(Above) Photograph by Jimi Smith
French chef and restauranteur, Daniel Boulud is quoted as saying, “Kitchens should be designed around what is important—fun, food, and life.” The same desire for what is important is found in the designs of outdoor kitchens and alfresco entertainment spaces. Creative ideas and enhanced innovation are delivering the ultimate in outdoor enjoyment, dining, and living.
The importance delivered in design ideas for outdoor kitchens begins from a very personal as well as practical perspective. “We have found that outdoor spaces have taken on a new personality in recent years,” says Lisa Davenport, founder and CEO, LDD Interiors. “They are no longer just outdoor spaces; but truly extensions of the home. The options available for [outdoor] cabinetry are as plentiful as those for interiors and appliances are expanding to more than a grill, sink, and fridge.”
Davenport designs curated yet livable spaces while still reflecting each client’s personality. For outdoor kitchens, the design goes beyond fabrics and finishes, and addresses functionality more than any other “room” outdoors.
“Clean lines, simplicity, and approachable were the words the clients used,” explains Davenport of a Naples Club Estate project. “In this design, the outdoor kitchen offers plenty of counter space while the clients opted-out of a traditional bar with seating. Instead, we designed a self-serve bar area with a six-foot trough to hold beverages on ice. Not only is it convenient, but it also helps define the primary dining area apart from the other outdoor spaces.”
Definition of areas for entertainment, cooking, and eating within an outdoor kitchen design can be subtle while delivering a connection that runs throughout an entire outdoor living plan.
“The [kitchen] design needs to be cohesive with the overall master plan for the outdoor environment; but the products included become more personal from client to client,” states Tal Thevenot, CEO and principal, AquaTerra Outdoors. “When it comes to kitchens, I like to listen to the clients ‘want list’ and then expose them to opportunities and creative ideas.”
Within AquaTerra Outdoors’ Fair Oaks project, the outdoor pavilion seamlessly connects a kitchen, a dining area, and a fire-side lounging area. “Throughout the outdoor space, which sits adjacent to the pool, furnishings, lighting, and appliances were planned to include ‘must-haves’ and personalized and custom-built items,” comments Thevenot. “What is included is a part of our process of understanding and accommodating our client’s outdoor lifestyle.”
For DW Design Build, of Newport Beach, California, principal designer Danny Wang sees current trends in luxury residential kitchen designs now including pergolas and louvered shade systems to allow the outdoors to present a more indoor feel as well as the extensive use of lighting for undercounter, barbeque, or ambient.
“We are also seeing requests for complex, high-end grills and enhanced audio-visual elements,” relates Wang.
“Outdoor kitchens are being fashioned in commercial-grade style and replicating catering kitchens from appliances to cabinetry.”
While innovation is occurring throughout outdoor kitchen designs, two areas experiencing curated attention are cabinetry designs and grilling proficiency.
In the area of custom cabinetry, options for bringing color, style, and convenience into a personalized and functional design are expanding.
“We understand what people look for in an indoor kitchen and how they like to entertain has largely shaped what NatureKast offers for the outdoors,” states Terry Bakker, director of design & marketing at NatureKast, a manufacturer of weatherproof wood alternative outdoor cabinetry. “Our philosophy has been to produce a line of cabinetry that allows creative freedom, while working with the multiple appliances that are available these days.”
The NatureKast line provides a long list of configurations, but also colorations that have been well received by designers. Finished, built-in looks are available through the addition of coordinated molding and trim elements.
“It is now possible to incorporate a particular design style into backyard spaces, from modern or transitional or traditional design elements extending the interior style outdoors,” relates Bakker. “We also are constantly working with innovative appliance partners to bring new ideas to the marketplace.”
Appliances are the finishing touch for the ultimate outdoor kitchen. With each season, innovation in this category is exploding.
“Consumers are stepping up their grilling prowess via videos or television programming featuring creative outdoor grilled dishes,” says Keith J. Guidry, regional sales manager at Blaze Grills. “We share this passion, and our team of professionals is committed to building relationships with top designers, chefs, and outdoor grilling connoisseurs to allow us to stay in front of consumer demand and product development.”
With the most recent rise in consumer demand for “Griddle Cooking,” Blaze has introduced a 30” all stainless-steel built-in appliance that performs like a commercial hibachi. “This griddle, which is currently the third most requested component behind grills and side-burners, feeds the passion for experimenting in outdoor cooking while withstanding whatever Mother Nature brings,” describes Guidry.
While cooking with gas, whether natural or propane, continues to be the preferred fuel for its clean burning and heat control features, other options are becoming a part of custom design outdoor kitchens. Cooking with charcoal or favored wood is one enjoyable option.
“Our Fire Magic Echelon Diamond features a charcoal smoker basket that allows cooking with both the convenience of gas and the flavor of charcoal bringing enhanced versatility to the grill,” comments Jerry Scott, senior vice president of sales for RH Peterson Co., manufacturer of Fire Magic. “Additionally, electric grills are growing in popularity with new models from Fire Magic debuting this fall.”
Adding another fun element to outdoor kitchen design can be found in the ability for appliances to not only deliver the “goods,” but also make a style statement.
“The grill not only must cook well, but it must also look good,” remarks Scott. “Fire Magic’s styling, with its curved oven and grill face accented by the lighted knobs, interior lighting, and the Magic View window, has been an eye-catcher for homeowners and has provided bragging rights for the beauty and performance of their outdoor kitchen.”
Ideas and innovation for the ultimate in outdoor kitchens, definitely worth bragging about. Get cooking!