Planning an Outdoor Kitchen
Monday, June 25, 2012
Why do bad outdoor kitchens happen to good people? It's a
question I ask myself every time I walk around otherwise gorgeous
residential landscapes and see poorly planned grill islands,
view-obscuring pizza ovens, and homely rows of unnecessary
appliances. It's a question I ask myself when I stand in front of
the grill at my own family's vacation house and can't find a place
to put a spatula, let alone a plate of food. As editor of this
magazine, I've seen enough bad outdoor kitchens that they now fall
into recognizable categories for me, including something I call the
Mushroom, that oversize island that looks like it appeared suddenly
after a heavy rain; the Utterly Inadequate, which is epitomized by
my family's Weber standing all by itself on our big back terrace;
and the Full Vegas, a category that doesn't really need an
explanation, except that the words "retractable television" are
I can recognize a bad kitchen, but that doesn't mean I know how to
design a good one. To help me understand how, I turned to people
who do. Here's what I learned from Russ Faulk, vice president of
product development at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, a company that
makes grills and other appliances; Eric Groft, principal at the
landscape architecture firm Oehme van Sweden; and Mark Scott,
principal at his own landscape architecture firm, Mark Scott
1. Plan, Plan, Plan All three experts agree that
poor planning explains most badly executed outdoor kitchens. "It's
almost like some landscape designers are annoyed by having to put
in a kitchen and it becomes this thing that gets shoved in the
corner," says Faulk. "They're left as an afterthought, and then the
budget is limited," adds Groft.
2. Make It a Group Effort Layouts,
utilities, countertop choices - installing an outdoor kitchen is
complicated, but too often the entire project is left to a single
designer or builder. "You want a dialogue between the homeowner,
landscape architect, builder, and appliance person," says Faulk.
Scott sits down with everybody in the household and quizzes them:
"How do you envision yourself using the space? What will you cook?"
Kalamazoo gives clients a 21-point questionnaire. "Most people
don't know what size sink they want until you talk through what
they'll do with it," says Faulk.
3. Keep Abreast Appliance features change
dramatically from year to year. Make sure you, or somebody who is
helping you, have a firm grasp of what's available. "A designer
said to me recently that her client didn't want an outdoor fridge
because she didn't want to have to bring it inside during winter,"
says Faulk. "The only thing you have to do to winterize our fridge
is turn it off. So she wasn't familiar with the technology."
4. Look Around "Take clues from the landscape,"
says Groft. "The materials you use should be dictated by the home
and its surroundings." Faulk agrees, "The best way to blend in a
new kitchen is to build it with the same trim and stone that are
used on the house and in the landscape." And beware inexpensive
solutions. "Stucco is cheap, and builders love it because it's easy
to use," says Faulk. "But if the only place you have stucco is on
your outdoor kitchen, it's going to stick out."
5. Think Proportion "If you have a large home and
a tiny exterior kitchen, it can look like a wart on an elephant,"
says Faulk. The opposite can also be a problem. "Don't let counters
get too big," Scott says. "A long counter has the same [volume] as
a Volkswagen. If the transitioning [from the home to the outdoor
kitchen] is not done well, it will look like a beached whale."
Smart designers incorporate numerous structural elements to make a
kitchen fit into its surroundings, including pergolas, screens, and
To read the entire article, click here.