Outdoor kitchens have caught on like wildfire in Canadian backyards, without, of course, being the source of any.
People have been eating and cooking outdoors for millennia, but in the recent years the concept of enjoying nature close to home has exploded in popularity. The idea of creating kitchen and dining spaces outside allows people to take full advantage of their properties and creates a refuge of nature without having to go to a cottage.
“This fits in with whole idea of a healthier lifestyle. Being outside with nature, sitting under a tree, gazing at flowers and plants while eating and watching the kids play in garden is just fantastic,” says landscape designer Denis Flanagan from Landscape Ontario. “I think just because of the nature of the harsh climate in Canada we may have shied away from it in the past because it was either too hot, too cold or too buggy, but careful planning can get around those obstacles and allow us to just enjoy.”
Where to begin
If you are thinking of really investing in this project, Denis says it is crucial to start with a recommended and trusted designer.
Since it is outdoors there are many things to consider such as power and gas lines, permits and substructures, things the unexperienced homeowner may not be ready to deal with alone.
Before the designing process begins you should have an understanding of the space and of your lifestyle. You have to define your needs and style for your designer. Will you be having a barbeque a couple times a week or will you be serving five-course meals to large groups? Denis says there are really no boundaries in terms of what homeowners can do.
“My best advice is to treat outdoor kitchen planning like indoor kitchen planning- look at space, budget and style so it fits with your garden and house while making sure that the practicalities are taken care of.”
Denis says there are two major trends in design for outdoor kitchens- integrated outdoor kitchens or total outdoor experience.
Integrated outdoor kitchens are designed to flow with your house. You can bring the style of inside outside and vice versa. It can be considered almost an extension of the interior of your house, just with wonderful lighting, air flow and vitamin D.
With an integrated outdoor kitchen you could easily have a barbeque outside and seamlessly go inside to eat.
With the total outdoor experience, you would be able to cook and eat outside in rain, shine, mosquito season or almost anything. This concept is more reliant on weather-proof structures such as nets, canopies, gazebos and outdoor heaters.
Denis says a perk about outdoor kitchens many people don’t realize is that if the power goes out you can still make an excellent meal. With major power outages in Ontario last winter, he says people he designed outdoor kitchens for were reporting that they were able to cook Christmas feasts outdoors, relying only on propane or natural gas.
Whether you’re thinking of doing an entire kitchen or just want to spruce up your barbeque area, design details are key.
“There’s a temptation to only look at glossy magazine to say ‘oh wow look at this’ but in reality everyone can enjoy eating outside within their own budget,” said Flanagan.
No matter what you are doing, good lighting is just as important outside as it is inside and shouldn’t be forgotten. Options are almost limitless, ranging from some wonderful lanterns or candleholders to interesting low-voltage lighting.
Another simple way to spruce up your outdoor kitchen is incorporating more plants into the area. Particularly, bringing edible herbs, flowers or veggies closer to your cooking area is adds a very cool element.
Technological innovations and clever design are quickly taking over the world of outdoor kitchens. Denis says he notices fantastic new products popping up every year.
For example, barbeques now range in price from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on what you want to do with them. Another interesting development comes in terms of pizza ovens. A couple years ago you would have had to bring a customized stone oven from Europe, but now you can buy a unit that attaches to your barbeque.
“Outdoor kitchens are in a great place right now,” says Denis. “Now that it’s such a major trend designers and manufactures are looking to make clever, innovative designs to help people eat outdoors.”
By Alyssa McMurtry