Next time you’re in the mood to dine out, why not skip the reservation and dine out – literally – right in your own backyard?
Whether you love grilled shrimp or cocktails al fresco, an outdoor kitchen is a fun, easy and gratifying way to take your indoor lifestyle outdoors. It will expand your living space and can be used all year long, bringing a perfectly charbroiled steak to your dining table during even the coldest winter months.
Plus, with “nesting” and “stay-cations” so popular, there are plenty of reasons to turn your outdoor space into a resort in its own right. One that has all the amenities of your indoor kitchen, missing nothing but the walls.
You don’t need a huge yard to create an amazing space, either. You just need a good design, a well-planned layout and the right pieces to suit your lifestyle.
Dream of your outdoor kitchen with these questions and ideas in mind.
Where Will Your Kitchen Be Located?
Sometimes the most obvious spots aren’t the most ideal. For instance, it might seem to make sense to construct your new kitchen right where the propane grill sits on your patio. But if that means smoke drifting in through your windows, you might want to reconsider that.
Your kitchen location should accomplish a few things. First, it should be convenient to the kitchen in your home, since you’ll probably be carrying plates and ingredients outside with some frequency, especially as you get set up for a meal or tidy up for the night.
Second, it should be placed where it won’t obstruct views – for example, if you want an open view from your family room over your back yard, then don’t build the kitchen in front of the window.
Next, consider how you use your yard. If the kids play ball in a certain spot, then it’s best to keep hot appliances and cooking areas away. Consider the flow of foot traffic through your yard, too. The path from home to pool, or between seating areas should allow people to move freely and naturally without feeling obstructed.
In short, the location of your kitchen must balance function with convenience, safety and aesthetics. That’s just one reason why it’s so important to have a good landscape and kitchen designer who will ask questions, make recommendations and plan accordingly.
What Appliance Will You Need?
You have as many options for your outdoor kitchen as you do indoors. Everything from stoves to sinks to pizza ovens. The key is to choose the appliances that suit how you intend to use your kitchen.
Most people automatically think of grills when they imagine cooking outdoors. But you can do more with the addition of stovetops and even ovens. For everything from sautéed vegetables to sauces, having at least one separate burner is a good idea. And ovens can be gas or electric, even wood-fired, for roasting, toasting and all-around gourmet outdoor meals.
If you have the ability to run a natural gas line to your house, that’s a great option for powering grills and other cooking appliances. Otherwise, you can choose to use a propane tank, or even treat yourself to an extra charcoal grill for toasting marshmallows late into the night.
A sink is also about as necessary a convenience as you can get. For cleaning dishes and pots, washing fruits and vegetables or just rinsing hands, a sink can mean the difference between simplicity and the inconvenience of running back and forth to the house for running water.
Your kitchen designer and contractor will help you choose the most effective way to run plumbing and ensure that pipes are protected during cold months.
Many people choose to include a refrigerator in their outdoor kitchen, too. It’s handy for keeping extra meats, chilling fruit, and holding bottled beverages and condiments. If you aren’t planning for one, or don’t have the space, here’s a helpful tip: your sink can double as a cooler. Fill it with ice when it’s not in use and it can make a good impromptu way to keep items cold. But if you can swing it, a refrigerator is a great little convenience for chilling that extra bottle of white wine, shrimp cocktails or stack of burger patties.
Believe it or not, you can even include a dishwasher in your outdoor kitchen. So talk with your contractor about your lifestyle and how you plan to use the space. If you’re going to hate hauling dirty dishes inside after a meal, and that will stop you from enjoying your kitchen, then take that into consideration as you plan.
What Ties It All Together?
A kitchen is more than just appliances and plumbing! Floors, countertops, cabinets – all of these things combine to create a functional, beautiful space that you can enjoy for many seasons of entertaining and dining.
You don’t necessarily need to rely on your existing patio as the floor. Remember what we said about choosing a location? If your patio isn’t the ideal spot then you can build a floor for your kitchen wherever you want it, whether as a separate area or an extension of your existing patio. From natural stone to pavers, the floor of your outdoor kitchen adds just as much style and personality as it does indoors.
Outdoor countertops should be durable. They’re going to be exposed year-round to the elements so it’s important that you invest wisely. You’ll also want to give yourself plenty of space to prep and lay out food and other items as you create your culinary masterpiece. Choose counters that complement your flooring and your home’s style.
Cabinets also come in a number of styles and options, from stainless steel to polymers and teak. Cabinets will help free up some of that valuable counter space by giving you a place to keep extra supplies, paper goods and anything you don’t want cluttering up your space.
Just like in your interior kitchen, floors, counters and cabinets should be coordinated to look great and fit your home’s character. For example, stainless steel and stone offer a popular contemporary look. What you choose will reflect your own personality.
How Can You Turn Your Outdoor Kitchen Into Your Favorite Room In The House?
Ok, technically it’s an outside room, but a room nonetheless, and one you should want to spend time in. That means going beyond the logistics of appliances and counters to the things that make a kitchen feel like home.
Lighting is a key component in creating warmth and ambiance, especially if you plan to use your kitchen during the evening. Sure, you need functional lighting, but it’s the added touches that will transform your space. Landscape lighting high up in surrounding trees, or lining the edges of the patio, lanterns atop retaining walls or on posts surrounding your dining area. The right lighting sets the tone and creates atmosphere.
Seating is important if you plan to host guests. Perhaps a kitchen island with counter stools will suffice for a family dinner, with wide, cushioned chairs and low tables for casual barbecues. If you want a more formal setting, you can include an adjoining dining space complete with table and chairs. Plan ahead for the type of experiences you want to create and the number of people you’ll entertain.
If you plan to use your kitchen year-round (and why not!) then you may want to add a covering, like a pergola, to protect you from the elements. That gives you additional options, like overhead lighting, even a ceiling fan for cooling or extra circulation.
And don’t forget the greenery! You may take it for granted that there will be plant life outdoors, but bringing plants and flowers into containers in and near your kitchen will add a special touch.
Then you can have fun choosing utensils, serving platters, placemats and even whimsical décor to adorn your tabletop and surrounding landscape.
So skip the same old restaurants this year and plan an outdoor kitchen instead. It will provide a hub of entertainment and enjoyment for years to come, bringing friends and family together in your own private back yard resort.
If you’re already dreaming of yours, get in touch with us and let’s talk. We can help you plan the outdoor living space of your dreams.