This year’s “House Beautiful” kitchen of the year, created with celebrity chef Tyler Florence, takes the heart of the home outside in a kitchen that extends outdoors in a big way. The U-shaped outdoor kitchen — set up in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center this summer — boasts a design that rivals most indoor kitchens, with its fireplace, brick oven and stainless steel appliances, all held together in gray, stacked stone.Ruth Ann Taylor, a certified kitchen and bath designer with the Pittsboro-based Cassedy & Fahrbach Design Partners, expects the magazine’s 2011 kitchen to spur a trend for more outdoor kitchens. She says she’s seen some easing off due to the economy, but outdoor kitchens actually can increase a home’s value and create differentiation in the current real estate market.To add a unique element to the kitchen, designers often will suggest auxiliary areas, like a desk; wine, wet or dry bar; or baking, laundry or media center.“Having the ability to cook outdoors is definitely a value add,” Taylor says. “I think everyone should have a grill outside at least. If they’ve got space — even if just around a grill — it’s a great, inexpensive way to increase your cooking ability in your home.”
So What’s an Outdoor Kitchen?
An outdoor kitchen is any type of food preparation space outside. It can be as simple as a grill with table space around it or as elaborate as a full interior kitchen with a grill, cooktop, sink, refrigerator and pull-out garbage can. It can be as small as 5 or 6 feet or as large as an interior kitchen — as large as you want it to be. An outdoor kitchen can be exposed completely or placed partially or fully under a covered space. If it’s under a covered area, it will require proper ventilation. Outdoor kitchens can be as inexpensive as $2,000 or as high as $30,000 or more. It all depends on how elaborate you want your outdoor kitchen to be. “A lot of times, people will build stonework to surround a kitchen,” Taylor says. “You have to factor in that cost. It can get pretty costly.”
To Build or Not to Build?
Besides adding value to a house, people choose to build outdoor kitchens for a number of reasons: The ability to cook outdoors more conveniently. A well-planned outdoor kitchen can prevent the need to run in and out of the house with clean or dirty platters or utensils. Ease of entertaining. Even with little space, outdoor kitchens can provide a place for guests to sit around and talk with the hosts as they grill. Al fresco dining. Dining outdoors can be even simpler when all the preparation and cooking is done outside as well.
Take Inventory of What You Need
If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to take inventory of just what you need: Do you want a simple extension of your indoor kitchen? Perhaps a grill, counterspace and outdoor garbage can would be enough. Do you want to entertain and have full meals outside? Are outdoor entertaining spaces already available? Do you want any or all food preparation to be done outside? How much cooking do you want to do outside?
Choose Your Materials Carefully
In addition to planning the space, think carefully about the materials you want to use and be aware that outdoor kitchens tend to take a beating even if under covered areas. When selecting a countertop, consider the space you’re working with and choose a material that won’t get too hot or be adversely affected by the weather. Some possible materials to consider are granite, tile, concrete and stacked stone. Larger pieces of flagstone are an option when little space is needed, such as simply for holding platters.Granite and quartz can get hot, and granite will crack if it expands too much, Taylor says.“Quartz will possibly fade,” she says, noting the countertop material has a lot of manmade colors. “I know most of the quartz companies will not warranty their tops if put outside, so I would not use that as an option.” For the cabinetry, consider stainless steel, teak or a polymer material that would be more weather resistant. But be prepared to see water spots on the stainless steel, eve if it’s partially covered. Consider some type of tile or decking material for the flooring, but be sure to use something with a slip-resistant finish that does not absorb water.
Taylor considers the following to be must-haves for an outdoor kitchen: Hidden garbage can — Choose a pull-out garbage can that is hidden inside a cabinet. “It’s so much better than seeing somebody have their big old, black plastic trash can that they’re scraping food into,” Taylor says. “You want it to be aesthetically pleasing.” Storage — Be sure to include drawers for storing cutting boards and grill tools, easing food preparation and cooking. “A lot of times when you’re grilling outside, you hang them up and then take them in and wash them,” Taylor says. “We don’t think through the possibility of them staying outside.” Refrigeration — Auxiliary refrigeration that sits under a counter is a must-have for easy entertaining. Think beverage cooler and ice maker. But it’s also a must-have for keeping food cool and insects at bay. Refrigerator drawers can hold your meats and vegetables until you’re ready to grill.Got a remodeling story to suggest? Or would you like to see a particular aspect of remodeling featured? Contact Catherine Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.