How to create the perfect outdoor kitchen

An outdoor kitchenSummer is the perfect time for entertaining.  The kids are home for the summer, the pool is open and the nights are made for relaxing with friends.  The only problem is, while everyone is sitting out on the patio having a great time, you’re stuck inside the house in the kitchen. Well you don’t need to be.  An outdoor kitchen will provide you with a perfect entertaining area for family and friends. Whatever you can dream and desire in your outdoor kitchen, it is possible. All it takes is focusing on what amenities found in your indoor kitchen you would really like to include in your outdoor kitchen.  Start planning ahead with a wish list of how you want to use the new space and what you want it to look like. It is easy to create an outstanding outdoor kitchen and entertaining space.  In a few easy steps we can create a great plan for your outdoor kitchen.

Choosing the right location is the first step. It is best to place the outdoor kitchen near to the existing kitchen or with easy access to the house.  Sometimes there is an opportunity to add an outdoor kitchen by your pool or in the garden away from the house to create a separate entertaining space.  It is best to provide some privacy from neighbors while directing views to appealing garden elements. Consider where the prevailing winds are from and try to prevent smoke from blowing into any nearby windows or doors or over the patio. It is best to place the dining area upwind from any smoke source, if possible.

KitchenSecond, determine the configuration and size of the proposed outdoor kitchen. The space must accommodate the cook and have a great “working triangle”. The working trianlge should have unobstructed access to the sink, cooking areas and refrigeration.  Other things to consider and plan for are an easy path for transporting food to the dining area and and easy path from the indoor kitchen. Many people plan for the grill and that is it, but it is essential to provide sufficient counter space for working and preparation, and areas for storage, refrigeration, and a sink to make your outdoor kitchen complete. It is important to size the area appropriately for the normal entertaining while meeting your needs and desires.  The area should comfortably accommodate enough spaces for typical entertaining needs and allow for temporary accommodations for that once or twice a year big barbecue.

Preparation work space and counters all need to be roomy enough to accommodate cooking, meal preparation, serving space and must be made of materials that are durable, stain resistant, weatherproof, cool in sunlight and resilient so it is not easily damaged or chipped.  All of the materials you choose should blend well with the other landscape elements to create an attractive palette. In other words the area needs to be well thought out and planned ahead of time.

Outdoor KitchenThird, let’s figure out what appliances are going to be in the kitchen. Outdoor kitchens should be more than just a grill, which is only the start of a basic kitchen design. As we get more into your outdoor kitchen design, we will add many other components. What we add is only limited by the space available, your needs and desires and the budget constraints. Many components that can be integrated into an outdoor kitchen area include: various sized grills, smokers, hybrid grill drawers, rotisseries, griddles, side burners, searing stations, wok station, warming cabinets, pizza oven or a deep fryer; Cooling appliances like outdoor refrigerators, refrigerated drawers, freezers, ice makers, wine chillers, beverage centers, cocktail stations or kegerator; Storage can include pieces such under counter storage drawers, pull out garbage drawers, shelves, recycling cabinet, paper towel bins or garbage drawer; Cleaning appliances like dishwasher or outdoor sinks; and ventilation with outdoor hood vents. The kitchen must meet all local and state building, health, zoning and fire codes. These vary by region and municipality.

Usually the focus of the outdoor kitchen is the grill,Grill and refrigerator so choosing the right grill is absolutely critical to your overall satisfaction with the cooking experience. There is a wide variety of qualities for manufacturers of lines of barbeques and outdoor kitchens. They can range in all sizes and styles and from simple to high-tech for the grills and other components.

Fourth once the location, size and appliances are all figured out we coordinate the lighting, utilities, entertainment needs and heating for the space.  Lighting for the the outdoor kitchen is very important and includes: general lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.  General lighting is important because it floods the space with a soft glow that illuminates the overall space.  The general lighting is usually good enough for dining, and circulation but it is not sufficient for cooking and preparation.  This type of lighting can be accomplished with recessed lights or overhead lights.  Task lighting is very important and provides ligher levels of light for the grill and preparation areas.  This can be accomplished with spot lights and most grill companies provide lights on the grill hoods for after late evening grilling. Accent lighting can be used to create a mood.  Sometimes this will be done with pendant lights over the bar area, floor lamps or achitectural lights.

Utilities necessary for most outdoor kitchen installations, depending on the complexity, include the fuel source for the cooking appliances with a choice of propane, gas, wood, or charcoal and basics like electricity and water. There are various entertainment options that can be incorporated into outdoor kitchens and dining areas. These include sound systems, televisions and projectors.  Incorporating music and a sound system into your outdoor entertaining area with an outdoor speaker system will provide added enjoyment for guests and the homeowner. Additionally, video monitors, televisions or computers can be incorporated into sheltered areas of the kitchen for entertaining outside. There are several companies providing flat panel TV’s for use in covered outdoor areas.

We recommend adding a roof or shade structure over your outdoor kitchen. A roof or shade structure will keep the area clean and also provides opportunities for lights, speakers, televisions and outdoor heaters. Another option which allows you to extend the use of your new outdoor kitchen is to include outdoor heaters.  Natural gas, portable propane or radiant heaters are effective to keep diners and cooks warm on a late fall evening. These come in a variety of forms. Many outdoor entertaining spaces and kitchens are now including fireplaces, chimineas, chimuras or fire pits for adding heat.

Lastly, based on your style, budget and needs, we figure out the material choices and palette.  For the appliances and cabinetry stainless steel is the most popular material for outdoor kitchens, since it is a very sanitary surface, easily cleaned and corrosion resistant in the outdoor environment.  However, there are several companies offering different colors and looks for the cabinetry and accents.

Outdoor KitchenOptions for counter tops include granite, slate, other types of stone, stainless steel, tile or concrete. In selecting the counter it is necessary to make sure the material is resistant to grease stains and easily cleaned to be most effective. Each one of these materials has a different price point so we are sure to find something that fits your budget.  There are many options for the grill enclosure structure and the cabinetry.  The enclosure is often made of concrete block then covered in stone.  However, it can be made of steel framing materials then coated in thinstone veneer, stucco, brick or tile.  The cabinetry is often made of stainless steel, but other materials can be used as well.  The key is to create a space out of a palette of materials that work together from a design perspective and meets your needs.

Creating an outdoor kitchen was one of the top ten trends for 2011 and will continue to be popular in the next few years as more homeowners want to enjoy their current property and enhance their lifestyle without the necessity of going away on vacation or upgrading to a new home. Expanding the home’s livable space outdoors, provides a return on your investment.

Not sure where to start? Let us help you design the perfect outdoor kitchen for your property, call Rock Spring Design Group, LLC 203•268•6979 or email us at today for a free one hour consultation to start planning your upcoming landscape project  Thank you for visiting our blog where we provide a fresh viewpoint with great information and insights on Landscape Architecture, site planning and the world of outdoor design.  If you like what you see here please forward this onto your friends.  Also check us out and Like us on Facebook at

Containers vs. Pots for your garden and landscape.

Planters by the front door at a private residence

Planters by the front door at a private residence

Is it a pot or is it a container? Who knows? So, what is the difference between a pot and a container? Well, since you asked, mostly it is determined by size.  Pots are usually small and can be easily moved. Containers on the other hand are much larger, having a capacity of more than 3 gallons of soil or 12” diameter and larger in size. They can be moved,but with much more effort and some are so heavy that is it better to leave them in place year round.  Containers come in many shapes, materials and sizes and include planters, window boxes, very large pots, urns, bowls, planting boxes, jardinières, and planting troughs.

A formal urn by Haddonstone

Landscape Architects use containers in many different ways.  Much in the same way that furniture can set the style in a room a Landscape Architect can use containers can set the style in the garden. Containers can be used to create a colorful accent at a doorway, to create an edge to a garden or path, as a design element for a garden space, an enclosing element in the garden or at the edge of a terrace, or as a focal point in the garden. Containers are mostly thought of as a garden element but they can best used in much more practical ways. On roof decks and plazas over structures planters provide enough soil depth to grows trees, creating shade and attractive gardens in urban settings. Also, after 9/11 security in public spaces and at corporate facilities became a very serious concern. The design problem was how to provide a security barrier quickly and attractively. In many public parks and plazas, landscape architects used large concrete planters to create security barriers and to control traffic flow. Addressing the need for security without sacrificing the aesthetic or design of the spaces they were protecting.

Large metal containers separate spaces on this commercial roof deck. Creating separate areas and providing security

Large metal containers separate spaces on this commercial roof deck. Creating separate areas and providing security

Various options are available for containers. They can be made of different materials including metal, concrete, glazed ceramic, cast stone, terracotta, fiberglass, plastic, or stone. Of course it is vital that the container fits within its surroundings and matches the style of the garden. Most planters come in a variety of color and have options for texture.  These should be carefully considered when selecting them to make sure it is appropriate for the space. The container should blend harmoniously with the other materials nearby on the project.

Planter boxes can create a sense of rythm and reinforce a geometric layout

The planter should also be sized appropriately to accommodate the plantings that are intended to go into it.  Most annuals need 12-18” of soil depth to grow and look good.  If you want to grow a tree in a planter you will need 24-42” of soil and 6-8’ diameter minimum.  Careful attention should be paid to the soil mix, drainage requirements and watering requirements for the planters.  Many large planters in commercial settings have irrigation systems built into them.  Having the right soil mix for your application is important to success of the plantings.  Consider adding a soil moisture retaining polymer to the soil to prevent it from drying out.  Rooftop and over structure applications will require lightweight soil mixes keep the weight down.

Planters can be used as part of a formal perennial bed as an accent or repeated to create rythm.

Containers can be arranged in groupings of similar color, size or material or as complimentary groupings of diverse assortment to make a statement. Additionally containers are can be used as a formal design element in garden or landscape, as a sculptural element, for traffic control, for plantings on roof tops or on terraces were in-ground plantings are not possible. Other uses for containers are to plant non-hardy fruit trees (like oranges, lemons, limes, etc.) that are summered outdoors and then are carried inside for the winter months in areas of the country where the trees are not winter hardy and also for larger landscape plants like specimen trees, fruit trees, evergreen shrubs or flowering shrubs that are looking for permanent homes above ground.

Large custom planters in an arrangement

You could also make a container out of a found object or cast-off like an old metal bucket, wheel barrow or bathtub, anything left up to your imagination could be used. These sort of containers can create a whimsical tone in the garden.

Not sure where to begin. Not sure how to use containers in your garden or what’s the right container for your project. We can help you pick the perfect containers for your space, call Rock Spring Design Group, LLC 203•268•6979 or email us at today for a free one hour consultation to start planning your upcoming landscape project  Thank you for visiting our blog where we provide a fresh viewpoint with great information and insights on Landscape Architecture, site planning and the world of outdoor design.

A clawfoot bathtub used as planter in a rustic rural setting is whimsical add a bit of humor to the garden