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issue: June 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

'Tis the Season

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Editorial from Diane Ritchey, Editor, APPLIANCE Magazine

More Americans are enjoying outdoor rooms.

Diane Ritchey, Editor

After another long winter, signs of summer have finally arrived. It's the season for spending less time indoors and more time outdoors. Yet, an increasing number of American consumers are enjoying the benefits of both, with an "outdoor room," which has been characterized by home and design experts as a defined outdoor area with a cooking, eating, and sitting space.

What started as an accessorized backyard patio, complete with fire pit, barbecue, and patio furniture, has blossomed into a fully furnished, and intentionally constructed, living space designed as an extension of a home's interior space. The outdoor room now includes a built-in eating and cooking area, complete with grill, refrigerator, sink, and dishwasher, as well as furniture arranged around a fireplace.

That's the latest from the Weber Outdoor Room Tracking Study, a U.S. study that tracks how consumers define, plan, and use their homes' outdoor space.

Because not everyone is blessed with rolling lawns and expansive terraces, adding a screened porch or patio room to a home is a very popular home improvement project. It can increase the resale value of a home while offering the benefit of year-round use. Most survey respondents report that the room is used during the spring and summer months, while some report still using it during the fall and winter months.

While U.S. consumers are adopting the concept of the outdoor room, the term itself is still working its way into their vocabularies. Industry experts use the term frequently, but only 20 percent of those consumers surveyed who do not own an outdoor room had heard the term previously, and among outdoor room owners, only 32 percent. Most of the respondents defined an outdoor room as an enclosed or screened deck, patio, porch, or sunroom.

While there is still work to be done to educate consumers on the definition and benefits of an outdoor room, the survey results do bode well for the appliance industry, especially those OEMs who manufacture grills and other cooking appliances, and consumer electronics. According to the survey, outdoor room owners are equipping these spaces in ways that reflect the care they use in designing the indoor areas of their homes.

For example, the outdoor room is usually decked out with a stand-up gas grill. Other cooking equipment that tends to be placed in an outdoor room includes:

  • a smoker (10 percent)
  • a charcoal grill (7 percent)
  • turkey fryer/cooker (7 percent)
  • a range or cooktop (3 percent).

Almost 40 percent report having an outdoor stereo system or speakers, and 9 percent say they watch television outside.

Many owners include other outdoor kitchen components in addition to their grills. These include:

  • countertop/cooking island (12 percent)
  • refrigerator (11 percent).

Outdoor room owners also incorporate leisure or sports equipment, such as a hot tub (18 percent) and other components, such as an outdoor wood-burning fireplace (15 percent).

And for those who don't yet have an outdoor room, according to the survey results, they plan to incorporate cooking appliances into their eventual outdoor rooms. For example:

  • 14 percent plan to purchase a range or cooktop
  • 14 percent want a turkey fryer/cooker
  • 12 percent plan on purchasing a smoker
  • 8 percent desire a charcoal grill.

These same survey respondents also plan to equip their outdoor rooms with:

  • a stereo system/speakers (64 percent)
  • hot tub (12 percent)
  • television (33 percent)
  • patio heater (30 percent).

The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA), in Arlington, VA, U.S. has been tracking the increasing popularity of outdoor rooms for years. According to Carter Keithley, president and CEO of HPBA, "The outdoor room has matured to a cohesive setting including elements of the family, dining room, and kitchen. The only differences between the outdoor room and the great room are the walls and the sun and stars overhead."

Mr. Keithley says key consumers for the boom in home improvement are the 35 to 54 age group, which account for more than half of all spending. Downsizing trends and kids' departures from home equates with more disposable income, and much of it is going directly to an expanded outdoor lifestyle.

More importantly, he says, the move toward the outdoor room is fueled by the availability of high-quality outdoor products, such as the barbecue grill. "Because the grill is in fact the heart of the outdoor room, all projections are good as Americans plan their backyard retreat in record numbers."


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