With temperatures rising and summer just around the corner, thoughts turn to relaxing on the patio, grilling food for friends and family to gather and enjoy. Recent trends point toward homeowners making the indoor areas of their homes more aligned with the outdoor. One easy way to do this is to increase dining and entertaining space by transforming what’s already right there in your own back yard. Adding an outdoor kitchen and inviting entertaining area is a great way of maximizing your home’s potential.
Planning your outdoor kitchen
Planning your outdoor kitchen and entertaining space is an important step in the process. Be sure to think about factors such as layout, lighting, appliance choices and storage. To work well, the space needs to be functional and practical but also easy to use and inviting. An open layout is a good option to encourage conversation. Most hosts prefer to be able to speak with guests while they prepare food. If you’re a host who likes to be involved in the conversation while you’re grilling, don’t position your guest seating more than 10 feet from your food preparation space.
Installing an outdoor refrigerator is a must for chilled beverages, and also means less trips in and out of the house to the main kitchen since you can easily store marinated meat, salad and other chilled items ready for outdoor eating. Other desirable outdoor kitchen features to make cooking and cleaning up easier include sinks with detachable faucets, and outdoor dishwashers. Lighting is also an important factor to consider, since good visibility is needed for the food preparation space, but subtle, ambient lighting creates atmosphere for long summer evenings sitting out after the meal. A fire pit can be a great feature for cooler evenings, or as a focal point to gather round for drinks after dinner as night falls.
When selecting outdoor countertop material, it’s wise to take into account the elements and climate. Think about the year-round conditions where your kitchen will be situated – will it freeze in winter, or be over 100 degrees in summer? If the answer is yes, make sure your selected materials can withstand extreme heat or cold and won’t crack or warp under the conditions. As well as being used for food preparation, your countertops will also offer protection to the cabinets and appliances underneath, so having a durable, weatherproof surface is important.
Designers usually recommend maximizing your food preparation and serving spaces for any kitchen, and the same rules apply for your outdoor kitchen. Natural stone is a durable choice that works in harmony with the elements. Options such as granite and soapstone are good choices for outdoor countertops. Soapstone and granite are both naturally able to withstand cold winter temperatures with freezing and thawing, as well as extreme temperature changes and very hot weather. Soapstone is non-porous, so rain and leaves won’t stain the surface. Also because of this, it won’t discolor or fade over time in direct sunlight. However, soapstone scratches more easily than granite. Granite is a durable choice that also has very low porosity as long as it’s properly sealed and cared for to maintain its water resistance.
Neolith is a good man-made option for outdoor countertops. It’s a large format, sintered compact surface comprised of natural elements such as silica, natural clays, feldspar and mineral oxides. Neolith is lightweight which makes it versatile in terms of where it can be installed. It’s also UV resistant and waterproof, making it especially well-suited to outdoor applications.
Outdoor kitchen trends
The US Houzz Kitchen Trends Study found that flow between inside and outside kitchens is a growing trend: 65% of renovated kitchens are open to outdoor spaces. As well as the flow between outdoor and indoor kitchens, homeowners are increasingly moving toward designing the outdoor space for entertainment, not just cooking. Adding features such as TVs, outdoor bars, overhead infrared heating and fire pits is becoming more commonplace.
A shift in consumer mind-set has seen a departure from the traditional view of the outdoor space for grilling. Consumers want the overall kitchen space to look and feel sharper, and be more aligned with the look of their indoor kitchen. In addition to grilling, more options are now available for built in extras such as side burners, storage units and griddle attachments. This expands the realm of what can be prepared outside, and enables optimization of the outdoor kitchen space.
If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen, stop by at your local Pacific Shore Stones showroom to talk to one of our experts about countertop choices. With a wide range of natural and manmade surfaces, we will happily walk you through the options and show you examples. Feel free to browse our extensive inventory online before you visit the warehouse if you prefer.