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The latest trend in backyard design is blending the lines between indoors and out. From kitchen cabinets that rival the look of interior versions to smart grills that alert you when dinner is ready and glare-proof outdoor televisions that mean you don’t have to miss a minute of baseball season, these are the biggest and best innovations in outdoor living this year. 

Smart grills

This smart grill can be controlled with an app on your phone. Image: Memphis Grills

Manufacturers such as Memphis Grills, Lynx and Charbroil now offer grills that can be entirely controlled with a smartphone app. Among the conveniences the new technology affords: the ability to fire up the grill while you prep side dishes indoors, get an alert when it’s time to flip the burgers, and track cooking temperature while you’re lounging by the pool. Lynx’s smart grill even features voice-activation technology.

Gourmet upgrades

Gourmet additions are no longer reserved for indoors. Image: Kalamazoo Gournmet

Smart grills are only the start of what constitutes a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen today. Increasingly popular add-ons for outdoor kitchens include hibachi cooktops, professional pizza ovens and built-in smoker cabinets.

All-weather televisions

Outdoor televisions provide a clear viewing experience even in full sun, Image: SkyVue

Outdoor televisions are nothing new, but new top-of-the-line models can rival an indoor viewing experience even in full sun. The SunBriteTV’s Pro-Series line, for example, which comes in sizes up to 84 inches, can be installed poolside while still guaranteeing clear visuals (it boasts 800 nits of brightness). The technology comes at a cost, though. The largest Pro-Series model rings in at more than $24,000. If you’re looking for a less-costly option, consider housing your screen in partial or full shade, like beneath a trellis or covered patio. SunBrite, MirageVision and SkyVue all offer all-weather televisions meant for partial or full shade beginning at a far more affordable $1,400.

Motorized screens and pergolas

Climate control comes courtesy of remote shade systems. Image: Somfy

Brands like Somfy now offer motorized shades, screens and pergola awnings that can diffuse light, keep bugs at bay, block a breeze or create shelter from the rain with the push of a button. Somfy’s systems can also be integrated with most smart-home technology and automation systems for seamless operation.

Custom outdoor cabinetry

Outdoor cabinetry can mimic the look of your kitchen inside. Image: Brown Jordan

Until now, function and longevity were the biggest drivers behind outdoor kitchen cabinet design. But form has recently caught up. Outdoor kitchen manufacturers recently began offering cabinet lines with door styles and finishes that mimic those in indoor spaces. Brown-Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, for example, supplies 10 color options and eight wood-grain finishes for its powder-coated aluminum kitchens that are designed to match its lines of outdoor furniture, plus cabinet doors in popular interior styles like Shaker, beadboard and louvered.

Year-round considerations

Built-in infrared heating can boost outdoor temps by 10 degrees or more. Image: Infratech

More and more homeowners are installing technology and features meant to extend the use of (and substantial investments in) their outdoor rooms. In other words, they’re transforming their backyards into four-season spaces. Popular options for year-round backyards include: built-in heating systems (like the one pictured above from Infratech), which are installed into covered patios and pavilions and can increase ambient temperature by 10 degrees or more; outdoor refrigerators designed to run year round (early models needed to be unplugged when temperatures outside dipped below the temps inside the refrigerator); and fire pits to add supplementary heating.