Let’s Get Cooking

Outdoor kitchens provide additional entertaining space and make an area more functional—top drivers for pursuing an outdoor living project—and are starting to go far beyond just a grill on the deck.

authors Kacey Larsen | March 20, 2017

When discussing an outdoor living space with a client, how often does grilling come up? Considering that the 2016 Houzz Landscaping Study—which focuses on homeowners who are currently working on, have completed or are planning an outdoor project—indicates 24 percent of respondents plan on purchasing a new grill for their outdoor project (making it fourth on the list of outdoor living purchases), we can see that cooking outdoors appeals to many homeowners. But those outdoor cooking spaces are increasingly becoming full-blown outdoor kitchens, as indicated by sink/fixtures, refrigerators, pizza ovens, wine coolers and other cooking features also appearing on the outdoor living purchase list from Houzz’s study.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s 2015 State of the Barbecue Market indicates 10 percent of grill owners have an outdoor kitchen featuring premium grills, furniture and lighting. Of those outdoor kitchen owners, 35 percent indicated they are likely to upgrade in the next three years. The good news, looking at statistics from Houzz’s study, is homeowners planning or embarking on outdoor living projects are open to hiring professionals, and more than 2 in 5 homeowners spent or plan to spend $20,000 or more on substantial projects.

That said, Qualified Remodeler’s annual outdoor living survey report from 2016 indicates that 51.2 percent of survey respondents (comprised of you, our readers) are already designing, building and/or specifying outdoor kitchens. We also know from our regional outdoor living survey that “adding entertaining space” was the No. 1 response for client motivation in pursuing an outdoor living project. This is echoed by the Houzz Landscaping Study revealing 48 percent of respondents deemed “easy to entertain in” as a valued aspect of outdoor function.

These survey/study results were confirmed by the Case Design/Remodeling Indy design team, based in Carmel, Indiana, who indicate clients often reach out regarding a new or updated outdoor kitchen for entertainment purposes. Their clients prefer a customized solution to their outdoor kitchen spaces, which leads the team to break down its process into a few steps to ensure they are moving the right direction: first, an initial consultation at the home to get to know the clients and what their needs/wants are. The second half of that consultation takes place at the company’s showroom to go over the budget range(s) and also includes a showroom tour, 3-D software demonstration and a review of similar projects to discuss the possibilities. Once a planning agreement is signed, the design phase begins with discussions and decisions on every detail within the budget. During the design process, the company’s clients can see multiple design options applied directly to their home, along with immediate visual results courtesy of the company’s 3-D software.

Darlene Gayler, vice president, Gayler Design Build, Danville, California, says her company approaches the design of outdoor kitchens and spaces much like other indoor projects—starting with questions about what the clients want, how they will be using the space, etc.—to ensure the design fits homeowner needs, lifestyle and how they plan to use it. While most designs begin by applying the client’s responses from the company’s design questionnaire, she says that “finding the best space for what they’re trying to accomplish” can be the biggest challenge.

Location, Location, Location

Gayler acknowledges that the company’s location in California means most clients are seeking outdoor living areas they can “use close to 365 days of the year.” She has seen an increase in the creation of pavilions with a solid roof for housing outdoor kitchens, paired with requests for the inclusion of infrared heaters, ceiling fans and even occasionally screens to give homeowners the ability to control and accommodate for seasonality.

“We tend to do more separate structures because we’re trying to find the best location—the one that works the best in terms of what the clients are doing this for and what’s available, because there are also a lot of pools in our area so we may have to work around that,” Gayler says.

Based in the Midwest, Case Design/Remodeling Indy indicates most of the outdoor kitchen spaces they create are within convenient walking distance to the home’s interior, often because it is associated with a covered structure attached to the home or the homeowner wants to ensure easy access to the grill from the kitchen. If a grill is wanted/needed, its specific size and fuel type are considered so it can be given an efficient placement.

The design team explains that, space permitting, independent pool houses can be a great area to incorporate an outdoor kitchen. When the team has the opportunity to work with such a space, amenities such as a sink, beverage fridge and seating have been included. For example, a recent Case Design/Remodeling Indy outdoor kitchen, the design team notes, was attached to the backside of an independent garage structure, and it housed a large grill, countertop serving space and seating as well as the integration of a covered seating area and stone fireplace.

The amenities included in an outdoor kitchen space are completely homeowner-driven, Gayler says—more so than even the space’s location, in her experience. Two recent projects by Gayler Design Build had similarities in how the clients planned to use the completed spaces, but the respective homeowners wanted very different features.

“One [project] emphasized a big bar area with pretty much a full kitchen because the clients did not want to have to go back and forth to the house. It’s stocked with these awesome cabinets that are like refrigerator doors, so they don’t let in any bugs, dust or anything—you can leave silverware, dishes, glassware and stuff like that,” she explains. “Then another [project] we did—it had a bar area, too—wanted space for a table that sat 12 and a sofa area that easily sits at least 12. Their emphasis was more, ‘We’ll bring out the wine glasses when we need them.’ They still had a sink and things but weren’t as concerned about having it stocked and ready to go.”

While clients obviously drive what is included in an outdoor kitchen, Gayler notes it is important to get products made for the outdoors. She mentions barbecues, pizza ovens and green eggs as consistently being incorporated into the company’s outdoor kitchens, but notes that myriad entertainment systems—from sound systems to TVs—continue growing in popularity.

Because of the frequency with which Case Design/Remodeling Indy creates outdoor kitchens in close proximity to the home, the design team intentionally carries at least one marrying design element between the two spaces, such as granite countertops. Resistance to the elements is also factored, but does depend on whether the space is covered or not. One item where weather plays a major factor is the inclusion—or lack thereof—of outdoor sinks. Because of the area’s freezing weather, most homeowners do not care to hassle with blowing out the water lines, unless they have an existing sprinkler system that can be  cared for simultaneously.

Make It Work

One trend both Case Design/Remodeling Indy and Gayler Design Build discussed is the combination of outdoor kitchens with other outdoor living spaces. “Almost 100 percent we’re seeing the addition of a seating area, dining area or combination of both,” Gayler notes. Outdoor kitchens are often part of a larger project—such as a covered multifunctional space, fireplace or stamped concrete patio—for Case Design/Remodeling Indy as well.

Because of the scope of work that some of these projects necessitate, each company indicates situations arise where they coordinate other trades coming in to handle certain steps. Case Design/Remodeling Indy works with plumbers if an outdoor kitchen includes a gas grill or sink; an electrician for appliances or accent lighting; a mason if incorporating any brick or stone; and a concrete installer for cases where a foundation or flatwork, like a stamped concrete patio or pool deck, is needed. Gayler Design Build works with trades for the installation of sophisticated entertainment systems, fire tables or fire pits, and heaters, among others, but notes that “whatever [the client] wants, we’ll get it for them.” |QR

See more of Case Design/Remodeling Indy’s work at caseindy.com and Gayler Design Build’s work at gaylerdesignbuild.com.

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