As homeowners’ enthusiasm for open-plan living extends to the outdoors, we are seeing a surge in the popularity of dedicated alfresco cooking spaces. While the outdoor kitchen was once synonymous with luxury homes, it’s becoming the new must-have lifestyle addition across the mid-range of the housing market.
But while this space is called a ‘kitchen’ it differs from regular indoor kitchens in a multitude of ways. By necessity, outdoor kitchens are often tucked into one edge of a deck or patio adjoining the living areas of the home, although they are sometimes installed within stand-alone cabanas/patios. Despite the limited space inclusions can range from barbecues and specialist hotplates right through to a plumbed sink, fridge and sometimes even dishwashers. From a functional point of view, the outdoor kitchen must facilitate the efficient and safe preparation and serving of food plus offer adequate seating and dining. That’s quite a big ask.
Another complication is that while clients might be very specific regarding their functional requirements for the indoor kitchen, they’re often unsure of how the outdoor kitchen will be used and unable to provide the detail that’s necessary to create a layout that’s well-matched to their future needs.
That means you need to be the expert and guide your client based on your own knowledge of how the space should ideally function.
When it comes to optimising layout, consider the below checklist that covers the following subjects:
- Consideration of traffic flow and space allocation for seating/dining. Ensuring that thoroughfares around the cooking space remain clear and there’s sufficient space for pulling out chairs without blocking access.
- Allowing space for food preparation, cooking and serving functions by including a benchtop preparation area and landing space around various appliances.
Consideration of storage requirements including short- and long-term food storage, crockery and cooking utensils. Ensuring storage is adequately sealed for protection from rodents and insects.
- Considering the clearance from the dining table/bench and walkways when placing barbeques and cooktops. This includes consideration for how ventilation will be managed, such as keeping the appliances away from the entry to the internal home to prevent fumes from being drawn indoors.
- Waste management solutions to identify where food scraps/rubbish/recycling facilities will be located, ensuring these are well-sealed from rodents or insects.
- The positioning of refrigerators and wine coolers away from direct sunlight and heated/heating appliances.
The days of rolling a portable barbecue out and calling it an outdoor kitchen are gone. Today, Australians want a fully functional kitchen they can use every day. Here are some things to think about when designing an outdoor kitchen.
Even if it’s under a patio covering, an outdoor kitchen is exposed to the elements far more than an indoor kitchen. The materials it’s made from will make a big difference to its longevity.
- Granite, engineered stone (such as Caesarstone) or stainless steel are good choices for benchtops.
- Glass and stainless steel make very durable doors, but aren’t your only choices. Outdoor kitchen specialists offer highly water-resistant powder-coated doors and drawer fronts suitable for outdoor use.
- Stone veneer stands up to the weather and looks great as a splashback or feature wall in an outdoor kitchen.
- If you choose timber, be sure you choose a timber that is rated for outdoor use. Jarrah, for example, is a good choice.
Your cabinets, too, will need to be able to stand up to the weather. Its best to use a marine-grade polymer (high-density polyethylene or HDPE) in cabinet construction to ensure their kitchens last.