The Outdoor Kitchen

The Outdoor Kitchen

July 4th is approaching fast. It’s time to celebrate the nations birthday! People all across this great country will be hosting parties and gathering with friends to watch some fireworks! Warm weather, birds, colorful flowers, smells from the BBQ, and plenty of sunshine help to set the mood for outdoor gatherings of all sizes. As Landscape Architects we’re always looking to stay educated on the latest trends and quality products. We know how to get you the best bang for your buck. When planning and creating for an outdoor entertainment space, such as an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to know not only what products to use and where to place them, but how many people the space will need to accommodate at any point in time.

Different techniques are used to help set the mood and to facilitate social interaction between people in a space. This could be something as simple as creating a bar area around the BBQ. It could be as complex as hiding a pool fence to give the illusion of an open pool area with no enclosure to help preserve the unobstructed beautiful views and ease of social interaction between people in the pool area and abutting entrtainment areas (such as fire pit area, or dining area, bar area, etc…).
There’s also the work triangle technique to consider. This is the smart way to layout any kitchen, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. The three main areas/activities in a kitchen are food storage (Refrigerator), food preparation (Sink), and Cooking (Stove/Oven). If you draw lines connecting each of these items it should form a triangle. When the items are kept in fairly close proximity, the layout helps to maximize the efficiency and flow of the person utilizing the kitchen.

Kitchen Work Triangle
Kitchen Work Triangle (example from Wikipedia)

Having the assistance of a landscape architect can be an enormous help when it comes to selecting the proper site furnishings for your outdoor space. Colin Hynes, our principal landscape architect at Elemental Designs strives to stay up to date on the latest and greatest in outdoor living products and construction techniques. This helps to save clients time, aggravation, and money both over the short and long term. Even something as simple as picking out the proper outdoor grill isn’t as simple as one may think. If you frequently entertain 10+ people or maybe you have an annual summer blowout/party with 40+ people. Questions like “how long do you want to spend behind the grill?” and “how many people do you plan on cooking for?” can have a lot to do with what size grill you choose. You’re also going to want to have a reliable brand that stands by its product and provides good customer service. Sometimes people may pick up the latest stainless steel Home Depot special, but over time when the igniter no onger ignites the grill, or the lights on the dials no longer light, or the temperature gauge no longer shows the temperature, or the grill isn’t cooking as evenly as it should, you’re going to want a company that provides good customer service and is fairly hassle free to deal with. Who wants to yell at a customer service representative because they’re grill won’t function properly? No one. There are many different brands of grills and other appliances out there. Brands like Weber, Fire Magic, Char Broil, Viking, Lynx, Kenmore, Wilmington, and more. Some of these brands have their own unique way of fabricating their grills. One brand might have steel burners. Another brand might have brass burners. Brass burners tend to be more resistant to corrosion and will generally last longer, so if you frequently cook outdoors and don’t feel like replacing the burners or the grill in ten years, a grill with brass burners may be the best fit for you.

Brass Burner
Brass Burner

This is just one example of how a landscape architect like Colin can help. He already has a good feel for what products to shy away from and which ones are worth their weight in gold.

The knowledge and expertise of a landscape architect can save you money on the installation as well. There’s almost always more than one way to build something. Contractors don’t always stay on top of these things. Some will use the items they are familiar with in an effort to maximize their profit margin. Time isn’t always spent on searching for what’s best for you (the Client). One example of this is an outdoor kitchen. By staying up to date on the latest technologies and construction methods, a landscape architect can use his or her knowledge and creativity to come up with some unique construction methods. Maybe you want an outdoor kitchen counter top with glass embedded in it that lights up at night or maybe a custom built pizza oven. Maybe you want a bar with it’s own taps and storage for the kegs. If you’re trying to save some money, do you make the shell of the outdoor kitchen out of concrete block?…probably not. There are quicker, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly methods.

Here’s one example of an outdoor bar & cooking space that was integrated into a design by our principal landscape architect, Colin Hynes:

191_Musterfield_Rd-Back-Close_up-02 Bar_Area

Elements that needed to fit into the design:

  • Courtyard Area
  • Pool & Pool Patio Area
  • Hot Tub (not visible in picture above, but was included)
  • Dining Patio Area
  • Outdoor Bar & Cooking Area
  • Pool fence

Main Objectives:

  • Minimize the amount of pool fence and hide pool fence as much as possible
  • Outdoor Bar & Cooking Area must serve people in Pool Patio Area and Dining Area
  • Need to be able to accommodate 50+ people between Pool Area and Dining Patio Area
  • Provide a layout that still makes it easy for people in the Pool Area and Dining Area to socially interact
  • Meet building code for pool fence/enclosure
  • Keep people safe and ensure small children can’t walk out of house and into pool  area on their own

Summary:

In order to meet all the objectives and to fit all of the elements into the design, the pool fence was run into the bar and the height of the raised bar counter (from ground to bottom of counter) was increased to 48 inches. This allowed the bar wall to act as part of the pool enclosure while still meeting the building code requirements for pool enclosures. This also allowed for people to still be able to sit on 3 out of the 4 sides of the bar. Anytime a big party is planned the client has the option of propping open the gates to allow for easy flow between the Pool Patio Area and Dining Patio Area. If there are small children at the party the gates can be closed and the small children can stay in the Dining Patio Area while the adults in both the Pool Patio Area and Dining Patio Area get to interact at the bar without needing to open the pool fence gates.

A planting bed with shrubs and perennials helps to hide the view of the pool fence when in the Pool Patio Area or the Dining Patio Area. What isn’t shown in the pictures is how the pool fence dives down a slope near the backside of the pool and wraps around the backside of the pool area without being visible to people in the Pool & Pool Patio Area. This helps to maintain the unobstructed, elevated, beautiful views to the fields and woods beyond the property.

In an effort to keep people safe, the edge of the bar and pool fence were put in line with the house corner. This allowed people sitting at the Dining Patio Area of the bar, the ability to turn around, see the stairs behind them, and react accordingly after getting out of their seat to walk away. This is especially important after someone has had a number of alcoholic beverages. On the opposite side of the bar there are shrubs that abut the bar area, which provide for a much softer landing if one should be a little too tipsy.

What some property owners don’t always realize until they’ve had the opportunity to work with a landscape architect is that they tend to pay for themselves. The money they charge for their services can be equal to or less than what they’ll save you in the end. Plus, you’ll have the advantage of having a landscape with a high level of quality and aesthetic appeal that’s more suitable for both you and the natural environment.

These days almost any item you can find in your indoor kitchen can now be found in an outdoor kitchen. Below is a sample of just some of the more familiar items that can be found in an outdoor kitchen.

Stainless Steel Grill w/Rotisserie
Stainless Steel Grill w/Rotisserie
Side Burner(s)
Side Burner(s)
Sink (faucet not shown in picture)
Sink (faucet not shown in picture)
Access Doors provide access to appliance connections or additional storage space.
Access Doors provide access to appliance connections or additional storage space.
Warming drawers to keep food warm until you're ready to serve it.
Warming drawers to keep food warm until you’re ready to serve it.
Food Pantry for storing food.
Food Pantry for storing food.
Utility Drawers for storing cooking utensils and other items.
Utility Drawers for storing cooking utensils and other items.
Paper Towel Holder
Paper Towel Holder
Trash Drawer to store and hide the trash can.
Trash Drawer to store and hide the trash can.
Ice Chest to keep drinks cold.
Ice Chest to keep drinks cold.
Drink Dispenser with tap. Holds mini-keg and keeps it cool.
Drink Dispenser with tap. Holds mini-keg and keeps it cool.
Refrigerator to keep food and drinks cold.
Refrigerator to keep food and drinks cold.
Trash Chute for easy disposal of food after food is prepared.
Trash Chute for easy disposal of food after food is prepared.