The hearth, that gathering spot of coziness and community, is increasingly moving outside since the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, cylindrical, steel fire pits marketed by Solo Stove have become ubiquitous in neighborhoods and on social media.
Cristy Hatter, VP of brand at Solo Stove, says sales growth more than tripled since the outbreak. When she thinks What the Future, she believes home life will incorporate more of the great wide open.
Kate MacArthur: How has the pandemic changed the way people think about outdoor living?
Cristy Hatter: The pandemic has definitely changed outdoor living. I think it’s changed home. It’s changed what home means. You tend to look at your home as a place to get away from. There are messes to clean up there and things to do and chores there. Now, home has become—yeah, there’s messes and chores there—but this is also my sanctuary. This is my safe place. This is how I can keep my life going.
MacArthur: What about beyond the backyard?
Hatter: We saw lots of people planning socially distant community activities to be able to meet with the neighbors. They all bring a few fire pits around and then everybody is able to keep a safe distance and enjoy a warm fire and a moment together. I definitely think the mindset has shifted from this home base being something of a refueling station to a place of refuge.
MacArthur: How does that change our appreciation for the outdoors and nature?
Hatter: A lot of people have looked at and still look at the outdoors as a getaway, a place to reset and recharge. So, trying to find a way to reset those batteries and to keep appreciating the people in our lives, we look for opportunities for art and inspiration. And what better place to find that than out in nature?
We’ve recently done a series on hidden getaways that people throughout the pandemic have discovered nearby that are just beautiful displays of nature that they weren’t expecting to find, but did because they were like, “I gotta get out of here.” Even things that are very near to you and quite local that you may not have taken a second look at. When you’re really desperate, you find things. And being out in nature and having that moment of appreciation and awe refuels a lot of people and keeps people going.
MacArthur: There’s a duality with home as both your sanctuary and your prison.
Hatter: Yeah, depending on the person, right? Those more social types who look to things naturally for connection are seeing this opportunity in the home as being a time where they’ve seen improved relationships with their kids and improved connections there. Whereas other people who find their energy from that moment of solitude are the ones that are more looking “out.” They’re looking to get that walk in the woods and to see those stars and looking for that experience “out.”
MacArthur: Where do you think this will take people in how they design around their home to merge inside and outside?
Hatter: In the backyard, we’ve seen people with more time at home and some amazing backyard renovations. What we found is that the Solo Stove becomes this point of gathering and focus. The whole yard is then redesigned around this experience. That’s bringing people together often every night. We’ve had architects reach out to us saying, “We want to incorporate your product drawings in our renderings for our clients.” I think that what you’re seeing is a trend. In my experience, the more you invest in that space, the more it becomes a treasure for you and a great place to be.
MacArthur: How big of a difference will this have on people making permanent design changes to accommodate this outdoor life?
Hatter: Whether it’s outdoor cooking spaces or outdoor living spaces, from enclosures to a full outdoor renovation, I’ve definitely seen evidence of that over the last year, in both user-generated photos that we’ve seen and people being interested to know what’s the right thing for the backyard space. Projectors, TVs, pizza ovens, grills, those kinds of things being some of the focal points, as well as construction-type activities in the yard.
MacArthur: What do you see happening as we move from an indoor culture to this outdoor one?
Hatter: What we see as a resonating theme is this desire for connection. This desire to have great moments to create good things in life. With technology and the video game explosion and social media, we were exploring those avenues. But I think to some degree technology drove us to more of a place of solitude, and the pandemic exacerbated that. [It drove] people who were feeling alone before the pandemic and even more so during the pandemic to that place of desperation that we all tend to get to when there’s something not OK inside. We’ve got to get to that point of desperation to be willing to change it. And I think the pandemic did that for a lot of people, to their benefit.
MacArthur: You mentioned technology. How might we see people using smart home technology to control our environment outside?
Hatter: I absolutely think that will follow. I think that the more that people are outside, the more technology will be brought into that space and only to its advantage.