With the weather warming up and more people hanging out on patios or other areas outside their home, it stands to reason you want to make these spaces as comfortable as possible—and the stars of “Fixer to Fabulous” can help.
Dave and Jenny Marrs recently teamed up with Better Homes & Gardens and Walmart to create a Backyard Oasis collection of 30 affordable outdoor decor items, including furniture, rugs, lanterns, and planters.
While their own outdoor space is a sprawling farm in Arkansas shared by their five kids and a variety of animals, the Marrses know a thing or two about the diverse yards of America. They’ve renovated all sorts of homes, from small condos to grand mansions.
And the one universal truth about outdoor spaces today, Jenny affirms, is this: “The backyard has become an extension of the home.”
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been taking advantage of their outdoor spaces as never before.
So what’s the best way to spruce up this space? To find out, we chatted with Dave and Jenny about the hottest trends.
Tell us about your own backyard
Dave: We’re very blessed that we are on a lot of land—I guess that’s a blessing and a curse, it’s a lot to take care of—but we love it. We encourage our kids to be outside as much as possible. When the weather’s nice, they are outside playing, making forts. There are little forts everywhere in our yard, and trees that are climbed, and little rock piles where little fake fire pits are made.
We have a playground that probably Jenny would like to see go, because it’s a big eyesore, but our kids love it. It’s an old playground, but it’s well-used. I think our backyard, like a lot of people’s, changes and modifies with the age of our kids and the needs that we have at the time. But right now it’s just a big, wide-open space where they can run and play and explore.
And the adult space?
Jenny: We have a screened-in back patio that we use all the time. That’s where we have a dining table and where we host meals when the weather’s nice, and we have a big porch swing bed out there.
Daybed porch swings are so popular right now. Any other trends that will be everywhere this summer?
Jenny: A lot of people right now want an outdoor kitchen. That’s probably our No. 1 request from homeowners, with not just a grill, but also with a refrigerator and a sink.
I think a lot of people are seeing the value of cooking at home and entertaining their family and friends in their yard. We saw a transition from going out to eat, obviously during the pandemic, and then also eating outside. I think that’s really suited how people interact with their friends when you have someone over. Instead of being in the kitchen, you’re out on the patio grilling.
But after the outdoor kitchen, the porch swing-daybed-type swing is very popular.
How about outdoor TV screens?
Dave: I’m torn on this, because I like when my kids are outside to just let them be outside and play.
Jenny: But you do like to watch a good football game outside…
Dave: I do love a good football game, so I guess I really can’t complain about TVs outside.
When it comes to resale, which upgrade adds the most value?
Dave: If you’re going for bang for your buck, anywhere that you can have an outdoor covered space is a huge advantage.
But I think that also, in our current world space where people are headed, to have a backyard garden area—where your kids can plant flowers, and even if it’s small, I think that’s really important, and people see a lot of value in that. And it’s not a significant cost to do.
There’s a lot of discussion about whether a swimming pool is good or bad for resale. What do you think?
Dave: As far as resale goes, a pool or hot tub doesn’t really add any significant value—definitely not what it cost to put it in. But if you’re the parent who wants all the [neighborhood] kids to be at your house with your kids, maybe it makes sense for your family. I think it’s so specific, house by house. If I was going to list my house this minute, I would stay away from the water features and go more toward the covered areas, or the areas that can produce something.
There’s a big drought in the West, and people are replacing their grass. How do you feel about artificial turf?
Dave: In areas where you have drought problems, that is a nice solution to the problem. But Jenny’s sister and brother-in-law had artificial turf and they had several pets, and they weren’t happy, because when the pets went to the restroom on it, it stunk. So I think there are definite disadvantages to the turf, that natural ground takes care of naturally.
What are some other ways to take full advantage of your outdoor space?
Dave: We have rain barrel catchers, even though here in Arkansas we get a ton of rain. My grandma always used to tell me that there’s nothing better for your garden than rainwater. I don’t even know if that’s true, but it’s really stuck with me, and so we have rain barrels and we compost. All the stuff that we don’t eat goes to our chickens, or it gets reused in the compost, and we still collect water.
Why is a home’s outdoor space so important?
Jenny: Humans like to be outside because I think it grounds you, and gives you peace and calm in the frenzied world that we live in. It’s nice when you step outside and have a place where you just exhale and be with your people.
Dave: One of the results of COVID that we can look back and say maybe that wasn’t the worst thing is people’s focus on creating amazing spaces that they can enjoy with others in their back patios without having to go out to eat.
There are a lot of people that work from home, and they don’t go out as much as they used to, and one of the most essential spaces is those patio areas. So we look at an outdoor area just like we’d look at a house, where you can have a lounging area and a playing area and a dining area. And that is very family-specific, but the emphasis on everything outdoors has just gone up so much.