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The Summer’s Hit: Bringing the Kitchen Outdoors

Landscape by Schumacher Companies

(Landscape: Schumacher Companies)

Haven’t had a moment to keep up with the latest and greatest trends of the entertaining season? Fear not! We’re here to get to the bottom of the summer's hot topic - bringing the convenience of a sophisticated outdoor kitchen to your yard.

An American Society of Landscape Architects survey brought attention to the popularity of outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces nearly equaling gardens and landscaped spaces. Many homeowners (83%) indicate that their backyard is “an ideal entertaining space” according to Houzz’s 2014 Spring Landscaping Trends Study. Outdoor kitchens are becoming more and more stylized and practical with all-weather materials nearly indistinguishable from the appliances and cabinetry found inside your own home. Follow these installation tips if you are ready to get rid of that charcoal grill and upgrade to an outdoor kitchen built to impress you and your guests for years to come.

A strong influence on how often you use your outdoor kitchen relies on where exactly it is placed. Placing the kitchen area far from your house and indoor kitchen results with the inconvenience of rummaging back and forth, making the space too inaccessible. Prepping, cooking and cleaning the outside may feel like a chore. If you do plan to incorporate a kitchen far from the house, it is crucial to install a sink with hot water, a refrigerator, and enough storage for the dry goods, dishes and utensils. The total cost will increase for these additional conveniences, but will keep your outdoor kitchen self-sufficient for plentiful use.

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When determination of the outdoor kitchen’s proximity to the house, it is important to keep conscious of how it incorporates to the rest of your landscaping. This will give guests and cooks easy access to the indoors as well as your yard and pool, if applicable.

Finally, be sure to take advantage of your landscape’s views when placing your kitchen. Make sure your guests are not forced to stare at a house or garage wall, and protect them from smoke released from the cooking area – be mindful of your property’s prevailing winds so the smoke is not overwhelming. Your own privacy should also be taken into account. The best outdoor kitchens have a sense of private coziness. If your space does not provide ample privacy, consider saving room in your budget to install plants for screening.

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Once the placement is set, look to plan the main elements of your kitchen. A way to approach this is to organize your outdoor kitchen into three zones: food prep, cooking, and clean-up. A fourth zone of entertainment should also be considered.

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Cooking Zone
The centerpiece of your outdoor kitchen is the grill, of course. Quality grills can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the brand, number of burners, and level of customization. There are many options when it comes to cooking outside; if you can find it indoors, it can be found for the outdoors. Other elements of this zone you will need to consider are how many side-burners you will need for sautéing and boiling and if you want a built-in or stand-alone smoker.

Trending now are wood burning brick pizza ovens. These can be made of cement or brick, but you can also find stainless steel pizza ovens that use gas if burning wood for cooking is not something you want to tackle.

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Food Prep Zone
Countertop space. Say it with me: countertop space. This is the main focus of this zone, making sure to clear at least 3 to 4 feet of space for food preparation. Additionally, a good 16” on each side of any element, like a side-burner or the grill, is suitable. If entertaining larger groups on a regular basis is a priority, you should look into including appliances such as a refrigerator, beverage center, and/or icemaker. If you are feeling overly luxurious, a warming drawer could be incorporated to warm towels or robes for those cool mornings and evenings spent by the pool.

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Clean-up Zone
In the least, this zone can be an area for stacking dirty dishes before bringing them inside or a hot water sink with garbage disposal and trash containers. Having a dishwasher and/or a built-in trash receptacle in your outdoor kitchen may be of value if you often host large groups to allow for easy clearing and organization of dirty dishes. These appliances will also keep bees and pests from disturbing your guests!

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Entertainment Zone
Consider including an island bar area within your outdoor kitchen design for guests to sit and dine with you while you prepare and cook. Whether your guests convene at the bar or another sitting area in the yard, make sure that there is ample shade for them. Trees, patio covers, pergolas, or simply umbrellas can be adapted for the needs of any outdoor setup.

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Don’t Forget

Utilities - Sinks need hot water and sewage connections, refrigerators need 110 voltage and gas grills need natural gas lines. It will be most costly to install the farther these utilities have to extend from the house to connect.

Materials - Avoid using porous stones, like limestone, which can absorb stains easily. The best material choices to use for your outdoor kitchen are sealed granite and stainless steel.

Lighting - Thorough light planning is essential as most entertaining carries through the evening hours. Cooking and entertainment areas require lighting for chefs to cook and guests to comfortably dine and socialize.

TV and Sound Systems - Even if you are not choosing to install an outdoor television or sound system, make sure to plan wiring for easy incorporation should you (or prospective buyers if you ever plan to sell) choose to make additions in the future.

Weather - If you continue to use your outdoor space in the early spring and fall, consider purchasing a gas patio heater and plan for their placement in the design phase. Though they are extremely effective, their size takes up a chunk of room. If you don’t account for their placement during the design stage, there may not be appropriate space for them near your guest seating areas.

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Endless Possibilities
The advancements in technology, materials and design methods allow for outdoor kitchens survival for years throughout the harsh New England weather. Design is a crucial aspect of your outdoor kitchen no matter how expensive the kitchen. Being thorough with the design phase will ensure providing the outdoor space of your dreams.

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