The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

May 8, 2014

The evolving outdoor kitchen

For years, it was enough to park a barbecue grill next to a picnic table on a patio and call it an “outdoor kitchen.” But over the past decade, Americans have taken backyard cooking and dining to a new level, adding elaborate cooking islands, outdoor sinks and refrigerators, even outdoor TVs.

Unless you have a really tall fence, this is the one “room” in your house that neighbors will see whether you invite them to or not, notes designer Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot. That inspires many homeowners to pay extra attention to their outdoor entertaining area.

Many of us also love the appeal of cooking and entertaining in a space that’s relatively indestructible, says designer Jeff Blunkosky, owner of Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes.

“If kids spill cake or Kool-Aid on your patio,” he says, “you just pull out your hose and hose it off.”

Here are some thoughts from Flynn, Blunkosky and Los Angeles-based designer Brian Patrick Flynn, creator of the design blog FlynnsideOut.com, about the elements that make a useful, beautiful outdoor kitchen without huge expense:

BUILD AN ISLAND

About a decade ago, Blunkosky says, many homeowners began feeling that “a stand-alone grill just kind of standing there” didn’t look that great in their backyards. Plus, it provided little workspace for prepping food. The answer was to build around it, incorporating the grill into a stone base with a countertop and drawers underneath — pretty and practical.

Costs vary around the country, but these designers say an investment of $3,000 to $5,000 will cover a simple, 6-foot-long cooking island with a basic grill embedded in it and a 2-foot-deep countertop area. The countertop serves as cooking prep space, and usually extends out so that bar stools can be pulled up underneath to create a bar area for guests.

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