A growing number of homeowners are dining out, and not at a fancy restaurant — but in the comfort of their own backyards. The trend toward outdoor kitchens and dining spaces enables people to head “out to dinner” any time they want.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have an estate or a seven-figure salary to be able to construct an outdoor kitchen in the yard. The work area can be designed around how much or how little space there is and be customized to different budgets.
The outdoor entertaining space is growing in popularity every year. In 2009, the Property and Environment Research Center found that 43 percent of homeowners in the Northeast reported having an outdoor room. In the Midwest, West and South, it’s 32 to 34 percent. The concept of an outdoor kitchen is nothing new. The outdoor or “summer” kitchen has become a viable component of Mediterranean living for centuries. The heat of the summer drove many people outdoors to shady spots where they could cook on grills or stoves while enjoying a nice breeze. The outdoor kitchen also marries entertaining with meal preparation for the ultimate social occasion.
The outdoor kitchen of today can be as intricate or as simple as homeowners desire. There are some elements that can set the space apart, which can be customized depending on design style and budget.
* Grill:Instead of a simple grate over some coals, think about investing in a grill that has multipurpose cooking aides. These can include a side burner, a rotisserie turner and various temperature-control features. A grill should boast the conveniences of an indoor range and stove with the added benefit of a grill surface.
* Pergola: The outdoor kitchen should be comfortable, and that means having an area outside of the immediate elements. A pergola or awning can offer a shade source under which cooking is much more agreeable. Plus, you can then install a fan or overhead lighting to the pergola for even more comfort.
* Sink: Washing produce or washing up is much easier if there is a sink nearby. The closer the outdoor kitchen is to the actual house, the easier (and less expensive) it will be to run plumbing.
* Counters: Whether butcher block or an expanse of granite, having a work space available for food prep or as a serving surface can make an outdoor kitchen more convenient.
* Fireplace: When the weather turns chilly, a fireplace will be a focal point and also a source of warmth. If a fireplace is beyond budget, consider a chiminea or fire pit instead. Placing an outdoor sofa or some reclining chairs by the fire creates an intimate, and cozy place to congregate.
* Garden: Herbs and vegetables can grow adjacent to the outdoor kitchen. This enables pick-and-cook possibilities. Also, consider a compost pile or bin in proximity so that scraps can easily be turned into rich fertilizer.
* Refrigerator: Some homeowners choose to install a small refrigerator or wine cooler to keep items chilled for use. This helps promote safe cooking and serving practices.
* Entertainment: When installing electrical components for lights, consider installing surround-sound speakers that connect to a music player or home theater. Those with larger budgets can explore the options in televisions that can resist some outdoor weather and provide a different ambiance for watching movies.
The outdoor kitchen is not a new concept but it’s growing more popular among homeowners.