it from toppling over.

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