The Transcendent Backyard

Winter 2015

The intersection of indoor functionality with the outdoors creates a new reality

By David R. Smith


The Transcendent Backyard

While this magazine typically focuses on commercial and municipal applications, this particular issue is about residential projects. Such uses consume about 75 percent of the concrete paving units made in the U.S. and Canada. This market is bread-and-butter to concrete paver producers, dealers and contractors. ICPI manufacturer members continually invent and promote new shapes/sizes, textures, patterns and colors that communicate a widening range of moods that fit with the house and yard.

Backyard living spaces with concrete pavers and segmental retaining walls are where most residential sales land. These products have helped expand other industries such as outdoor kitchens, countertops, lighting, grills, fire pits, fireplaces, furniture, trellises, fountains, pizza ovens, ponds and hot tubs. From the homeowner perspective, the return on investment into this backyard utopia is 100 percent or close to it when selling the home. So 100 percent enjoyment with 100 percent return resonates as a worthwhile deal for homeowners. Demographics underpin this investment trend with a growing number of homeowners over 55-years-old with no kids in the house.

The stars aligned in the market in the late 1990s. A second wave of development came in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Homeowners invested in making their residences more secure and comfortable rather than risk traveling on vacations. With the recent recession in the rearview mirror, backyard living space reemerged as its own industry. You can explore a wide range of outdoor living displays and building materials at Hardscape North America ( held in Louisville, KY, annually in October.

This particular issue touches on some trends in backyard environments and the reasons for them from the owner, designer and contractor perspectives. My particular take on this growth market is its creation of unique residential spaces and places as a result of combining indoor functions with the outdoors.

An outdoor kitchen is not one space, but several. The space certainly has some key things normal to most kitchens, but also the sun, shade from trees, a cool breeze, birds, the wind and maybe water running through a fountain or nearby pond. The experience of a kitchen is transformed by integration with the natural environment.

The integration of tangible and intangible experiences from such outdoor living spaces fuels this market. It is magical. And backyard living spaces seem to be the only residential space perceived and received this way. The intersection of indoor functions with the outdoors transcends expectations and creates a new, refreshing reality for families and friends to relax and recharge, and segmental concrete pavements are vital to that transcendence.