Demand for outdoor living space has increased exponentially as home owners want to enjoy nature and its benefits, as well as expand indoor square footage. Top of the list for many is a kitchen, according to an AIA Home Design Trends survey. “Homeowners continue to find new ways to add value to their homes by creating more functional space, which is apparent in the rise in popularity of outdoor kitchens,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.
Yet, at a time when many homeowners are downsizing, the fully-outfitted outdoor kitchen is no longer the go-to first choice. Many are thinking smaller, fewer appliances and less cabinetry and countertops. Bigger doesn’t translate automatically into better meals. Here’s what’s most essential, according to California-based landscape designer Michael Glassman, co-author of The Garden Bible (Images Publishing).
Locate your choices for comfort and functionality. There’s no single location that works best, but Glassman offers four guidelines to help:
- Keep it out of strong sunlight or shade
- Site it near a door into the main kitchen to make transporting food and supplies easier;
- Have it in an area with enough room to navigate to cook, serve, clean up and accommodate some company for the grill master by adding in a countertop and seating or a table;
- Incorporate some protection from hot sun, shade and rain, possibly an umbrella or a more elaborate pergola.
Pick equipment you will use. You don’t really need all the kitchen bells and whistles, if your main goal is to grill just burgers, dogs and veggies and your indoor kitchen is steps away from the house. Buy a quality gas model that you can connect to a propane tank so you don’t have to light it each time—or maybe a hybrid with an electric option. Be sure it’s large enough—at least 36 inches–and comes with a cover to close it and keep away bugs. Many good models run between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on size and features.
If you want to splurge a bit, we’ve spied good options that are built into a surround with counter space, storage, small refrigerator, sink and GFCI outlet for about $5,000. Want a pizza oven, too? There are many economical models if the built-in stone traditional version that conjures up Tuscany is too costly or large. Some are even portable and available for less than $300. Winter is a good time to explore all options for a deal at a favorite kitchen shop or big-box store. If you have the funds and special needs, include them from the get-go. Glassman has several Indian clients who view the outdoor kitchen as a second, full-fledged work space to keep pungent smells out of the house. He also has designed some of these with dishwashing equipment to make clean-up easier
Consider countertop and storage choices for your climate. Durability and upkeep are key to withstand sun and cold, and the most practical cabinet materials are natural stone, concrete, tile or brick. Some homeowners like the look of stainless steel for cabinetry—and so it matches their grill, but be aware of upkeep required.