While the idea of bringing the outdoors in has long been a staple of designing for the home, bringing the indoors out is a newer concept. The desire for a healthier lifestyle and comfortable gathering space has spurred the popularity of outdoor kitchens, and kitchen and bath designers are embracing this segment as one that continues to grow – and boost profitability.
“An outdoor kitchen allows us to break the repetitive day-to-day menu and repetitive cooking and clean-up habits,” explains Dawn M. Whyte, president and principal designer, Designs by Dawn in Petoskey, MI. “It’s fun, it’s fresh and it feels good.”
In a tougher economic climate, outdoor kitchens are also a cost-effective alternative when looking to add living space. “You can expand your square footage and the use of your house for a lot less money than if you were actually adding on,” stresses Sandy Koepke, principal, Sandy Koepke Interior Design in Beverly Hills, CA.
Garden of Eating
The major challenge when designing an outdoor kitchen, according to Koepke, is making the area blend with the yard’s natural surroundings. “You’re going to be putting a lot of man-made, hard-edged, stainless steel appliances outside in the garden. Unless you plan carefully, they are going to look foreign in your yard,” she explains. “The challenge as a designer is trying to figure out how to integrate it gracefully, so that the kitchen looks like it belongs as much as possible to the garden.”
With regard to layout, sight lines are important to maintaining the relaxed aesthetic that comes with being outdoors. “We always take into consideration the view first – directionally how people want to sit and what they’re going to be looking at,” observes Lesly Maxwell, president, Lesly Maxwell Interiors in Jupiter, FL.
Other than the surroundings, designing the layout of an outdoor kitchen is similar to planning an indoor one. “You plan for function, space, work areas, utilities, lighting,” reports Koepke.
While layout and function may be similar to indoor spaces, the design of outdoor kitchens must also take into account what Mother Nature can dish out.
“All of the materials, even the appliances, have to be made of materials that can withstand the elements – the salt, the sun and the humidity,” reports Maxwell.
“Everything in the outdoor kitchen should be waterproof and UL-approved for outdoor use,” stresses Whyte.
Stainless steel is the material of choice for outdoor appliances, and all outdoor kitchens basically start with a grill. “Consumers are educated and know what they want when it comes to grilling,” reports Whyte. “A high-tech grill is the space’s most popular item.”
Koepke recommends that her clients include a side burner with the grill if there is room. “It gives you more flexibility when preparing the meal,” she explains. “You can sauté, or make a sauce, or boil corn.”
A grill with a smoker function is a popular option for Maxwell’s clients. “You can put in mesquite or other chips for added flavor,” she reports. Rotisseries are another big item she offers her clients.
Where there is a major grill, there is a need for ventilation, note designers. “In the past, a hood was not a popular option, but with today’s built-in grills, it’s a must,” comments Maxwell. “Grills now are so big, and there is a lot of smoke that needs to be cleared.”
Pizza ovens are another major request for outdoor kitchens; this is an area where kitchen and bath designers can add significantly to the bottom line. “We’re doing a lot of pizza ovens outside, and they are definitely a big ticket item,” comments Maxwell. She notes that while she has also installed them indoors, they are much more costly and there are a lot more considerations inside, so people are moving them outdoors.