In Conversation: Outdoor Living Trends with Allison Messner and Sam Toole (AZEK)
Yardzen’s co-founder and CEO, Allison Messner, hosted Sam Toole, CMO of AZEK, at the Yardzen offices in Sausalito to discuss the latest trends in outdoor living! Read through to learn about what these experts are noticing in the outdoor design world, including the evolving role of women in the typically male-dominated industry, and head to our Instagram to see video of the interview!
At Yardzen, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in homeowners orientation towards their outdoor spaces. This started before COVID as people have become aware of the benefits of being outside, and was amplified during the pandemic, as many sought refuge in their yards. I’d love to hear more about how you guys have experienced this trend.
Allison Messner: Over the past couple of years, well before the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen people ask more of their homes and their outdoor spaces– extending their living outside. We’ve seen this for a while in architecture with indoor-outdoor design flows. People know intuitively that being outside leads to wellness and that was propelled forward during the pandemic.
Sam Toole: Looking outside is one of the easiest ways to add square footage to your house– to create more livable, multipurpose space. Outdoor rooms can be used for everything, from entertaining friends to hosting your own date night.
AM: Absolutely. The yard of yesterday was slab of concrete, water guzzling grass, and a charcoal grill, and now it is so much more. Yardzen’s design team is always excited to think of new ways to help people spend more time outside in their outdoor rooms.
What is your favorite way to spend time outside? How does the “shift outdoors” presented itself in your life?
ST: We do everything outdoors. We’re so lucky to live in a beautiful place [Marin]. I work outside and take as many calls as I can outside. We sit on our deck all of the time–have coffee in the morning, have dinner at night, hang out with our kids, entertain our friends. It’s just our favorite room in the house.
AM: I second all of that. We’re outside as much as possible. I also love to run. I like to be out in nature. I like to exercise and play outside with my kids. It just feels good.
One of the reasons we are thrilled to partner with TimberTech is because of your industry-leading sustainability practices, from the way your products are manufactured to their incredible durability and longevity. Tell us more about Timber Tech sustainability practices and why it matters.
ST: Well, one of the most incredible things about TimberTech is that we’re part of a company called AZEK, which has a huge commitment to accelerating the use of recycled materials. Our decking is made from up to 80% recycled content. And most of that was bound for the landfill. We grind it up and put it into the core of our boards, so you get this great looking product that looks like real wood. But the inside is all filled with recycled content.
Not only do we use trash to create our boards, but as a company, we’ve committed to recycle a billion pounds of trash a year by 2026. We’re at over 500 million pounds a year right now, which is incredible to think about.
And, as part of our sustainability commitment, our boards are designed to last 30 and 50 years, further diverting landfill. And then, at the end of its life, it’s recyclable.
When it comes to decking, TimberTech is the most sustainable option. Some people think that wood is most sustainable because it’s a “natural” product, but it’s not. The logging industry is a leading cause of deforestation. Materials like ipe are actually really horrible for the environment because they’re from the rainforest, and that has all kinds of other ramifications. So this product really is sustainable and using recycled materials really is the best thing.
AM: At Yardzen, we’re very selective with our partners. We really want to introduce our clients to great brands and great products like yours. TimberTech is leading the pack. You’re setting a new standard for commitment to sustainability.
There are many synergies between Yardzen and TimberTech. One of the many similarities is our fantastic clients–homeowners who want to do their outdoor projects, right. By investing in world-class design and premium materials. I’m curious, why did you choose Yardzen as your design and build partner, Sam?
ST: We’re really proud to work with Yardzen. We chose you as our partner because Yardzen elevates the whole landscaping process with best-in-class design and materials selection, putting it all together in a way that’s really inspiring for the homeowner, so they can start to see the possibilities of their home.
When it comes to outdoor projects, one of the hardest things is not knowing how to get started because you can’t totally visualize it. And so it’s hard to take action on it because it is going to require a lot of investment and a lot of time and research. And so you kind of just keep kicking the project down the road–oftentimes, people think about their outdoor renovation for 18 months before taking action. That’s because they just can’t figure out how to get started. Yardzen makes starting that process really easy. And not only does it make it easy and simple, it also makes it really inspiring. So you feel really validated and encouraged along the way. With a big expense like landscaping, you don’t want to do it again, and you don’t want to do it wrong. And to have that encouragement and validation along the way just makes it easy. Yardzen does a beautiful job of making landscaping super simple.
AM: Thank you, Sam.
What are your recommendations for homeowners who are interested in investing in a deck? What should they be thinking about?
ST: There’s two things to think about when you’re thinking about a deck. One is
try to get as much space as you can. You will never say your deck is too big. It’s a one-time investment that really pays off – it also adds value to your home. I made my deck too small. I really wish it were bigger.
Second is to think about your material choices. We had a wood deck put in years ago, and it seems like we are constantly sanding and refinishing it. Back then, I didn’t think of composite as an option. From what I heard, I didn’t think it would work for my house. I thought it would look like plastic and be shiny or slippery. Now that I know it’s not hot, it feels good under your feet, and it can mimic the look of any type of wood, I really wish we had a TimberTech deck. Plus, it’s no-maintenance, unlike wood. And, last but not least – no splinters!
We’re seeing more and more women enter the outdoor industry, which has historically been dominated by men. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this shift.
ST: I think there’s a big shift in the outdoor building products industry. Because I think in the old days, everything outside the house was kind of considered functional, not design savvy. People thought of their deck like they thought of their gutters or their driveway–stuff you have to spend money on.
As we talked about earlier, that is now changing, as people are doing a lot more living outside – they are thinking about their outdoor living space. You’re decorating it like you’re decorating any other room in the house. You’re thinking about the exterior of your house like your interior. It’s a much more design-centered experience now than it was before. And that’s bringing a lot more women to this industry.
AM: Well said. That is very near and dear to our hearts. At Yardzen, we treat your outdoor spaces to the same level of stylistic rigor that you would give your interiors. It’s living space, and you want it to be beautiful. It feels better to be in a beautiful space.