No longer simply a place to grill, outdoor cooking spaces now often reflect their indoor counterparts.
AUTHORS Kim Berndtson | April 6, 2021
The pass-through window in the indoor wet bar gives Cheryl Hamilton-Gray’s clients the ability to prep drinks there, then hand them through the glass to guests outside. Another shared indoor/outdoor element is the stacked stone, double-sided fireplace, which includes a TV on each side. Photos: Preview First
When planning indoor kitchens, designers are frequently tasked with ‘bringing the outdoors in,’ which they often accomplish with material selections or a strategically positioned view of nature.
Interestingly, when creating cooking areas outside, it is becoming more common for designers to hear requests to ‘bring the indoors out,’ which ultimately results in spaces that can rival their interior counterparts.
“I’m seeing so much more interest in completing fully supported outdoor kitchens,” remarks Cheryl Hamilton-Gray, CKD, Hamilton-Gray Design in Oceanside, CA. “For years, we didn’t have an outdoor dishwasher. But now it – along with other outdoor appliances like warming cabinets and pizza ovens – makes it possible to create a space that is not only pretty for the barbecue, but is also complete and fully serviced the same way as an indoor kitchen.”
Michael Scott, senior design director, Romanza in Naples, FL, agrees. “Indoor/outdoor living is more prevalent than ever in southwest Florida, with high-end outdoor appliances, electronics and comfortable furnishings upholstered in outdoor fabrics in high demand,” he reports.
Hamilton-Gray made this outdoor kitchen feel special by giving the grill and ventilation hood focal-point status, with a ceramic tile backsplash that emulates the water tones from the pool.
Matt and Jenny Sneller, owners of Sneller Custom Homes & Remodeling in Spring, TX, find that nearly all of their projects include some sort of outdoor living and/or cooking element. “We do a lot of whole-home remodels and additions, and I’d say that nine out of 10 of them have some sort of covered patio space,” says Matt Sneller. “It gives people another place to hang out with family and friends.”
Even homeowners in northern climates are expressing greater interest in more sophisticated outdoor spaces.
“Our climate isn’t conducive to year ’round outdoor [cooking/dining] activities, but there’s still high demand for more elaborate living spaces with seating, fireplaces, firepits, outdoor kitchens and dining,” says Robert Gaskill, Gaskill Architecture in Portersville, PA. “We’re creating these outdoor living spaces that truly have a very strong connection of indoor and outdoor living. Everything that you would experience inside is becoming part of the outdoor living experience.”
Glenn and Angel Meader, co-owners of Good Life New England in Norwell, MA, are seeing similar trends. “Our outdoor projects have become much more involved and much more complex,” states Angel Meader, adding that the greater availability of products designed for the outdoors has made it easier for them to achieve a high level of design and sophistication their clients expect. “They are no longer simply grilling stations. Now, many of our clients want to truly replicate the conveniences and amenities they have inside.”
Many designers also indicate that the focus on outdoor kitchens and living areas has only strengthened in the past year given the challenges of COVID-19.
Robert Gaskill designed his own outdoor kitchen/seating area as an extension of the indoor living space, with the two rooms sharing the massive focal-point 7’x7′ chimney, which showcases a fireplace, TV, pizza oven and wood storage.
Photo: David Bryce Photography
“We were doing a fair amount of outdoor kitchens pre-COVID, but in the past year there has been a tremendous uptick for outdoor living spaces,” observes Angel Meader. “People want to be connected to nature. It’s comforting to them. They want their own resort in their backyard so they can safely gather with friends and family.”
The Snellers also report an increased attraction for the great outdoors in the midst of the pandemic. “People have grown tired of being in their homes,” says Matt Sneller. “Being able to cook outdoors makes it feel more like they are dining in a restaurant, rather than in their own kitchen.”
Hamilton-Gray has found that being cooped up indoors has also influenced how her clients approach their outdoor kitchens. “People have been doing a lot of research and are really educating themselves, especially with regard to appliances,” she explains. “Homeowners are actually naming brands, such as in one recent kitchen where a client specifically referenced a Kalamazoo Gaucho grill. It’s a big piece of equipment and it ended up driving the entire project.”
Since outdoor kitchens are becoming more elaborate, ‘must haves’ are following suit.
The Meaders and their design team are seeing outdoor spaces become more robust, with design elements extending beyond the expected to also include dishwashers, ice makers, warming drawers, griddles and outdoor refrigeration. The latter often includes multiple units, one for food and a second one for beverages.
The Meaders created this outdoor space so it could serve independently from the indoor kitchen. The U-shaped footprint includes bar-height seating, a grill and ventilation hood, an ice maker, two refrigerators and a sink.
Photos: Danielle Robertson