Extending your home to include a beautiful, comfortable, fully-featured outdoor living space is natural today, according to Crystal Watson of Embers Grill and Fireplace Store. “The space might include a cooking area, a bar area, a dining area, an area for kids, and a space for relaxing.”
In agreement is Stansell Dye of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. “The outdoor kitchen is growing in popularity because it’s become an extension of the home as an outdoor living area. The style of an outdoor living area can vary, but it should be influenced by the architecture of your home and the natural elements of your backyard.”
“The main way the new backyard spaces are changing the way people entertain is the connectivity of the experience,” says Seth Argo of Focus Builders. “It used to be people would have a barbecue and the ladies would be inside in the kitchen or living room and all the guys would be out standing around the grill on the patio. Today—with expansive covered porches and outdoor kitchens with seating and lounging spaces—everyone is hanging out in the same space. Fireplaces or fire pits are probably the #1 or #2 request we hear when we begin to explore the details of what a client wants in their outdoor living space. Who doesn’t love a great fire!”
Most customers want more space to entertain their family and guests, says Carol Sullivan of The Hearth & Grill Shop. “Since Tennessee is known for our four seasons, this interest in the outdoors as an extension of the home continues to grow. “We have been adding outside fireplaces built in under their patios. Everyone loves a fire outside without the mess of cleaning up the ashes. So we offer gas logs and gas burners made to add beauty and warmth for an additional outside area. In addition, American FYRE Designs offer Fire and Waterfalls that make your outdoor area absolutely beautiful. We have been installing these gas fire features for our customers with pools.”
Whether built-in or freestanding, the grill is the focal point of every outdoor kitchen, says Dye. “We recommend customers start with high-quality construction and features that make the cooking experience easier. When selecting a heating element, the choice of a gas versus charcoal grill ultimately comes down to taste versus convenience.”
Dye reports his company is also putting a lot of sinks in outdoor kitchens as well as pizza ovens, ice makers, refrigerator drawers, and other features. “Great outdoor lighting is a must! LED lighting provides one of the best ways to extend the comforts of your indoor space to the outside areas of your home. Emitting less heat than florescent bulbs, LED lighting attracts significantly fewer bugs.
Adding that lighting should be placed in layers, Dye suggests that for increased functionality, task lighting near a grill or outdoor kitchen is essential during the evening hours. “And general lighting near the main seating area is important; make sure it’s a warm hue and a similar brightness to your indoor lighting,” he says. “Lamps and chandeliers specifically made for outdoor use are a popular decorative accent to outdoor porches, pools, cabanas and other covered outdoor spaces.”
“In addition to providing a space for entertaining and relaxing outdoor kitchens are practical as well, taking the heat of cooking outdoors in the heat of summer,” says Marcelle Gilbeau. “Homeowners today want it all—commercial grills and cooktops, smokers, bar sinks, and plenty of counterspace and prep areas, as well as refrigerators. We’re incorporating natural materials such as limestone and including comfortable furnishings and colorful fabrics to mirror the design or the home’s interior.”
Adding an outdoor heater, electric or gas, allows an outdoor living space to be utilized for more of the year, according to Watson, “while the inclusion of a backyard firepit, fire table, or fireplace can provide easy startup convenience, a nice flame, and a space for conversations and making memories. People tend to gravitate to an inviting fire and even modern linear outdoor fireplaces are now trending as they offer a unique style and look for an outdoor living area.”
Sullivan says that, depending on a client’s budget, some may purchase a Grill Island by Peterson, The FireMagic Grills series. These grills come with the grill, side burners, and countertops manufactured as one unit. They can take this grill with them if they decide to relocate—it is a very large portable grill available in natural gas or propane.
“We also offer FireMagic Grills including everything from the sink, refrigerator, side burners, bun warmers, and of course you have to add a smoker by The Big Green Egg. Not all customers are adding pizza ovens. But most are adding the Big Green Egg since it can be a smoker, baker, and cooks a delicious pizza,” Sullivan says.
Beth Duer of Markraft Cabinets reports she is seeing a lot more activities taking place outdoors,” and entertaining outdoors means the hostess/host gets to be a part of the party rather than running in and out to the indoor kitchen.
Adding that It’s important for each customer to really think about what they want their unique outdoor kitchen to be, Duer says, “it’s all about customizing. Some may want a standard oven, while others prefer a pizza oven. We’re seeing a lot of firepits incorporated in outdoor kitchen design. The emphasis is on making it easy to move from dinner and drinks at the table or bar to hanging out by the fire.”
Durability in outdoor kitchens is a concern, says Duer, and Markraft carries NatureKast weatherproof cabinetry which is designed to withstand the natural elements. “In recent years our outdoor projects have grown in size, style, scope, and budget, with costs these days mimicking those of an indoor kitchen,” she says.
There are a number of sources in the Nashville area for outdoor kitchens including:
Beth Haley Design
Embers Grill & Fireplace Store
Hermitage Lighting Gallery
Ferguson Bath, Kitchen
& Lighting Gallery
Hearth & Grill Shop
Lynn’s Patio Shop
Marcelle Gilbeau Inteiror Design
Trees ‘n Trends