Outdoor kitchens: A blueprint for entertaining

Outdoor kitchens: A blueprint for entertaining

July 7th, 2012 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Three chairs are positioned at the bar of Darrell and Kara Atchley's Black Creek home.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

After 10 years in their Lookout Valley home, Kara and Darrell Atchley began discussing ways to increase their outdoor living space last year.

Their home in Black Creek subdivision had a pool with a covered nook that contained a built-in grill, mini-fridge and sink when they bought it, but they were in need of more storage and seating.

"We wanted more room for entertaining and more room for family. The only thing back there before was the swimming pool and the lanai where the grill is with the refrigerator," said Mrs. Atchley.

Last September, they began a poolside update that included the addition of a covered pavilion in the same stucco as the home's exterior. The pavilion housed a granite-topped serving bar with seating, TV, prep area and two storage closets. They added new powder-coated sofa and six chairs around the pool and a fire pit.

"Before we didn't have comfortable seating out there. I love to sit outside and read," she said.

The final touch was refencing the backyard so they had an unobstructed view of the golf course and surrounding mountains. The total project added about 1,000 square feet to their outdoor entertainment space, said Mr. Atchley.

Outdoor kitchens continue to grow in popularity with homeowners. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, architects saw a 64 percent increase in outdoor kitchen requests last year as compared to 47 percent in 2005.

The trend can be attributed to more than the popularity of summer grilling and entertaining friends with backyard cookouts. These kitchens have been proven to cut utility bills. The more cooking that can be done on a propane or charcoal grill, the less spent on electricity to run an oven or stovetop. Also, that's less money spent having to turn down the air conditioning because the indoor oven heated up the dining space while dinner was being prepared.

Tips to consider before building

• Have a list made for your contractor of your entertainment needs. The cost of an outdoor kitchen can range from $3,000 to $30,000, according to DIYNetwork, so it's important to decide what you'll use and to rule out the nonessentials.

• Make sure the design incorporates functional work zones. Are the sink and prep areas together? How far will the grill be from the prep area? Where are the utility outlets and gas or electric lines going to be installed to accommodate the work areas?

Do you want to include warming drawers to keep food heated until it's time to serve? An ice machine is another good feature, eliminating the need for those bulky, boxy coolers.

• Select low-maintenance materials that are designed to withstand climate changes.

For the Atchleys' pavilion, Becky Worley of Classic Cabinetry incorporated gray cabinets that matched the stucco color of the house. Worley said all cabinets were made of marine-grade polymer so they can actually be pressure-washed to clean them inside and out.

Ryan Allen, project manager of Stone Services, installed the granite on the pavilion's kitchen island, the kitchen perimeter and the fire pit.

"The island countertop is a stone called Bianco Antico, 37.33 square feet," she said. "They had matching granite baseboards installed around the island - that was a first for us."

The perimeter of the back wall is polished Virginia Mist granite, as was the 16 feet of granite at the fire pit.

"Granite is a good choice outside because it can withstand a lot. It's durable and wipes clean," said Allen.

• Choose flooring with safety in mind, a material with texture to help prevent slips and falls.

The Atchley addition used concrete to match the pool's surrounding space.

• Incorporate a shaded space of some design whether it's awnings, patio umbrella or covered pavilion. It will prove well worth the money when temperatures soar into the 90s or one of summer's isolated showers blows through.

• Other than the pool, in what others ways will the space be used for entertainment? Will you be playing music? Is there a flat wall surface on which to mount a television? Choose the television space wisely because guests need to be able to see a clear picture even in bright sunlight.

• Provide sufficient lighting. You'll need task lighting for the cooking/prep areas as well as ambient lighting around the pool and seating areas because a large portion of the outdoor kitchen's use will be entertaining at night.

• Check sight lines. What will guests see when sitting or standing around the pool? Can the chef keep an eye on kids in the pool from the grilling area? From the prep area?

• Be a good neighbor. Landscape with hedges or shrubbery to provide privacy. Who or what will be downwind of the smoke from your grilling area? Place dining/seating areas upwind of the grilling area if possible.

• Include storage in the design. This will help eliminate lugging everything from serving ware to pool toys to your outdoor space.