Experts offer insight on the hottest moves for al fresco kitchens. By Loren Kessell
Summertime means BBQing and entertaining. Outdoor kitchens serve up kitchen necessities with natural ambiance, and they’re ideal for cookout season. NKBA asked experts to identify the hot trends for outdoor spaces. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Durable and Sustainable Design
Consumers are looking for designs that are both durable and environmentally conscious. Easily maintained, weather-resistant products are popular in outdoor applications. With increasing sustainability awareness, there’s also a push for appliances that lessen environmental impact. This includes a shift from plastic furniture to sturdier wooden and woven pieces.
“For decades, outdoor furniture was disposable and replaced every few years. But, the influence of design and sustainability has homeowners more dialed in to the value of buying products crafted from sustainable materials, like stainless steel, as well as furniture for the outdoors that will last,” Mitch Slater, president of Danver + Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, said. “It’s especially true with those who may have cut corners with the first outdoor kitchen they built. Now, they’re ready to invest and do it right.”
One example of an environmentally friendly, multi-purpose unit is the wood-fired pellet grill, since it allows users to grill, smoke or bake outside.
“Pellet grills are versatile, and the wood-smoked flavor that enhances grilled food is appealing to those who cook outdoors,” Kerrie Kelly, owner of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, said. “They are extremely fuel-efficient with an average of one pound of pellets per hour of cook time.”
2. A Pop of Color
Ideas surrounding color in outdoor spaces are changing. Although sticking to natural colors remains popular, there is also the addition of color in appliances and accessories.
“We’re seeing a lot more color in outdoor grills instead of just stainless and black,” according to NKBA Insiders Carolina Gentry and Beth Dotolo, owners of Pulp Design Studios. “It’s a great look and can coordinate with outdoor palettes.”
Blues, greens and occasional yellows and oranges are some of the choices requested.
“We can now select a palette for the entire home, allowing it to spill outdoors, expanding the square footage visually and physically,” Kelly added.
According to Slater, there’s also a shift to moodier palettes that include deep berry tones or black.
3. Blending Indoors and Outdoors
Consumers want the ease of indoor kitchens to work seamlessly into outdoor designs that promote al fresco living. Creature comforts found indoors are working their way outside, including TVs and comfy lounge areas.
“We’re designing more outdoor islands with built-in grills — this is an easy way to create an al fresco kitchen,” Gentry and Dotolo noted. “People are also more interested in investing in plumbing and drainage for outdoor kitchens, so they can have running water and a sink.”
Achieving fluid indoor and outdoor design involves using similar colors schemes, choosing natural materials and adding appliances.
“Easy tricks include using the same flooring material indoors and out, as well as countertops, and using indoor cabinetry as inspiration for what you select outdoors,” Slater said. “Pro Tip: Make sure all products and materials are rated for outdoor use.”
4. Light Up a Space
Varied lighting is popular and necessary in outdoor spaces. On a bright day, sunlight usually does the trick, but once dusk falls, carefully placed lighting solutions steal the show. Mixing bright lights and lanterns for night-time ambiance is a popular combination.
“You want task lighting when you’re cooking, bright lights when you need to walk from one area to another, and softer lighting for parties and conversation,” Gentry and Dotolo said. “If it’s an uncovered area, we always use lanterns and candles because you can sub in citronella to keep the bugs at bay.”
From a safety standpoint, lighting in outdoor spaces is one of the biggest factors. It can be accomplished in a way that’s practical as well as aesthetically pleasing.
“While coach lights and pathway lights are a given for safety and wayfinding, Italian bistro lights strung above a dining area can provide the right amount of twinkle for dining outdoors,” Kelly said. “Uplighting on trees and shrubs can offer a dramatic architectural feel, and task lighting can be folded in for a safe and effective outdoor kitchen experience.”