With outdoor kitchens, cooking is part of the party
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A backyard oasis defines nooks for alfresco entertainment
Who’s the biggest fan of this Otsego sanctuary? It might be homeowners’ yellow Labrador, who enjoys drinking from a “bubbling boulder” water feature that sits between the two patios. The fountain also emits a soothing sound that turns this suburban backyard into a secluded retreat. “It’s centering,” says Jeff Spear, President of Spear’s Landscape, the company that designed and built the space. “You can see it from wherever you are—the bar, the kitchen, or the fire pit.”
This small backyard is now packed with gathering spaces, having escaped its destiny to remain a flat, unremarkable landscape. To create this, Spear designed an adjoining kitchen and fire pit, surrounded by foliage and mulch, at the backyard’s edge—an island getaway surrounded by grass. His team built a berm around the fire pit and added boulders, evergreens, and dogwoods, as well as other plants to provide height and textural interest. The space also features multiple levels, to better define each space.
There’s a step up from the grass and two steps up to the kitchen area.
The not-too-steep climb is well worth it. The kitchen, which sits beneath a cedar pergola, features weather-resistant appliances, including a gas grill, side burner, and refrigerator. There’s also plenty of storage and a water spigot. “You don’t have to constantly run back and forth from the house,” says Spear. “We brought indoors out—it’s all right here.”
That includes the entertainment. When the bubbling boulder needs backup, there’s a flat-screen TV and 360-degree Bose speakers that emit music to every part of the yard. Though its function is primarily cooking, a newly added wood-fire pizza oven between the fire pit and kitchen has ratcheted up the space’s recreational feel. “Outdoor ovens are so fun,” says Spear. “You can make just about anything: appetizers, steak, salmon, kebabs, dessert…”
Outdoor Kitchen Trends
New developments in design—in cooking, lighting, and entertainment elements—allow outdoor cooks to maximize every last second of fine weather.
Wood-Fire Pizza Ovens
They’re not just for pizza anymore—practically anything can be baked or roasted in a wood-fire pizza oven. And it won’t take long. Once the oven’s temperature reaches between 600 and 700 degrees, a pizza can be cooked in three minutes flat.
That flat-screen TV looks great—until it sits through its first thunderstorm.
Keep the bloopers at bay by protecting an outdoor television with a weatherproof case. Internal heaters warm the components so even Old Man Winter can’t come between you and the big game.
Builders are incorporating rooftops, pergolas, and arbors into outdoor kitchen designs to help define the space and make it a focal point. These structures are also clever places to hide additional lighting.
Herb garden troughs built right into a kitchen counter can add color and bring life to the space. Cooks can pick what they need when they need it.