There are few things in life more enjoyable than an outdoor cookout, especially when it takes place in the comfort of your very own backyard. Most open air chefs simply get used to running back and forth between the outdoor barbecue and the indoor fridge, arms laden with condiments, utensils and essentials such as refreshing libations. However, outdoor kitchens, which are fast becoming a popular modern day home splurge, can change lives. These sophisticated al fresco dens of culinary mastery can transform your yard into the envy of the neighbourhood and add a new dimension of living space to your home.
Outdoor Essentials: "Outdoor space is becoming more and more popular as people give up their dream of exorbitantly-priced waterfront property up north," says kitchen designer Carolyn Bignell of Paris Kitchens near Toronto. "Some opt for an outdoor cooking product like the GE Monogram Gas grill with stainless steel storage doors, and build that into an island, with a dual burner cook top, and an outdoor refrigerator."
Stainless steel gas grills provide added convenience because they allow for big batch cooking – perfect when you’re attempting to cook steaks for a group – and they’re all-season weather resistant to boot. It’s also possible to upgrade to natural gas models, which can be hooked directly into your home’s natural gas supply and mean no more empty propane tank blues!
Hot Stuff: True heat seekers can pony up for infrared barbecues (Solaire, TEC and Napoleon make quality models) which heat up at warp speed and can produce the perfect steak in six minutes flat. Large, multi-burner infrared units generally cost at least two to three thousand dollars, but smaller, portable versions of these cutting edge cookers are available for a fraction of that price. Outdoor aficionados can also purchase smokers and wood burning ovens (perfect for pizza!) to augment their outdoor digs.
Cooling it Down: Drinks, marinated meats, salads and condiments can be conveniently kept on hand with outdoor refrigerators that are designed to stand up to the elements. Kitchen Aid and GE both make these. If you live in a rural area, don’t attract wildlife (especially bears!) by leaving meat in the fridge overnight. Wipe meat juice from all surfaces, get a padlock for your fridge, and consider having it installed behind sturdy wooden cabinet doors so your investment doesn’t end up damaged by hungry paws. Room to Work: Cabinetry, storage and work space are also essential to a complete outdoor kitchen, but not just any old materials will do. "Canada has a punishing climate for outdoor materials, so be sure that you’re using something that will stand the test of time," says Bignell. "Standard kitchen cabinetry will simply not be enough to withstand the elements if used out-of -doors." You need something that won’t crack, split, warp or rot when exposed to wind, rain, cold and heat. Polymer is a wise choice of medium for cupboards, and stone or brick make good island bases.
Getting the Job Done: Before leaping into your outdoor kitchen project headlong, take the time to consider materials and execution. "In terms of eating areas and patios, cedar makes a great addition to any backyard space–its moth-repelling properties are well known, and it smells wonderful," says Bignell. She also recommends calling in the professionals for a project of this scope. "A good general contractor, professional landscaper and high-end appliance retailer will be able to assist you when you’re ready to move forward with this type of outdoor project."
Backyard Furnishings: Choose outdoor furniture with as much care as you choose your outdoor kitchen appliances and accoutrements. Make sure table tops can stand up to hot plates being placed on them – you don’t want to have to be as fussy outdoors as you are inside. Invest in a few extra chairs, too, since your backyard haven is sure to have guests flocking to your place for dinner parties under the sun and stars. Also, consider visiting discount kitchen supply stores in search of extra sets of affordable cutlery, plates and culinary utensils so that cooking outdoors doesn’t mean emptying out your indoor kitchen.
Divine Details: Little extras can’t hurt when designing what will undoubtedly become the icing on your property owning cake. Consider retractable canopies to provide shade from the sun and umbrella shaped outdoor propane heaters, portable backyard fire pits or chimineas to heat things up when the sun goes down. If your pocketbook can handle it, go big with a custom built outdoor fireplace and your luxurious little getaway spot will be complete.
Decking out the deck is a summer tradition, but this year, why not explore being even more creative? Patios are no longer simply spaces for a few chairs and a table. Your patio has potential to be a kitchen, a games room, a dining room, a bedroom and more. How? With the right furniture and accessories you can find yourself spending hours on your deck without having to head inside. So what do you want your deck to be?
Comfort and bright colours are the latest trends in deck furniture. While furniture comes in a whole range of materials from aluminum to teak wood, if you’re interested in that “living room” feeling, consider wicker or all-weather couches. Wicker gives your deck that comfortable, cottage feel and yet still creates a living room atmosphere. All-weather couches come in a whole range of styles and really give the full living room feeling.
There is an amazing range of weather-friendly fabrics in bright colours to choose from. And you don’t have to worry about them fading away in the harsh sun. Should you opt for the more casual sling back aluminum framed chairs, you can still accent them with large, cozy cushions. There are even weather-resistant trims available. Complement your new living room deck furniture with outdoor floor lamps and get the full effect.
Finally, add that last bit of detail with an outdoor rug! These durable carpets are commonly made from polypropylene – a substance that was chosen for its ability to handle UV rays, mould and water – and are soil resistant. Thanks to new technologies, these outdoor carpets come in a variety of colors and patterns and are growing more and more popular. Keep in mind that the cozier, the better.
The beauty of having a larger deck is the ability to use it as both a living room and a dining room. Should you choose to do this, consider creating a smaller brick wall to separate the areas, or get creative with a range of outdoor screens. Dining room furniture for decks can range from casual to elegant. For more formal settings, consider exploring wrought iron or cast aluminum. Wood gives that casual, picnic feel.
From outdoor oven range hoods, to outdoor kitchen cabinetry the deck now has the opportunity to become a state of the art cooking space. The trend toward more elaborate barbecues and outdoor kitchen areas is growing fast. The basics include the grill, an area to prepare your food and a sink. And if you’re really dedicated, add a mini-fridge to the mix! There is a whole range of weather-resistant stainless kitchen equipment to explore. As well, keep warm on cooler nights with a fire pit or an outdoor chimerea.
The Inside Out
By Robyn Burnett
For many people, the deck is a treat in the summertime, but simply a waste of space, or in some cases, an eyesore, for the rest of the year. How is it possible to make your deck and outdoor space more accessible during the summer and cooler months? Here are some tips on how a little effort and imagination can transform your outdoor space into an extension of your home.
Consider a solarium
If you have concerns about the weather, excess sun, or outdoor noises, consider turning the space into a solarium. With this, you’ll still get the outdoor feeling and the benefits of natural light but without other problematic elements. Not only that, but with proper insulation, your solarium can be enjoyed in the wintertime also.
Invest in your deck
If you invest in your deck, making it both visually appealing and practical, and treating it with proper waterproof sealants, you are far more likely to enjoy using it. If you are rebuilding your deck, consider what its primary use is going to be. If the deck is a showpiece, properly sealed cedar would look much nicer than a synthetic material. Conversely, pressure treated lumber is hearty and great for multi-purpose use.
Bring it to life
If you have an old, grey monster, don’t fret. You can liven it up. Start with a professional cleaning solution and follow the instructions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Choose furniture wisely
Deck furniture doesn’t have to be drab. Explore elegant water resistant cushions for your chairs. Wooden deck furniture comes in beautiful designs. Make sure it’s sturdy and able to handle the weather, however. Other appealing furniture could include hammocks, which give you a casual and cozy place to curl up with a book. Umbrellas or awnings help to keep the strong sun or light rain showers at bay. The more appealing and cozy your furniture is, the more you’ll want to take advantage of it during cooler months.
Storage makes a huge difference
Have a waterproof trunk outside where you can store such things as tablecloths, extra pillows, and more. Consider keeping a few cozy blankets in it during the fall and spring to keep you warm. Have a trunk for the kids’ toys so that your patio doesn’t become an extension of the playroom.
Outdoor lights are a bonus
This allows you to take advantage of the evenings as well as the days. There is an amazing variety of outdoor lighting options. Yellow bug lights keep those nasty pests away. Candles with high glass coverings make for excellent ambiance. Lanterns, protected tiki torches … you can create more of a mood outdoors than indoors.
Keep it warm
Thanks to such things as heat lamps, outdoor fireplaces or fire pits, you can keep your deck warm and cozy for the cooler months. Not only that, but fire pits make for interesting cooking alternatives. Hot tubs are also a fabulous way to take advantage of your deck in both the summer and winter months.
Barbecues are a must
Decks aren’t only for lounging. By having a barbecue, you can explore amazing culinary delights and make good use of your outdoor space.
Many times, decks become cluttered with various furniture, making them less appealing to enjoy. If you can, extend your space to include a dining area. Consider a covered, screened-in gazebo area with a table. This will allow you to enjoy many meals outdoors without the nuisance of bugs. Conversely, if you consider a gazebo with heating lamps or removable window panes, you can use it earlier in the spring and later in the fall, as well.
Add to your garden
While your deck is important as a livable space, consider your garden then to be your view. You don’t like sitting in your living room if your view is a brick wall. A simple garden can make a huge difference to the appeal of your outdoor space. Add a bit of greenery to your deck space, as well. Consider growing fresh herbs or vegetables in individual pots. Just imagine picking off a fresh tomato to enjoy with your barbecued meal.
A bland living room isn’t an appealing space to enjoy, so why should a bland deck be one? Explore different themes during the year. Pumpkins and gourds give your deck a fall feeling, while Christmas fairy lights can turn it into a beautiful winter wonderland.
Keep it clean
More than anything, if you can keep your deck clean and appealing, as you would other important rooms in your house, it’s more likely you’ll go out and enjoy it for longer periods of time.
Remember, your outdoor space needs care and attention, just as your indoor space does. Before completely closing your doors for winter, make sure you’ve given your deck its own hibernation cleaning. It’s important to get rid of any mildew, dirt and debris before the snow hits. Move your planters off the wood to prevent stains. If you are using it in the winter, use a plastic shovel along the grain so as not to scratch up the surface. As for your back yard, why not turn it into an ice rink to enjoy? A little planning and creativity go a long way.