For residents of suburbia, outdoor living is easy. Just open the back door and step into an outdoor space that might be outfitted with comfortable furnishings, a fireplace or fire pit, an outdoor kitchen, dining area, cocktail bar, television, pergola, landscape plantings, and any number of other amenities. For retailers and specifiers, designing and creating such an environment is relatively easy, too, with budget often the only impediment to delivering everything on a customer’s wish list.
In the city, it’s complicated. Accessing nature of any sort is difficult; creating a personal oasis is a major challenge. But some argue it’s this scarcity that makes outdoor living spaces even more coveted and appreciated by city dwellers. Indeed, today, urbanites are investing in Outdoor Rooms on rooftops, terraces, balconies, and tiny backyard gardens in record numbers.
In addition to private urban residences, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) reports the outdoor-living movement is gaining momentum in multifamily apartment buildings, office skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants, trendy bars, downtown convention centers, and other commercial spaces. It’s happening in cities big and small and coast to coast, from Manhattan to Miami, Los Angeles to Louisville, Vegas to Vancouver.
Christopher Myers expects the trend to grow. Since 2005, the founder and creative director of Just Terraces, in New York City and St. Augustine, Florida, has created numerous residential and commercial Outdoor Room projects in New York, Paris, London, and other cities, and sees interest accelerating.
“We are becoming more of an urbanized country,” he says. “A lot of people want to move to cities where they can walk to restaurants and find more to do. They are leaving the suburbs, where outdoor living is a normal part of life, where they’re used to having a grill, a hot tub, and other features. They want those things in the city too.”
Sal Finocchiaro of NYC Fireplaces & Outdoor Kitchens in Maspeth, New York, says his company has seen a 30% increase in Outdoor Room projects in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and other New York City boroughs over the last five years. During that same period, Jake Gazlay, Design director of Chicago Roof Deck & Garden, has noted “a massive trend in the development of rooftops into valuable square footage.”
Beyond creating an enjoyable space for relaxing and entertaining, there is a pragmatic incentive behind the urban Outdoor Room movement. Real estate experts estimate a rooftop deck or other outdoor living space can add 6% to 8% to the valuation of a property, and cut time on the market by up to 50%.
“Balcony and rooftop outdoor living spaces increase the usable square footage of a property, adding value in a highly competitive urban real estate market,” says Mitch Slater, owner of Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens, and Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens.