Backyard Kitchen Design TipsProfessional advice for creating a functional outdoor cooking space
This island design with its sink and lots of counter space on both sides provides for both food prep and clean up without crowding. Note the change of paving between the grill and the island, which is more adaptable to steam cleaning than the high end paving used in more visible parts of this outdoor entertaining space in Las Vegas.
Kitchen design Dawn Whyte stresses the importance of a sink and faucet that is large enough for cleanup of larger platters and trays.
Note the paver stripe along the face of the grill that allows these units to be replaced in the future if they become discolored by the long term build-up of fine grease splatter.
Though modest in its design, using a long wing on one side provides an expansive food prep space as well as a convenient buffet and clean up area.
This lovely dining area extends pricey cantera stone tile right up to the grill. In time it will discolor from spatter at the grill, and may stand out from the rest of the patio.
There is nothing like experience when it comes to kitchen design. Using a knowledgeable designer is key to creating a space that is just as functional as an indoor kitchen. This designer is even more important when the project includes all the latest outdoor appliances and other amenities that must be carefully arranged to work with you and your lifestyle. "The kitchen is the heart of the home, but it's so much more than that."
"Grease build up in paving around the grill can cause staining, and over time become slipperly, particularly when wet. Paving choice must resist stain and allow cleaning," says Dawn Whyte of Designs by Dawn, at the Lake Street Design Studio.
Failure to run a large gas line
Whyte also says, "Some of the large capacity grills and high powered side burners demand a generous supply of gas. Many existing gas lines are 1/2" or 3/8", which are inadequate for these new grills and therefore we have problems with poor performance. We always insist on a 3/4" gas line and though it may seem excessive, we get too many complaints about grills that are really just a gas supply problem."
While dark stone counters are visually beautiful indoors, according to Whyte, they get too hot in the summer outdoors when not sheltered by an overhead structure. In general, dark stone absorbs heat during the day and may become difficult to work on where exposed to direct sun.
Scrimping on the grill
"Budget about $5,000 for a very good grill. Lynx professional grills are the best American made product with good quality stainless steel and flawless metalwork. The sign of cheaper grills is thin stainless steel and poor quality corners where you'll find the inconsistencies typical of those made in China for other big name brands," explains Whyte.
Sink is too small
Some kitchens utilize very small sinks, but then become frustrated trying to rinse a dinner plate, much less a serving platter. Whyte often sees newer kitchens upgraded with larger sinks. If it's necessary indoors, it's equally important outside.
Insufficient counter space
One of the most common mistakes is a lack of counter space for food prep and in particular, landing zones for food and utensils in busy areas such as around the grill or burner. Chris Major of Blue Ridge Landscaping in Michigan stresses this in his designs for clients at home. "I like to cook, and if you're treating the outdoor kitchen like your real kitchen, you need the circulation and counter top space to function perfectly. Nobody wants a space that leads to confusion because there aren't enough surfaces planned. Circulation around the grill is crucial so don't try to pack too much into a small space around the grill."
Whyte pays special attention to grill location relative to late afternoon summer sun. If not positioned correctly this direct exposure can impair visibility for the cook in this difficult light.
Luxury home landscaper Corey Bittner of Neave Group Outdoor Solutions of New York stresses the importance of safety with any part of a landscape that involves water and fire. "With any kind of outdoor structure involving fire and electric, safety is very important. We are not electricians and plumbers, so here in New York we hire top quality tradesmen. But we see projects with infrastructure that isn't safe because it wasn't done by professionals to sufficient quality and properly inspected."
"From a design point of view, clients don't think it all the way through, and sometimes they're adding afterthoughts, which create problems. Far too often things are the wrong size, shape and location. We plan for everything ahead of time. Otherwise it costs twice as much to go in later with remodeling because you're retrofitting the site. Our clients want a whole environment for 8 to 10 people to eat, drink and enjoy, which makes designing a top notch outdoor kitchen a lot like a restaurant. That's why we resolve everything in advance even when its built in phases so that sleeving and utilities are properly installed to code and are safe for current and future use."
Plan for Upgrades
Sometimes the current budget doesn't allow for everything desired within an outdoor kitchen. Therefore a well planned final build-out may include provisions for future expansions or upgrades.
Dimmers on Lighting
Lighting is important for using the outdoor kitchen after dark. To maximize the adaptability of your lighting, such as a hot spot on the grill, add dimmers to your switches so you can crank it up to check the steaks, then soften that lighting for a romantic meal without installing extra fixtures.