While outdoor entertaining has always been one of summer’s favored casual pastimes, today’s outdoor kitchens offer so much more than just fresh air, sunshine and the delicious aroma of burgers cooking on the BBQ.
The simple grill has been replaced with elaborate, multi-functional cooking appliances – including hybrid grills that cook with wood, charcoal or gas – plus warming drawers, griddles, pizza ovens and more. Often, the space may be rounded out with fire pits, bars and beverage centers, upscale cabinets and countertops, lighting, tile designs to rival the fanciest indoor backsplash murals, plus dishwashers, wine units and entertainment centers that include everything from big screen TVs to audio equipment.
Neither are these spaces used just for summertime; many use them year-round as a way to expand their kitchen space and enjoy an extended array of cooking and entertaining options. And, while outdoor kitchens are prevalent in warmer climes such as Florida, California and Arizona, they are also turning up in places like Chicago, where summer is a season, not a way of life.
These spaces are also all over the map when it comes to size and location. From sprawling and scenic paradises to small jewel-box-like spaces to rooftop kitchens and more, today’s outdoor spaces have homeowners re-envisioning what it means to enjoy cooking and dining in the great outdoors. Likewise, today’s designers are taking up the challenge of creating sophisticated spaces for a variety of budgets that are perfect for entertaining, escaping or just being one with nature.
This month, KBDN looks at a trio of outdoor kitchens that bring their own unique flair to outdoor entertainment.
SMALL SPACE STYLE
Although most people envision sprawling vistas when they think of extravagant outdoor living spaces, a clever and creative designer can pack plenty of luxury into even a smaller space with a limited budget. That was the case when Kathryn Prideaux of the Tucson, AZ-based Prideaux Design took on this 1,000-sq.-ft space with a poorly patched up 24’x48′ flagstone patio that needed a complete overhaul.
While the space was limited, the views were not; the patio faces the green of a golf course with a stunning backdrop of city lights at night. The homeowners wanted to maintain both the views of the golf course and a large, shade-bearing Acacia tree, while building an outdoor haven with a spa/pool, fire pit, outdoor kitchen, dining area, sitting area, sunning area and nap bench. And, they wanted something that would be visually spectacular.
A major challenge was fitting all the different functions into the space. As Prideaux explains, “The design process was akin to putting the pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle together – on a tiny tray-table!” However, she notes, “The simplicity of the solution comes from the shared use of space: The walls of the spa/pool also serve to define the adjoining outdoor rooms. Each space functions independently, but can be enjoyed simultaneously. Walls and divisions are low – allowing conversations and people to flow freely.”
She continues, “The overall aesthetic of the space is a modern interpretation of traditional hacienda style. Many of the materials are traditionally used in the Southwest, but in conjunction with clean lines and simple forms, this approach is a fresh twist on the expected. This finished space allows for truly gracious outdoor living in the Arizona desert. The size of the space – and the ‘gems’ contained within – create a ‘Desert Jewel Box.’
Eldorado Stone Mountain Blend Stacked Stone was chosen to add drama, and the space’s vibrant color scheme has plenty of impact, with the ice blue ceramic tile visually cooling the space.
Sustainability and environmental awareness were also considered throughout the process, Prideaux explains, citing the use of local materials for all the finishes, passive water harvesting and a low-water-consumption native plant palette.
As far as trends in outdoor kitchens overall, she sees two opposing trends: “You have people who are taking the outdoor kitchen to extreme levels, with every appliance option possible, very elaborate…and then you see the ones that are very utilitarian.” Sometimes, she notes, tiny outdoor kitchen spaces are hidden behind doors, almost like the little house movement, filled with just what the clients need and nothing extra.
Prideaux is also using a lot of solutions that involve Cosentino’s Dekton surfacing material, which she says, “I’m very excited about, because you’re so limited on materials for countertops outdoors, and granite is sort of past its moment.”
While some people like the occasional BBQ night, this San Diego kitchen, featured in a big outdoor cabana room, was designed for clients “who wanted to do everything outdoors.” As Alicia Marshall, owner of Innovative Outdoor Kitchens explains it, “They wanted to be able to make breakfast, lunch and dinner outdoors if they wanted to. So we made sure the space has plenty of appliances.”
She continues, “On one side we have an Alfresco BBQ, power burner and warming drawer, and on the power burner you can also do a Teppanyaki griddle so you can stir fry veggies, do bacon and eggs, etc.”
The other side features a True glass door beverage center, a bartending center and a sink and faucet. She notes, “The client entertains a lot in the big bar area, so the bartending center is completely separate from the sink – they can fill it with ice and put their wine bottles in there.”
Cabinetry from Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens in a custom powder-coated finish plays an essential role in the design, with the louver door cabinets not only adding warm, earthy tones to the aesthetic, but also providing storage for everything from regular kitchen staples to stereo and TV equipment.
Marshall cites the countertops as both an eye-catching design element and a functional asset to the space. She says, “They are Nacarado Quartzite, in a leathered finish that holds up really well outdoors.”
While she maintains, “The weather is great all the time here,” a fireplace and outdoor TV set in the center of the space provide a perfect gathering spot for cooler nights.
As far as overall outdoor kitchen trends, Marshall says, “I’m doing a lot of remodels and they’re all tearing out their stucco islands to include exterior-rated cabinets to truly bring the inside out. A lot of times we’re matching door styles to the indoor [cabinets]. We’re seeing colors, and cabinets made to look like wood, even though they’re powder-coated stainless steel. Cabinets are very functional, and a great place to house all of your TV and stereo equipment. We also put in a dual pull-out trash, because people want them for functionality.”
She continues, “We’re doing a lot of master bedroom decks as well, with a sink, a wine fridge, anything to meet their needs so they don’t have to go downstairs. And we are doing more rooftop decks. These are really big when land is at a premium; they don’t have yards so they entertain up on the roof.”
KITCHEN FINISHES OUTDOOR HAVEN
While most people think of outdoor kitchens as exclusive to warm weather climates, living in a cooler region doesn’t preclude the love of entertaining outdoors. In the case of this Lake Forest, IL space, designer Frank Mariani of Lake Bluff, IL took on a comprehensive project for a 10-acre space that had been evolving for decades. According to Mariani, the project originally began with the pool and space around it. As the vegetable garden grew, an orchard was established, and a kitchen was needed to complete the luxurious outdoor haven.
The goal for the kitchen was to create a highly functional space that would make outdoor entertaining effortless and enjoyable.
To provide cooking versatility, the space features a Hybrid Fire Built-in Grill from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet that can burn wood, charcoal and gas, allowing the homeowners to enjoy the unique flavors associated with each of these grilling methods. A double cooktop is located next to the grill to further enhance cooking capabilities in the space.
Stainless steel refrigerator drawers provide storage for food and beverages, while a wine cooler protects the client’s collection of wine from UV rays.
The kitchen is finished with Kalamazoo weather-tight cabinetry, which features seamless rain gutters surrounding every door and drawer opening to keep the contents safe and dry year round. ▪