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Outdoor kitchen dining

Well, it’s summertime. The kitchen is hot, but we still need to eat. Besides, heating up the kitchen means heating up the house, which means cooling the house, which wastes energy and costs money.

Aside from eating fruit salads and gazpacho until fall, creating an outdoor kitchen is the best solution. The air is cooler outside, and the heat from cooking floats away. The kitchen is the most active room of a house where family gathers and where you entertain friends. Why not bring it all outside in good weather?

Budget for an outdoor kitchen

As in any home design project, first figure out a budget. How much can you spend without going beyond your means? You need to be aware of what you spend in relation to your neighborhood, too. Never overbuild! The homes in a neighborhood have a range of value, and if you have sunk way more money into yours than that value, you will never realize a return. All home improvements are an investment, so invest wisely.

Once you’ve crunched your numbers, write down your needs. Do you have a large family? Do you live alone or with one other person? Do you entertain large crowds or have intimate gatherings? Maybe you don’t entertain at all, but would just like to enjoy the outdoors. Do you need a full kitchen or just a grill? Do you want a table and chairs, or do you want informal seating? Do you need a screen to keep bugs away? Do you want it under cover from the elements? Is there a patio that you can expand, or do you have to start from scratch?

There are a lot of questions to answer, and there are just as many design options!

Outdoor kitchen basics

The most basic outdoor kitchen is probably a grill and a picnic table. I think we have all done this, bring out what we need as we need it, then truck it all back into the kitchen. Even with such a simple set-up, consider some permanent storage for plates, cups, silverware, utensils, spices and barbecue sauce. A counter may provide enough storage and create a workspace.

Have you been cooking the corn on the cob in the kitchen and bringing it outside? Consider a grill with burners so all the cooking can be done outside. Some also have smokers and rotisseries. Be sure to have enough cabinets and countertops to make working efficient and easy, similar to your indoor kitchen.

Do you go back inside to do the dishes? A sink and dishwasher outdoors would save steps. So would a refrigerator, which would allow for a handy bar, too.

Outdoor kitchens and your home’s “livability”

Making your outdoor kitchen as complete as the one you have inside expands the livability of your home. You don’t need to only entertain in it. You can have breakfast outside every morning as well! Seating can be a casual breakfast bar or a table that expands to serve a large number.

A fireplace or fire pit becomes the focal point and can extend your seasonal living by taking off the chill of a spring or fall evening.

When you design your space, make sure you take advantage of natural features you have. If you have a great view, frame it, making it a focal point. On the other hand, you may have unsightly views (like the neighbor’s yard) that you want to block or face away from.

Outdoor kitchens to complement and contrast

The overall design and feel can complement your home or be a complete contrast. Natural materials, like stone and wood, and neutral colors help it blend with the outdoors. Stainless steel appliances contrast and add modernity to stone settings.

Weatherproof materials, such as stone, concrete and brick, are a must for floor and counter surfaces. They protect your kitchen from the elements and are easy to clean up.

Your outdoor kitchen can be as simple or as elaborate as your needs and budget allow. We all need to spend more time outdoors and with family, and an outdoor kitchen provides both!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.