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Designing an Outdoor Kitchen
Transform an empty outdoor space into a fabulous gathering place for dining, entertaining, and enjoying family and friends.
By Patti Plummer
How do you envision your perfect kitchen? Does it feature state-of-the-art appliances, beautiful granite countertops, and sophisticated stainless steel cabinets? Does it have a fully-stocked beverage chiller, professional range, and enough room for the entire family to gather for special events? Have you thought of building it outdoors?
There is a growing trend among homeowners to move the party outdoors, and as enthusiasm for this idea expands, homeowners are discovering that there are quite a few options for creating the ideal outdoor kitchen and entertainment center. Not that long ago the choices were usually limited to a grill and a few pieces of mass-produced furniture that could be found in just about every backyard. Today, landscape architects and designers are delving into the inside of the home for inspiration and are discovering that the charm and personality that define a home’s interior can also define its exterior.
Beginning the Project
As with any project, a strong foundation is the basis for success, and since designing a backyard retreat is not everyone’s forte, hiring the right person to do the job is a crucial first step. There are a number of terrific resources to direct you towards the professional who will handle your vision, including referrals from family and friends as well as from a variety of websites. One of the more trusted sites is www.asla.org managed by the American Society of Landscape Architects. You will find that while many landscape firms design and build projects others solely design. Either way, however, it is important to ensure that your choice is either a trustworthy builder or that the designer has a connection to reputable contractors and subcontractors.
Once you are comfortable with your selection, it’s time to plan. Now is not the time to be shy—be clear about what you want, the budget you want to spend, and the timeframe in which you want the job completed. Conversely, the professionals will ask you to be open-minded: they will explain what can and cannot be done—and may suggest some unique options you never even considered.
The options for outdo
or kitchens and entertainment areas are seemingly as varied as the stars in the sky—and like the stars, intimidating in their scope. This is where your professionals will shine. After learning about your style preferences, budget restrictions, and likes and dislikes, the designer will whittle down the choices to a manageable amount. Plus, your designer will speak about the power of harmony. It is imperative that the material used to build and finish the new space blends in seamlessly with the entire property. For instance, if your house is traditional, you will be advised to keep the new architectural elements in line with that style. Here are just a few of the options that a landscape architect may recommend:
Your outdoor kitchen floor may not be the star of the show, but it is certainly one of the main attractions. You cannot leave this one to chance: safety as well as aesthetics must be considered when selecting a flooring material. The floor needs to be protected against spills, bumps, nicks, and other damaging accidents. It must be finished and sealed so that it does not become slick and dangerous. A high-quality, deep-penetrating sealer around the cooking and dining areas is essential to keeping the floor’s good looks intact.
Tumbled pavers, travertine, exposed aggregate, brick, and darker flagstones are typical choices. Concrete is one of the more popular options because it is inexpensive, can be colored and/or stamped to match the home’s architecture, and it easily mimics natural materials.
Countertops are not only your primary space for prepping food and beverages, but they are also one of the most important aesthetics for your outdoor kitchen. Not only does it need to be a beautiful palette, your kitchen countertop should also be inviting yet durable and able to withstand all types of weather.
Many designers suggest outdoor-graded ceramic tile, sophisticated natural stone like granite, travertine, and marble, as well as concrete because of these materials’ ability to handle extreme weather. Concrete’s utilitarian appearance can be transformed by embedding recycled glass into the surface: The chards sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight, providing a brilliant, eye-catching look.
Just like an indoor kitchen, an outdoor kitchen becomes more efficient when all of the necessary equipment is at the chef’s fingertips. Storage is key, and the addition of cabinets of varying sizes and shapes is the best way to keep your outdoor kitchen well-supplied. Stainless steel is a durable material that can handle the elements, but many outdoor kitchens also feature cabinets made of hard-wearing woods like teak and cypress. Some homeowners want the best of both worlds and choose faux wood—they get the look of real wood along with the long-lasting beauty and simple maintenance of a manmade material.
Appliances and Grills/Specialty Burners
Let your personality be your guide when deciding what appliances you will need for your outdoor kitchen. Are you a weekend warrior who likes to grill? Then a state-of-the-art unit with side burners, a rotisserie, and a stainless steel finish may be the answer. Are you more of a foodie who likes to try complicated recipes? Then add a professionally outfitted oven and range with a vented hood and multiple burners. But don’t stop there: consider a beverage chiller, specialty burners and inserts like a flattop grill, a refrigerator, ice-makers, built-in trash bin, sink, warming drawers, and the ultimate crowd-pleaser: a wood-burning pizza oven.
Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with permission
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