WRITER | SCOTT PHILP
PHOTO | LANDSCAPE LOGIC
Homeowners have found themselves spending more time outdoors in the last year than ever before and are capitalizing on the options available for their outdoor living spaces.
Conventional patios and outdoor kitchens have evolved over recent years into living areas with entertainment, shelter capabilities, and ever-increasing amenities.
Although traditional site-built masonry outdoor kitchens are still trendy, prefabricated steel-frame kitchens are gaining popularity as well. These units have a galvanized steel frame and are clad in cement board, ready for the masonry surface material of choice to be installed. They are lightweight, require a minimal footing, and shorten the installation time for the project. These cabinets are customizable, with detailed construction drawings generated by the fabricator for each project’s specific layout and appliances.
Pre-built stainless-steel kitchens have also increased in popularity in recent years as more offerings are available for many spaces and different uses. These kitchens are pre-built for a shorter install time, can be modular, have many possibilities for surface color, and are a great option for upgrading an existing patio space.
Pizza ovens are also increasingly sought after. Whether wood-fired, gas-fired, or electric, these units are available in myriad options. The possibilities are vast when considering adding an outdoor pizza oven to your outdoor living space.
For the grilling connoisseur, smokers have gained popularity in recent years. Due to the popularity of The Big Green Egg, smokers are now available in many brands, sizes, and styles. Incorporating these seamlessly into an outdoor kitchen takes a keen design eye, as their round, tapered nature can make them challenging to add to a kitchen. Certain traditional grills have smoker capabilities as well.
Homeowners seeking to enjoy time outside during the spring/fall shoulder seasons have sparked many heating and outdoor living space options. While traditional wood-burning fire pits still certainly have their place, many homeowners are opting for gas fire pits, whether conventional round units or those that incorporate sleek, edgy design and materials. When selecting a fire pit, be conscious of how its design might be useful when the burner is not in use. Units with a wider edge may be used for resting plates or glasses during gatherings.
A waterproof roof is a great choice for homeowners looking to use their outdoor kitchen in all weather, all while protecting their investment in appliances, furniture, and electronics. While conventional wood structures with asphalt or metal roofing are good choices, they are considered permanent structures and can carry a higher cost, as they need to meet building codes.
Canopies of lightweight hard panels can be a great seasonal choice for shelter during the summer months but need to be taken down for winter as they will not support the snow load.
Shade sail canopies (parasols) are also a great option for shade and as protection from the rain. These large triangular pieces of fabric need solid anchor points at their corners and may require some planning before installation.
As other amenities have progressed in outdoor living, so has entertainment. Televisions, projection screens, and full audio systems are now part of outdoor kitchen design. They can be controlled by a traditional remote, Bluetooth, or Smart Home’s control app.
Edgy design in outdoor living has gained popularity as modern architecture in home design has gained traction. Conventional materials are being used in innovative ways and introduce new surfaces and textures to an outdoor kitchen.
Color is taking front stage in outdoor design as well. Accent colors add personality and fun and can be swapped out for different seasons.
Outdoor kitchen storage has become increasingly creative in recent years. Dual-purpose counters/cabinets/shelves are integral to good design and are readily available in the marketplace.
Simplicity in design is paramount for flexibility. Many clients choose to keep built-in elements simple, opting for modular countertop appliances to maintain maximum serving area on their countertops when secondary appliances are not in use.
Whatever your desires for an outdoor kitchen, anticipate shipping delays due to both material and labor shortages; suppliers are sometimes behind in filling orders.
Consulting a landscape architect or landscape design professional for your outdoor kitchen project will ensure your project will fall within local building code and township zoning. These professionals are familiar with material and appliance options and design trends that can maximize the enjoyment and efficiency of your space.