Kitchen Contest Winner Brings the Indoors Out

Kalamazoo, MI — There were once only two types of people: outdoors people and indoors people. Now, thanks to the growing popularity of the gourmet outdoor kitchen, indoors types can venture into the wilds of the backyard without sacrificing their beloved indoor creature comforts.

The outdoor kitchen has grown into an entertaining space more opulent than the simple grills and picnic tables of the past. While the traditional grill still has its place, today’s outdoor kitchens feature everything from freezers and icemakers to pizza ovens and martini bars.

The first annual Oasis Award for Outdoor Kitchen Design, sponsored by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and Garden Design magazine, was established to honor the best and brightest designers of these spaces. According to the award’s creators, the Oasis Award seeks to “recognize the booming popularity and sophisticated design of today’s outdoor kitchens.”

Entries were solicited from design professionals across the spectrum, including kitchen designers, architects, landscape architects and interior designers and were judged by a panel of industry experts. The panel for this year’s competition included landscape architect and chef J’Nell Bryson, Pete Georgiadis, president of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Garden Design magazine, Bill Marken and interior designer and outdoor room specialist Sandy Koepke, ASID.

“This award celebrates the unlimited creativity that designers are bringing to outdoor entertaining spaces,” says Georgiadis.
Jon van Allen of McLean, VA-based McHale Landscape Design was selected for his expansive outdoor pavilion-style design.

The Winner

Van Allen, who has been a landscape architect for over 20 years, has worked on some 60 outdoor kitchens.

“I’ve been designing and installing quite a few outdoor kitchens with my current employer, McHale Landscape Design, Inc. – everything from simple grill counters to more elaborate pavilions with fireplaces, kitchen appliances, big screen TVs, with even a request for a dishwasher,” says the designer. “I wanted to have fun with this award entry and have it be all-inclusive of every luxury I could think of, keeping in mind that the main objective is the seamless flow with the outdoors.”

Marken notes that van Allen’s design “incorporates the latest high-style equipment in a landscape plan that makes the most of the spacious site and provides the owners with a gracious, comfortable space for outdoor entertaining for much of the year.”
Constructed of pressure-treated lumber with a dark gray slate roof, van Allen’s pavilion is situated on five acres in Great Falls, VA.

“My clients asked for an outdoor kitchen separate from the house, roofed and screened, complete with fireplace, flat-screen television, dining and informal seating areas,” comments the designer.

Outfitted with a gas/charcoal/wood hybrid grill from Kalamazoo, the space’s lavish accoutrements include a two-drawer refrigerator, lobster boiler, keg tapper, icemaker, wok cooktop, pizza oven and outdoor wine chillers. Practical elements are incorporated, such as the presence of Pennsylvania flagstone flooring in some of the spaces to make clean-up easy, and screens and heaters to make outdoor entertaining possible no matter what the weather.

The judges were particularly impressed by the versatility of the designed space, given its size.

“Jon did a nice job with scale,” noted Koepke. “It is a large space to design with, but he made it work.”

Van Allen attests that he has seen a rapidly growing interest in outdoor rooms.

“With all of the media coverage promoting outdoor living and great new products coming onto the market, using the outdoor space has really gone to the next level compared to 20 years ago,” he says. “Outdoor rooms, living spaces and kitchens have been around since or before Roman times; today, they obviously are a lot more refined. Providing all the creature comforts of living indoors has brought people outdoors.”

Out Is the New In

According to van Allen, designing comfortable outdoor spaces includes providing clients with all of the creature comforts they are accustomed to in their indoor spaces.

“Just think about the basics: control the outdoor climate with a fireplace, paddle fan or mist system. Keep insects away with screens or candles. Provide comfortable seating with easy-care fabrics and a cover over your head to keep rain and sun out. Install a media system like the one you have inside, although now there are sound systems expressly for outdoor use.
“Add fresh food, drink and – voilá – people who normally stay inside now prefer to be amid the beauty and fresh air outdoors,” says van Allen.

The interweaving of indoor/outdoor elements is evident in van Allen’s Oasis entry, from the inclusion of outdoor rugs and fine furnishings to heat lamps and ceiling fans.

The design centers on the proper and relative location of each element, and that is a primary consideration for van Allen when he is designing for this kind of space.

“I get many requests from the fathers that they desire a grill in close proximity to the patio or terrace where the entertaining is occurring, or they want a bar-height table nearby so they can converse with guests while they’re wearing their ‘grill master’ hat and cooking,” the designer says.

Van Allen’s winning entry was featured in the November issue of Garden Design and will also receive exposure at the upcoming annual meeting and expo of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The designer is a registered landscape architect in Texas and Virginia. Additionally, he has done landscape design in California and Washington. His work has appeared in Organic Gardening, Garden Design and on PBS.