Italy in the rediscovery of outdoor spaces and nature

Rediscovering the outdoors: post-pandemic Italy in search of greater contact with nature and the outdoors

Covid and, in particular, the quarantine have caused enormous upheaval in our lives, both personally and collectively. The habits that had characterized our daily life and coexistence until a few weeks earlier were suddenly redesigned according to the particular moment that the whole world found itself having to face.

One of the positive aspects was, certainly, the rediscovery of the need for human contact that distinguishes man as a social animal. The need to share daily moments with other people, even just to hear a word of comfort, to be able to talk to each other or receive a hug, has represented a vital need to which we have been able to give new value during the quarantine and, more generally, for abide by the rules dictated by social distancing.

From the real estate market's point of view, the most significant novelty brought to light by these dark months is undoubtedly the rediscovery of an external space which, until recently, seemed to be absolutely secondary or in any case not so decisive.

The house as a whole has been rethought, restudied and readapted leading it to be stripped of its old, usual clothes to be transformed into something new and different: a safe and welcoming haven that can allow us to better experience a possible new wave of infections and consequent quarantine. We have to think that, in fact, most of the houses were not designed and built to respond to many of the specific needs born during the quarantine. In that period the house, from a simple home, suddenly transformed into an office, a gym, a place for family gatherings and entertainment: all at the same time. Precisely to find an answer to these needs, customer requests regarding the design of their home have changed radically.

According to what was reported by the Sole 24 Ore, there has been an acceleration in the trend that leads to living more in harmony with nature in the world and, more specifically, in Italy. In fact, the choice of materials, furnishings and technologies increasingly winks at the desire to improve the livability of terraces and gardens.

International architecture magazines such as Dezeen, AD, Mansion Global Daily, write about biophilic architecture referring to a specific branch that aims to try to strengthen the relationship between man and nature. According to what these magazines report, Italy, like other countries in the world, is witnessing a strong growth in spending by the consumer with regard to outdoor furniture.

Since 2020 there has been an exponential increase in requests, during the search for a new housing arrangement, addressed to the presence of an outdoor space. According to data reported by Rightmove, manager of the first English real estate portal, the demand for homes with outdoor space in May 2021 increased by 42% compared to the same month of the previous year as regards purchases, and even by 84% for regarding rentals. 

Remaining in Europe, the Mercure Group reported that in 2021, in cities such as Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux, the sale of apartments with terraces and independent houses with gardens saw a 30% growth in value. 

In Italy, the presence of a balcony or terrace guarantees a growth in the market value of the property over 8% for properties on the upper floors and over 5% for intermediate floors.

Following these global changes, real estate has quickly adapted by implementing the offer of buildings with outdoor areas, a trend that the archistars call biophilic design. Basically it is a series of expedients regarding the points of light, water and possibly gas, in compliance with specific regulations for outdoor use.

Outdoor furniture therefore sees an evolution or rather a flashback generated by an ever-increasing interest dictated by the need to have an outdoor space that is as livable as possible. In this regard, there are many furnishing components suitable for an external environment subject to bad weather such as rain, snow, hail and sudden changes in temperature. The possibilities are quite varied depending on the size available: you can opt for armchairs or sofas made of waterproof material, tables and chairs in marine teak or rope designed specifically for outdoor spaces. The luckier ones, then, can even go so far as to install real open-air kitchens to enjoy lunches and dinners with family or friends on spring or summer evenings.

The designer Massimo Pepe, interviewed by Fabbi Tende, dispensed some useful advice regarding how to furnish outdoor spaces, whether large or small, describing some solutions he adopted to ensure continuity between the internal and external environments. In an attempt to make the home as close as possible to the many needs that we now need to meet, Pepe tells how smart solutions are increasingly being devised to make the home environment welcoming and functional at the same time.

Specifically, it is increasingly customary to think of the living room as a space to be dedicated to free time and family entertainment, but at the same time as a comfortable location to be able to work from home in smart working. For example, “if you have a central sofa, next to or behind it, a desk is positioned with a versatile lamp that acts as both a light for the desk and lighting for the living room. This writing desk interacts with the entire living area, creating a sort of harmonic console”.

Figura 1: immagine dal sito

Also with regard to the theme of the outdoors, the designer provides some advice aimed at optimizing spaces and obtaining maximum performance with minimum effort. First of all, today's trend is to avoid the clear separation between internal and external environments to which we were accustomed in the past. In this sense, exploiting, for example, homogeneous floors and the installation of large windows can generate a sort of spatial continuum between environments.

Figura 2: immagine dal sito

In conclusion, when asked what has changed in our lives following the pandemic, one could answer that it was us who changed, but in reality it was, more likely, the conception of the domestic environment itself that changed. This transformation leads us to overcome a by now anachronistic vision of "home as a place to return to after a day's work" by replacing it with a more current one of "home as a multifunctional space". The rediscovery of the need to have an external outlet in which to spend time has finally brought back what could be defined as a primordial need for contact with the world and with the outdoors which, until recently, seemed to be nothing more than a memory of a distant past.


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