Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It is important that you consider your needs when designing your own custom outdoor kitchen. Imagine the last time you used your grill and ate outside. What could have been better? Where did you need more space for preparation or for seating? Often I am in a customers backyard and s/he will walk me over to several neighboring backyard so I can see what other people have done with the same space available to this homeowner. I work to impress the necessity to consider your own habits and usage in the design rather than how good you will look to your neighbors.

When you are creating an outdoor kitchen, the first thing to consider to make is the type of grill or grills you are going to use. Once the built in grill has been chosen and prepared various accessories , the space a overall shape of the grill island should be considered. Mostly, the shape the outdoor kitchen takes will be chosen by the space where the island will be constructed. Your specific use can create the shape, especially if you will use the counter for seating and serving guests. There are some obvious generalizations that evolve in outdoor kitchen design that we can discuss but the important result for you is to consider the decisions that work for other homes to allow your imagination to go to work designing your own perfect space.

We are convinced that  the first step of designing and building an outdoor kitchen should be to examine your cooking habits and selecting the right accessories, the next step is definitely researching the designs and exploring the shape of the spot where you would like to build. Often a client will present a rough design for the part of the custom backyard they would like us to build but when we meet in the space we find a better spot for the outdoor kitchen.

Another design may need much less and just a grill with a lot of counter space for preparation and serving is used. The backyard chef allowing themselves a beautiful space to cook complimenting the lines of the home.

The easiest grill island to design is straight. The idea of the straight grill island is similar to the cart grill that stays in one spot of the yard. Instead of a standardized cart grill in the same spot, a little imagination can help create a grill island with a lot of space to serve and prepare your food for grilling. Most of these designs have a wall of the house that is not being used. Often I will look for the spot where electricity and plumbing is stubbed outside the wall or running in the wall to a kitchen or bathroom.

This island was obviously built to fit the space onside to walls inside a covered patio. The depth of the walls did not allow for the grill we chose so we invented a decorative movement that gives us the depth we need for the infrared grill and gives some character to an otherwise straight run of stucco. Electricity and plumbing were already available and the window placement seems to be made for the positioning of the grill centered in the outdoor kitchen. We covered up some damages to the wall with a backsplash and placed extra electrical boxes to allow for future use of lights, coffee pots, rotisserie motor and blenders.

The most popular outdoor kitchen design we custom build on-site is the 90 degree L-share design. This design is always the same in a general way be is always customized to the size and use of each individual client. Some clients will use the extra leg for seating, others for serving, some for under-counter storage and many will combine the usefulness of the additional counter for several good practical reasons. The units can be very small to fit a space inside a wall or as long as the length of the entire patio. Often it is treated like two units with two definitive uses.

This first outdoor kitchen example has polished marble — yes marble, that is not granite. I usually try to stop homeowners from using marble on a countertop because it is so porous and tends to absorb stains. The polishing process protects the stone and seals it just like when granite is polished.

This example of an outdoor kitchen at an angle adds to the decor of the custom gazebo and allows for more storage, accessories and counter space. We cut the granite overhang at a concave shape to wrap the existing columns perfectly. The dry stacked ledge stone matches nicely with the granite counter and the wood gazebo above.

The third example had plumbing and electric run to the spot as part of the original architectural design of the home. The L shaped design was perfect for the space inside the wall angle. Where a dead zone would normally be created, we placed a small under-mounted round sink. We also matched the color and texture of the stucco t make it impossible to tell the grill island was added after the original home was built.

When the space allows for it and the necessity for a lot of space is a concern, wrapping the countertop allows for a full kitchen space outdoors. I have built outdoor kitchens that had dishwashers, ice machines, several refrigerators and seating for ten. Custom built outdoor kitchen are generally priced by square footage of materials so these styles get much more expensive.

Last example has a lot of seating for comfort. Large grill and side burner complimented with access doors, built in drawers and electrical boxes for additional appliances on the countertop. Although granite is probably the best countertop, porcelain tile has been the most popular choice for matching or complimenting accents through the yard. As with any tile the weak part of the design is grout. On these fully-exposed outdoor kitchens, the tile and grout should be sealed quarterly to ensure resistance to bacteria.

As you consider the right outdoor kitchen for you, force yourself to make three different designs in two separate areas of the yard. Looking at the other directions will make you question the “natural” design to ensure the final custom built grill-island matches the use and the decor of your overall design. I have seen outdoor kitchen that were rarely used because the design was not well thought out and I’ve seen very simple designs that were perfect, appreciated and used on a daily basis.

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