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June 18, 2024

Outdoor Forecast 2024: The Professional’s Guide to Today’s Backyards

For many homeowners, discreet technology is the experience they seek in their backyards, and with the outdoor product market more sophisticated than ever, the time-saving ease of the smart home—and its often-inconspicuous aesthetic—can now easily extend into the garden. If invisibility is the new standard, what features clients prioritize as visible has gained particular design significance. With a dedicated budget and intelligent space planning, a home’s outdoor space can be as personally tuned as its interiors, and each project contributes to an expanded definition of contemporary backyard entertainment.

Audio equipment is just the beginning of what the outdoor living room prescribes today. “There’s an appetite to bring anything we can outdoors, although projectors and screens, TVs, speakers, and architectural lighting top the list,” says Nancy Santorelli, associate principal and director at Meyer Davis in New York. The firm is also starting to fit out private residential spaces in the way they do hospitality projects: with fully powered cabanas that include wine fridges, ceiling fans, motorized drapery, and surround-sound speakers.

With the increased demand for outdoor technology has come the push for more sophisticated and automated systems that allow consumers to control everything with their phone, from the lighting to the heaters, to the pool and spa, to the mosquito controls, and irrigation systems. One such model is Crestron Home, a leading single-app platform that is both an operating system and a hardware technology provider.

Interestingly, for Michael Short, a senior director of marketing in the residential and hospitality sectors with Crestron, subtle is not the first adjective that comes to mind when confronted with his clients’ outdoor entertainment projects. “It’s often about bigger, bolder, louder, in the extremity of what some of our clients do,” Short says. “It’s about integrating large unfolding TVs that pop up out of the ground at the end of the garden or around the swimming pool or seeing the speakers that blast across the tennis court.”

No matter the client preference though, smart home technology inside and out is on the rise. According to Crestron’s executive vice president of marketing Brad Hintze, each year sees 10 to 15% growth when it comes to pro-installed homes. In the US alone, he says, there are 20,000 to 25,000 professional installers who support homeowners.

One of those providers who works with Gerstle in the Texas market is Tony Militello of Sound Image, a white-glove operation with a team of integration specialists. Militello’s average project budget is $700,000 to $750,000 to fashion a home inside and outside with smart tech—an investment he estimates falls at about 10% of the overall project budget for a new build. New construction dominates the smart home field making up 90% of Militello’s portfolio.

Gerstle advises that the most important investment on the front end is having a game plan—creating a comprehensive pre-wire structure or electrical conduit plan. This groundwork makes it easy to add network and speaker wire to difficult spaces at any time in the future, even after the garden is installed. “If I know you want a fire feature and I’m putting in a hardscape like poured concrete patio, I’m going to run conduit for a gas line before I pour the concrete, so I don’t have to tear it up after the fact. It’s just planning,” she adds. Some of the other tech asks from clients she frequently receives include requests for pellet grills, electric smokers that slow-cook food and can be monitored from a phone; better functioning and more attractive sound systems that can be heard without being seen; and WiFi systems with access points hidden in garden spaces that ensure continuous coverage to accommodate televisions, internet devices, and speakers outside.

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