Grilling and outdoor entertaining go hand in hand, with the experience moving well beyond how things used to be with a backyard get together.
Remember when an outdoor cooking area consisted of a standalone basic barbecue and a small rickety side table overloaded with meats, condiments, grilling tools, and the chef’s open beer?
Your guests might dine at a picnic table in need of a new coat of paint and relax in uncomfortable folding or Muskoka chairs.
That has now given way to decidedly more upscale outdoor cooking and entertaining spaces and experiences.
Outdoor kitchens are the most popular kitchen upgrade project
Forbes recently wrote that “outdoor kitchens and living areas are trending strongly and richly, with more enhancements than ever before”. Google “outdoor kitchen trends” and you’ll be met with 163,00,000 returned results.
The American Institute of Architects’ recent Home Design Trends Survey provides further evidence of the growing popularity of outdoor kitchen additions among homeowners and design professionals.
500 members of residential architecture firms were asked about their predictions for home design trends.
45% of the surveyed architects forecast that outdoor kitchens would be the most popular kitchen product and feature in the coming years.
7 outdoor kitchen trends and essential design features
The more sophisticated designs of modern interior kitchens are being utilized in the outdoor space, whether it’s a smaller setup in the corner of a deck or a larger, more elaborate outdoor cooking and entertaining area. Outdoor kitchens typically range from 100 to 400 square feet.
We took a look online at what real estate and home design professionals are projecting to be the hot outdoor kitchen trends, as well as what essential features they believe should be included in any outdoor living space that a homeowner wants to stand out.
With the right design and luxurious amenities, you just might find that your outdoor kitchen and lounging area even displaces the living room as your home’s go-to social hub!
1. A versatile, premium grill that’s built to last
The grill is an outdoor kitchen’s centrepiece, so choosing a high-quality cooking appliance worthy of a professional chef is essential for any upscale exterior kitchen.
Premium grill brands like Alfresco, Coyote, Lynx, and DCS make fine-tuned products that are far superior to even the highest-end grill models you’ll find in your local big-box store.
It starts with the construction. Any grill needs to be able to withstand the rigours of Canadian weather, even if an outdoor kitchen and the grill itself are covered up during the winter.
Premium propane and natural gas grills use high-quality stainless steel and construction materials to ensure long-lasting durability and reliable performance.
Grills with expansive cooking surfaces and handy extras like a smoking box, rotisserie, warming and grilling racks, a warming drawer, and side burners are a must-have for anyone who takes their barbecuing seriously.
Today’s luxury grills also come with some very swanky features that would have seemed unimaginable back in the days when grease-caked charcoal grills were the standard tool for barbecuing. Here are a few examples of some premium grill features:
- integrated illumination with backlit control knobs, interior lighting, and halogen surface lights
- advanced electro-mechanical valves to automatically maintain the preset surface temperature
- smart controls that respond to voice commands or a smart device
- a heat-treated hood assist system that makes opening the grill hood almost effortless
Another of the growing outdoor kitchen trends includes incorporating a built-in grill into the kitchen’s design, as opposed to having a standalone grill. This saves space, looks professional and elegant, and makes for a more efficient workspace.
2. Stylish, yet durable built-in cabinetry
You can’t call a space a kitchen without cabinetry. Naturally, an outdoor kitchen requires a special type of cabinetry.
It must be durable enough to handle being outdoors, while still maintaining the exterior cooking space’s stylish aesthetic. It needs to maximize your storage space as well.
Stainless steel is the material of choice for custom and semi-custom built-in cabinet systems used in the majority of outdoor kitchens.
Brands like Brown Jordan and Danver are made with commercial-grade stainless steel for superior durability. Powder-coated finishes ensure the cabinets stay rust-free for many years.
Stainless steel cabinets have a sleek look that can be customized to match your style preferences and to conform with your grill system and other outdoor kitchen features.
Another weatherproof cabinet option is a hi-density resin cabinet system, such as what NatureKast offers. Their cabinets replicate the texture and natural colour of real wood remarkably well.
Marine-grade aluminum kitchen cabinets are also engineered to withstand harsh weather and climates. Quebec’s Urban Bonfire is one of the leading manufacturers of this type of outdoor cabinet.
3. A resilient outdoor kitchen countertop
An outdoor kitchen countertop has three main functions. It has to:
- have a resilient surface that can handle the requirements for a food prep area
- be engineered for long-lasting structural and aesthetic integrity in an outdoor environment
- visually complement the kitchen’s other stylish features
Some of the more common types of countertop materials include marble, granite, porcelain, soapstone, and concrete.
One of the outdoor kitchen trends we’re seeing more with countertops is to use surfaces made with sintering technology. This high-tech manufacturing process produces extremely durable surfaces that are highly customizable.
Any higher quality outdoor kitchen countertop will be non-porous and provide strong resistance to abrasions, stains, chemicals, and ultraviolet light (which will prevent the surface’s colour from fading over time).
4. An efficient, full-service food prep area
A well-designed outdoor kitchen should include a full-service food prep area. A practical layout for everything facilitates an efficient workflow.
The need for good lighting and an ample amount of counter space are a given.
Having all the amenities you’ll need to handle all of your food prep within easy reach is helpful, too. With so much to do getting your guest’s meals ready, there’s no time to waste shuttling in and out of the house to retrieve a needed item!
There are a full complement of interior kitchen amenities that can be added to an outdoor kitchen. Here are a few examples:
- faucet and sink
- built-in countertop side burners, flat top grill, and fryer
- outdoor pizza oven and countertop oven
- built-in countertop steam table
- pullout electric warming drawer
- refrigeration and ice-making appliances
5. Plenty of refrigeration
Let’s look a little closer at refrigeration in an outdoor kitchen. After all, ice and keeping things cool go hand in hand with cooking and lounging outside when the weather warms up.
Ensuring an outdoor kitchen is fully equipped to take care of both the host’s and guest’s refrigeration needs is the ultimate in convenience for an outdoor entertaining space.
Once again, having enough refrigeration in your outdoor cooking area saves you from making trips to your indoor fridge or freezer to restock on meats.
It saves guests from needing to make trips inside to get a fresh cold drink. You also won’t have to keep coolers or tubs of ice filled with bottled beverages scattered around your outdoor entertaining area.
There is no shortage of outdoor kitchen refrigeration options available. Top outdoor appliance brands like Alfresco and Lynx offer under-grill refrigerators, wine fridges, built-in under-counter fridges, and professional fridge/freezer combos.
How about adding an outdoor ice machine? Lynx has an energy-efficient luxury appliance that can produce almost 40 pounds of ice and provides audible alerts and programmed cleaning reminders.
6. Décor that coordinates with your home’s interior
The attention you pay to the design and décor of an indoor living space should extend to the outdoor living space as well.
The modern trend of “style continuity” in the home (where there’s a natural decorative flow from room to room) drives another of the outdoor kitchen trends gaining traction with designers.
More and more, the décor of outdoor kitchens installed on decks or patios is coordinated to align with and complement the style of the interior kitchen or the closest room to the outdoor kitchen.
Decorative flair can also be added to the already-impressive looks of a premium grill, cabinet system, and countertop in the form of cabinet backsplashes and decorative moulding elements.
7. Add-on features that elevate your outdoor living experience
We’ve covered a lot, but there’s still more you can do to elevate your outdoor living experience. Some add-on features and design elements to consider are:
- an outdoor fireplace or fire pit
- a TV mounted in your cabinetry
- an integrated sound system with hidden speakers and wiring
- high-end outdoor furniture
- landscape lighting to boost the ambiance in your outdoor lounge area
- a herb garden close to the food prep area
- an outdoor kitchen island that has multiple uses as a supplementary food prep area, extra storage space, and as a flat surface for guests to use
Start adopting these outdoor kitchen trends for your cooking space
All of these outdoor kitchen trends and essential features will contribute immensely to the enjoyment of any outdoor cooking and entertaining space.
If you’re planning to upgrade or add an outdoor kitchen in your home, request a design consultation with Outdoor Kitchens & Cabinetry today.
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