Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Designing Trends - Outdoor Kitchens

One of the bigger trends over the last couple of years has been outdoor kitchens. Adding an outdoor kitchen can give structure to your back yard and provide an ideal outdoor entertaining area for family and guests. Outdoor kitchens can be as simple as just a built in grill or quite complex with sink, fridge and a whole assortment of accessories. The main key to having a successful outdoor kitchen is to design the kitchen to balance you wants, needs, budget and space.

There are Three distinctly different types of outdoor kitchens, the first being prefab/modular variety that you can pick up from Costco, Cal Spa or similar type stores and basically place it on a patio or a deck (that already has gas/water lines plumed) and you are done. The main selling point to the modular kitchen is ease/time to set up and cost. The main cons are limited options, fit & finish and the sizes available that might not meet your needs.

The second type is a site specific designed/custom built outdoor Kitchen that maximize the space and fits your specific needs. The main selling points to the custom Outdoor kitchens are that they will match your wish list for size and options, but they are typically more expensive than the modular kitchen.

The Third type is more like a hybrid of the first two concepts – it takes the custom built approach of the second concept but it does not incorporate the expensive built in grills, wine coolers, ice makers and other big ticket items .This concept uses your existing (or a new) free standing grill, and typically uses open spaces to hold large coolers (instead of fridges) and simple shelving vs. the weather poof expensive built in units. This concept can give you the custom built-in look without the price. All three concepts have their pros and cons, so please review your wants, needs, budget and space before jumping in.

The location of the outdoor Kitchen is critical to the flow of the outdoor space. The kitchen needs to be close to the main back door for hauling supplies/food, but it needs to be situated so it doesn’t interfere with the circulation flows of the outdoor space. Weather also needs to be considered for the space. Do you want a solid roof to keep the Kitchen dry (venting could be required for the smoke) or do you need shade from the intense heat of the sun? Will a strong wind gust require some shelter for the kitchen so smoke doesn’t overtake the residence? These are just a few of the questions that will need to be answered before placing the kitchen.

The size of an outdoor kitchen can vary greatly. Typically, the smallest outdoor kitchen will have room for just a grill and 36” counter space for prep work. The size of the kitchen from here will depend upon the options you want to have (sink, fridge, wine chillers, keg taps, wood burning pizza oven……you get the idea). Ideally you want to design the kitchen into 4 zones (hot [grill], cold [refrigeration], wet [sink] and dry [prep]) so you can cluster similar functions together. Smaller Kitchens will not have the cold and wet zones, but they will still have the hot and dry zones. Each piece of equipment in the outdoor kitchen will require space (landing) between them. The size of the space will depend upon the equipment, but it typically varies 12”-36” of landing space between the elements. The size of the kitchen will also depend upon who many people you want to sit at the bar area (typically 24”-36” for each seat). The standard shape for an outdoor kitchen is a linear island, but I recommend using the “L” or “U” shaped kitchen as this shape increases conversion opportunities between people and it also separates the cooking areas from the bar area.

If you like to grill outdoors, adding an outdoor kitchen is a must. It will add structure to you outdoor entertainment area. It would provide additional sitting/dining areas and would fit into the yard better than that free standing portable grill.

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