An outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a natural gas grill and some furniture. However, outdoor kitchens have gotten upscale recently, with a dizzying array of features and options.
Themes – Homeowners who choose custom fireplaces or fire pits can have a custom outdoor kitchen built at the same time. However, modular outdoor kitchen units and prefabricated kitchens (just add grill?) have expanded the choices that you have to bring interior decorating themes outdoors. Stucco, tile, mosaics and stainless steel are popular finishes and can be purchased fully finished or partially so, depending on how much of a do-it-yourselfer you are.
Even if you’re not the handyman type, prefabricated islands can be built to your specifications, says Anamaria Bearden, director of marketing at Cal Spas. “A majority of homeowners start out with a barbeque island and grow into other areas.” Bearden says, “Or they start with a spa and discover the outdoor lifestyle.”
Grills – Before the outdoor kitchen can be built, you’ll need to pick a grill for that space. You may think you’ll just be grilling brats and burgers outdoors, but once you start enjoying the outdoor lifestyle, chances are you’ll be bringing more of the meal preparation outside, which will necessitate a larger, more powerful grill.
New grills have more bells and whistles, including items like hot-surface ignition systems, built-in lights, infrared burners, rotisseries, smokers and multiple styles of side burners. At least one manufacturer even has a power hood that opens by remote control.
Furniture – Owning the hottest, best-looking outdoor kitchen on the block means nothing if you don’t have comfortable places for guests to gather, eat, converse and enjoy your hospitality.
The casual furniture you choose for your backyard, deck, patio or pool area is an important consideration. Over the past few years, the casual furnishings industry has embraced deep- seating collections, making outdoor furniture just as comfortable as its indoor counterparts but durable enough to withstand the rigors of the changing seasons. You have a wide array of options, including teak and jarrah wood furniture, wicker, tubular and cast aluminium, and even high-quality recycled plastic furniture that puts $5 grocery store chairs to shame. You don’t have to blow your budget on furniture, but you owe it to yourself and your guests to find the most comfortable furniture you can afford.
“The outdoors has turned into an extension of people’s homes,” says Kathy Haney, vice president at Outdoor Lifestyle. “With such a wide variety of frame finishes and fabrics, homeowners can make their own style statement.”
You should provide guests with bar-height chairs so they can relax around the island while you work, but you still will need to provide comfortable dining and lounging areas. Choices in casual furniture have grown with the outdoor category, giving you myriad choices in furniture type, style, fabric and finishes. Don’t see what you want at your local specialty retailer? Special orders are easy and can help craft the perfect look for your outdoor living room.
Accessories – A side range of complimentary products will help you imprint your sense of style on the outdoor room. To keep the sun at bay, umbrellas in matching or contrasting colors are popular choices. Like tables, umbrellas are getting larger and are available in octagon, square and rectangular shapes. Umbrellas can tilt to deflect the sun, and some even go up and down at the push of a button. Screens and awnings over the outdoor kitchen or seating groups can define the entertainment area.
Another relaxation option besides furniture is a hammock, with an optional stand that allows you to rock gently in style virtually anywhere. A water feature can add visual and aural excitement or serenity to any setting, while gaslights and torches add ambience. Wind chimes, gazing balls, statuary and extensive landscaping all should blend together to create the mood that you’re looking for – and a covered area can shelter you from the sun or rain.
Completing the look is extensive landscaping to help the pool or spa flow to the outdoor kitchen, the outdoor dining room, the cozy seating area and the indoors. Carefully planted trees and shrubs can help create the illusion of a secluded environment, and plants can add splashes of color as the seasons change.