Outdoor Living: America’s Backyard Evolution, Part I

Outdoor living space has become an essential to many Americans hunting for the perfect home or looking to improve the one they have. From a relaxing shade tree to the intricately designed outdoor kitchen perfect for any grill master, outdoor space has truly become an extension of our homes. Outdoor living, however, wasn’t always a relaxing endeavor. The idea of using the space outside your home for enjoyment is a fairly new concept. For decades, backyards were used to support families and required hard work.

Backyard Business

In the 1800s the backyard was nothing more than land to farm to provide for the family. Fruits, vegetables, livestock – whatever could survive from the land – was used to support the economic environment. Another essential was the outhouse. Save space in the backyard because indoor plumbing didn’t save us until the 1900s. Up until about World War II, families seldom thought of their outdoor living space as, well, a place for living. The land provided a space to accomplish necessary tasks. The backyard was all business.

Grocery Store Boom

After WWII, when soldiers returned home and the economy began to stabilize, grocery store chains began to grow. What does this have to do with outdoor living space? Plenty! By the mid-twentieth century, proper refrigeration was in homes and visiting the local super market for groceries was becoming common place. Suddenly, all the space needed to grow food and provide for the family, wasn’t needed for work.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the backyard was used as a place for leisurely activities. Sunbathing, badminton, and neighborhood gatherings were commonplace in outdoor spaces. Enter the birth of one part of the American Dream – land. The idea of having your own green space had moved away from an economic necessity, to a status symbol. The backyard was now a trophy of accomplishment.

Patios And Porches

While the patios and porches from the 1960s into the late 20th century were nothing like the spectacular rooms designed by Carolina Home Exteriors, they certainly began the trend toward outdoor living. The patios, traditionally made from brick or concrete, were used to host bar-b-ques, parties, or just offer space for the family to relax.

Lamps were added to the space for evening light and character. In the 1960s, homeowners used three types of wiring for their outdoor lights – temporary, overhead, or underground. Today’s sunrooms or screened rooms can be illuminated with solar power, traditional electricity, or professionally designed lighting.

As America moved into the late 20th century, homeowners started demanding even more of their outdoor space. Swimming pools, hot tubs, and patio furniture became an intricate part of the outdoor living space design. In part 2 of Outdoor Living: America’s Backyard Evolution, we’ll take a look at how the furniture has developed from functional to multipurpose and who thought the kitchen should move outdoors.