One of the great joys of summer is grilling food outdoors over an open fire. If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, your grill can be more than just a place to flip burgers. With a little design help, you can transform it into an outdoor kitchen and center for outdoor entertaining.
“I think of outdoor kitchens as an extension of the great room,” says Alison Babcock, an interior designer in Sag Harbor, New York, who frequently designs outdoor kitchens. “It’s not just a barbecue space. It’s about moving an entire lifestyle outside.”
Just as indoor kitchens have expanded to become the hub of many homes, outdoor kitchens are also thriving thanks to improved materials, equipment, and aesthetics.
“An outdoor kitchen serves as a beautiful focal point,” says Houston-based interior designer Marie Flannigan. Marie Flanigan installs outdoor kitchens in nearly every home she designs. She says, “Indoors, people are always drawn to the kitchen. I think an outdoor kitchen can also be the focal point of an outdoor space.”
We asked Ms. Babcock, Ms. Flanigan, and other designers for advice on how to get started.
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While it may be tempting to choose a remote, unused corner of a large garden or terrace for your outdoor kitchen, this is usually not the best choice.
“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, I never use the back of the garden, so I’ll put the kitchen there and I’ll go back there and use it,'” said New Eco principal Jesse. Terzi says. “But that never happens. I always tell people to try to put it as close to the house as possible, because the closer it is, the more you can use it.” ”
That applies to any season, Terzi said. Even in the winter when it’s too cold to sit outside, you can still fire up the grill for the occasional dinner if it’s just across the patio slide. It also makes it easy to transport utensils, platters, and condiments from your indoor kitchen to your outdoor kitchen.
It also makes it easier and cheaper to access services like electricity, plumbing and gas from your home to your outdoor kitchen. “If you want to install sinks throughout your garden and there’s no plumbing there, the cost just goes up exponentially.” Michael Carasino, a designer at RTA Outdoor Living, a manufacturer of outdoor kitchens, says: “But if you do that to your home, it can tie in with your existing water.”
just don’t put it Too It’s near my house. Keep grills and other fire-producing appliances away from flammable materials. You should also always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and local regulations. For example, in New York, grills must be at least 10 feet away from potentially flammable materials, such as wood siding.
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As interest in outdoor kitchens increases, so does the variety of appliances available. In addition to grills, some popular options include smokers, pizza ovens, burners, refrigerators, ice makers, and beverage centers, to name a few popular options.
How many of these do you really need? The truth is, you can create an impressive outdoor kitchen with just a limited number of appliances. If you have a small outdoor space, a single cooker may be best. Caracino said the obvious choice is grilling, but he consults his inner chef before spending money.
“I’ve worked with people who love grilling,” he said. “But I’ve also worked with people who just wanted a power burner because they wanted to cook outside in a wok.”
Once you’ve selected your appliance, what’s next? Counter. Having counter space near your cooking area makes a big difference in how your outdoor kitchen functions.
“Countertop space is great for prep,” says Boston landscape architect Michael D’Angelo. Provide a place to place platters, trays, utensils, and ingredients. It provides a place to work. It also helps with plating the food when it’s ready to serve.
“If you’re hosting an event with family and friends, you can set it up as a serving counter for buffet-style meals,” D’Angelo said.
Cabinets installed under the counter also help you store grilling tools, trash cans, and other accessories where you need them.
Choose durable materials
Outdoor kitchens can be exposed to the elements and can deteriorate quickly if they are not made of the right materials. Quality outdoor appliances are designed to withstand storms. So should cabinets and countertops.
Wooden cabinets should be made with a weather-resistant wood or metal framework and covered with a resilient hardwood such as ipe, teak, or mahogany, D’Angelo says. New Eco’s Terzi said he often uses composite decking (including products from Trex and TimberTech) for the exterior walls of his furniture. This is because it requires less maintenance, such as regular oiling, and tends to last longer than wood.
D’Angelo also likes the Urban Bonfire cabinets, which are made from marine aluminum. RTA Outdoor Living manufactures cabinets from concrete composite materials. Flannigan then designed custom cabinetry covered in stone veneer, painted brick and stucco.
“I like to reuse materials that are already used on the exterior of the house,” Flannigan said. It’s also durable and helps “make the kitchen feel like it’s part of the architecture.”
Choosing a countertop material is more difficult outdoors than indoors. Anything that stains easily, such as marble, should be excluded unless you want a rustic look. With marble, “not only do you have to worry about stains from food, but you also have to worry about stains from oak pollen and leaves,” D’Angelo says. Granite, bluestone and soapstone are all good options, he said, as is quartz products specifically designed for outdoor use.
including seating area
Few grill masters want to grill alone, and guests are likely to gather around the chef, so it’s a good idea to provide a seating area.
When designing an outdoor space in South Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, Calif.-based designer Mindy Geyer installed three seating options near the grill. The bar is located in the pass-through window between the indoor and outdoor kitchen. A casual dining table with a bench. And a cushioned sectional sofa.
“We approached the design the same way we would approach an indoor kitchen,” says Geyer. “We wanted to create a place where families would feel really comfortable.”
To create an eye-catching outdoor room, Geyer also designed a brick fireplace as a focal point next to the grill. And to create a sink with personality, she built a washroom in her home. It’s as chic as a restroom vanity, with a weathered limestone cistern serving as the basin and a custom faucet made from copper plumbing pipe.
“We almost worked backwards,” she says, thinking of lounge space first and appliances second. “This gave us the opportunity to create a more beautiful outdoor kitchen.”
Add Creature Comforts
To make the most of your time enjoying your outdoor kitchen, add a few key accessories. Let’s start with the lighting. This is very important if you want to check the skewers on the grill after dusk.
Some high-end grills have built-in interior lighting. Terzi and D’Angelo like to attach sconces to nearby walls or fences to illuminate the counter.
Is there an overhang on the roof? This is your chance for a pendant lamp. If you don’t have space to install wired lighting, Babcock recommends using hurricane lanterns or portable rechargeable LED fixtures.
Babcock said infrared heaters are also a great addition to extending the outdoor cooking season. By tucking into the ceiling of an overhang or pergola, you can minimize the feeling of obstruction. Some manufacturers, such as Heatsail, include heating features in their outdoor lamps.
D’Angelo says outdoor speakers can help set the mood, whether it’s a relaxed dinner or a lively barbecue.
Finally, “ceiling fans are great for outdoor installations,” he suggests, noting that the cool breeze is always welcome, as well as another more important function: “They keep bugs out.” I pointed out.
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