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The outdoor room defined

With families spending more time at home, the term "outdoor room" is becoming a more familiar part of the consumer vocabulary. More importantly, consumers are spending more money on the area that is the outdoor room. That's a logical conclusion of Weber's second Outdoor Room Tracking Study conducted in late 2006, with comparisons to results from the 2003 study.

The most recent survey shows the average outdoor room in 2006 can comfortably accommodate 18.4 people, up from 15.5 people in 2003. Furthermore, the percentage of outdoor rooms that accommodate 25 or more people increased significantly from 16% to 24% over the past three years. Outdoor rooms with built-in gas grills tend to be larger — they hold 22.2 people on average compared with 18.2 people for outdoor rooms with stand-up gas grills.

Along with larger size, there has been an increase in the amount spent putting outdoor rooms together. The average amount outdoor room owners have spent creating their space has nearly doubled in the last three years from $5,400 in 2003 to $10,100 in 2006. There's been a significant increase, too, in the percentage spending $10,000 or more, going from 17% to 28%.

If they have built-in gas grills in their outdoor rooms, the spending skyrockets to an average of $33,800. That's a skyrocketed increase as well, up from an average of $11,600 in 2003 for those with built-in gas grills. Those owning stand-up gas grills also significantly increased their average spending, growing from $5,300 in 2003 to $7,800 in 2006.

A barbecue grill and outdoor dining and entertainment components still top the list of items found in the outdoor room — 97% say they have each of these items. Nearly three-fifths reported having outdoor kitchen components.

One-half of outdoor room owners say they fire up their grill when using their outdoor room over 60% of the time (including 23% who grill more than 80% of the time and 12% who grill more than 90% of the time). On average, outdoor room owners grill 59% of the time they spend using their outdoor room. The average is slightly higher for those respondents who use a built-in gas grill in their outdoor room (66%) than a traditional stand-up gas grill (60%). The average is also significantly higher for those who consider their outdoor room to be an outdoor kitchen (72%) or who own a gas grill costing $1,000 or more (71%).

Outdoor fireplaces, part of only 16% of outdoor rooms in 2003, have come on like gangbusters. In 2006 the percentage was 32%. More than three-fourths of current outdoor fireplace owners (78%) believe their fireplace has added value to their outdoor room.

Looking ahead to the 2007 selling season, there's more good news for those selling outdoor fireplaces, as well as those selling grills and patio furniture. Outdoor fireplaces now rank among the top three items people plan to include when they build an outdoor room this summer — a whopping 79% say they're including one in their plans. That's along with the 97% planning to include a barbecue grill and the 81% planning to include a patio dining set.

It's no wonder the outdoor room is popular. Those who have them say they spend nearly half of their leisure time there during the prime season — July to September. And nearly all say having an outdoor room adds to their quality of life.

This attitude is also reflected in the increasing percentage of outdoor room owners saying the design of their outdoor room is of equal importance to the design of the interior rooms of their homes. This provides another boon to retailers who can offer design services to their customers. Now 49% of outdoor room owners say the design of interior and exterior rooms are equally important, while in 2003 only 38% felt that way.

Among those who have an outdoor room, 41% have heard of the term, up from 28% in 2003.

Among those who don't have an outdoor room, 29% have heard of the term compared with 18% in 2003.

Design professionals define the outdoor room as a cohesive outdoor space used for cooking, eating and entertaining.

Consumers don't necessarily know the term, but know they want the space and the amenities it provides.

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