Magazine article Landscape & Irrigation

Creating Better, More Functional Outdoor Kitchens

Magazine article Landscape & Irrigation

Creating Better, More Functional Outdoor Kitchens

Article excerpt

Once upon a time, it was good enough to put a built-in grill and some storage space into a masonry enclosure and call it an outdoor kitchen. But times, and outdoor kitchens, have changed--dramatically.

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"The thought process behind building an outdoor kitchen has changed," said Russ Faulk, vice president of product development for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. "Because of the recession, people are staying in the same place. They can't sell their homes so they are remodeling them. And an outdoor kitchen is often at the top of their list. Outdoor kitchens are now seen as an investment in enriching their lifestyle and increasing the value of their home."

The outdoor kitchen has become much more sophisticated. Even if you started the year 2010 with one level of understanding and expertise, chances are you need to take it up a few more levels in 2011 because the expectations of your clients are increasing.

Homeowners want their outdoor kitchens to be as efficient as the one they have indoors. They are asking their outdoor kitchens to do more. The equipment has become more specialized. Everything needs to be located appropriately and space appointed properly. In other words, you need to start thinking like a kitchen designer. To do that, you need a strong working knowledge of countertop space, functional zones, and landing area requirements.

The cornerstone of the outdoor kitchen is the counter. Quite literally everything revolves around it and the space you give to it. With the right amount of counter space, you allow room for functional zones and landing areas.

"You need to have a place to put items down by the grill, for prep, serving and more," said Faulk. Leave too little room near the grill, and the cook has nowhere to place platters for putting food on or taking it off the grill. Landing areas are needed not only next to the grill, but also next to sinks, cooktops and pizza ovens, as well as above refrigerators. "Counter space goes fast. We have worked on hundreds of outdoor kitchens, and planning appropriate counter space is one of the biggest challenges," he added.

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"One of the biggest mistakes we see is designers placing grills at the end of a counter run," said Faulk. Without space on either side of the grill, you've essentially made it more difficult to cook.

Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet's kitchen design guidelines recommend the following minimums for landing areas: grill--leave 24 inches on one side and 12 inches on the other; cooktop--12 inches on each side; sink--18 inches on each side.

Faulk said small kitchens give a degree of space to work with, but things are tight. …

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