Outdoor living rooms are on the rise

As the housing market makes it slow return to normalcy, homeowners are becoming more interested in specialty rooms, according to the American Institute of Architects. While in-law suites, mudrooms and home offices have all drawn homeowners' attention, the most popular specialty room this year has been the outdoor living area.

Turning tides
During the economic crisis, specialty rooms fell by the wayside as the size of homes shrank. Instead of having special function rooms, spaces were combined to maximize efficiency. At its worst, economic and housing activity was at 78 percent of its normal state, according to the National Association of Home Builders. However, economic and housing activity has since reached 86 percent normalcy. With that increase has come a growing interest in most specialty rooms, save for the home office, which saw no change from last year, according to The American Institute of Architects' Design Trends Survey. The survey asks residential architects what trends are increasing or decreasing in popularity. Mudrooms and home offices tied as the second most popular special function room, the survey found, with both trailing behind outdoor living areas.

Getting creative
​Home sizes have increased during the recovery along with the growing interest in special function rooms. Interestingly, however, lot sizes only continue to get smaller, according to the AIA. Approximately 25 percent of respondents cited a decrease in interest by consumers in lot size. Instead, homeowners are continuing to get creative with limited space, opting for multi-function rooms and choosing to blend indoor and outdoor spaces. Outdoor living areas are a common amenity for craftsman house plans. Such spaces include decks, patios, porches and verandas as well as outdoor rooms and lanais. Many of these rooms feature more sophisticated approaches to the outdoor living space.

A model home
HHF-1895 is a great example of a more complex outdoor space that easily interacts with other rooms. The floor plans feature a lanai as well as a BBQ porch, complete with fireplace for cooking food. These spaces are best used in the summer, however, they can easily be converted for use all year long. If the space is screened in, homeowners can install glass panels that help retain heat during the winter, along with a heater to keep the space warm. If there is already glass in the outdoor area, thermal blinds can further help to keep heat indoors. With that house plan in particular, the doors to the family room and nook may be opened to create a blended indoor-outdoor space.