Planning an Outdoor Kitchen
Anyone with a backyard or balcony can buy a grill, set up a table and chairs, and cook and dine outdoors. "Outdoor kitchen," however, brings to mind an actual outdoor room. And that requires construction, design and planning. Before blowing the entire budget on the biggest gas grill in the store, read these tips to get started.
1. Cover the outdoor kitchen basics. In addition to a built-in grill, designer Ann Porter, of Kitchens Studio of Naples in Florida, recommends a sink, a UL-rated outdoor refrigerator, and weatherproof cabinetry. Dawn Whyte, of Designs by Dawn in Petoskey, Mich., agrees with the refrigerator and grill (not necessarily built in), and also suggests some seating and a counter surface for food prep. Of course, all of this needs to sit atop a patio, deck or other flat surface.
2. Use durable, low-maintenance and weather-resistant materials. Snow, rain, hot sun, extreme cold, grease and errant softballs all will take their toll. Stone, concrete, stainless steel and solid surface or acrylic-based materials all work well for patios, counters, appliances and cabinetry.
A small outdoor kitchen can fit on a back porch.
3. Choose the location of the outdoor kitchen carefully. Just outside the indoor kitchen-near the primary sink and appliances, as well as dishes and cookware-may seem the obvious choice. Not necessarily. Whyte checks the wind direction first to avoid placing the grill where it will blow smoke into the house. Also, consider how the kitchen will relate to dining and lounging areas, a pool, a garden, a playset or other outdoor features.
4. Plan for utilities. As in interior remodeling, adding or changing electrical, gas and water lines to an outdoor kitchen adds significant costs to the price tag. Option 1: Avoid those costs by choosing a propane or charcoal grill and skipping other appliances and a sink. Option 2: Go for it, but be safe and have the existing utility lines marked before digging. (To find out how, visit the Common Ground Alliance.)
Courtesy of Kichler
Pendants look lovely over an outdoor table.
5. Make the days — and the season — last. Outdoor lighting allows grilling and socializing to extend past dusk. (See the American Lighting Association for ideas.) For safety's sake, use task lighting at the grill and walkways. A fireplace or propane heater makes outdoor living comfortable even on cool spring and fall nights. And an eave, awning or roofed structure keeps rain at bay.
6. Consider the "living" potential of the outdoor space. Outdoor living encompasses much more than cooking and dining. Many outdoor living rooms include lounges or sofas, televisions and/or sound systems, fireplaces or firepits, and a pool or game area. Even if budget doesn't allow for these features now, proper planning can make them easier to add later.
7. Put together the right team. Putting together an outdoor living space combines the design and technical skills of a kitchen designer, landscape architect, general contractor, electrician and plumber, if not several more professionals. Building permits will almost certainly be required. Not only is an outdoor kitchen not an easy do-it-yourself project, it's not easy for pros who don't have experience working outside.
8. Save those pennies. "Outdoor kitchens, for their size, are fairly expensive," cautions Porter. "Quality materials designed to withstand the elements are more expensive." Whyte estimates $15,000 as a starting point for an outdoor kitchen in her region.
For more tips on grilling and outdoor living, try the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.
The Role of Technology in Today's Kitchen
This Siemens range hood includes a television screen.
When someone mentions the kitchen of the future, what do you think of? Talking appliances that respond to voice commands? Islands that, with a push of a button, transform into a dining room table with a fully cooked meal on it? Robotic chefs that yell catch phrases and clean your kitchen at the end of every meal?
Unfortunately — or perhaps fortunately — those sort of Jetson-like capabilities aren't available (yet). But technology does have a large role in the kitchen of today. As our lifestyles have changed, and the function of the kitchen has changed, technology has advanced to meet our needs.
The kitchen is no longer a room strictly for preparing food. As homework, bill-paying, laundry, casual entertaining and other non-cooking activities have migrated to the kitchen, it has grown in size, and some modern floor plans make the kitchen the home's central location. Entertainment and information systems help motivate other family members to actually come into the kitchen, sit down, and eat a meal. Having a computer in the kitchen can help as well, especially if you need to look up recipes, pay some of the bills that have piled up on the counter or watch your e-mail for an important message.
For those with busy schedules, appliance technology is helping to cook food faster, cook food remotely, and remind you when food needs to be replaced. And for those that have hobbies that lead them into the kitchen, technology is allowing them to be even more passionate about what they love.
Of course, one day when your robotic chef is cooking all your meals, you might completely forget what it was like to ever do any sort of work in the kitchen. But until then, here are some products that can make your kitchen more entertaining, informative and efficient.
An All-Ages, All Abilities Approach to Space Planning
As you plan your new kitchen, consider how you can incorporate the common-sense principles of universal design, a branch of design that takes its name from its all-ages, all-abilities approach to space planning.
The basic idea is that if you build or remodel your kitchen with universal design principles, you can ensure that anyone who ties on an apron will be able to comfortably and safely whip up dinner or wash the dishes. Universal design guidelines can make the kitchen more practical for your kids after school, for your elderly in-laws at holiday dinners, for a loved one who requires wheelchair accessibility, or for yourself as you grow older and your own physical needs change.
The guidelines go beyond accessible housing rules that have gotten a bad rap over the years for their often clinical, institutional elements, such as metallic grab bars in the shower. Universal design principles not only consider accessibility but also style and what will benefit the most people, regardless of age or physical health.
For example, dishwashers in drawer units can make cleanup more convenient for everyone, whether someone has a bad back or not. Likewise, magnetic touch-and-release cabinet doors make access easy for arthritic hands or for those of a 7-year-old, without sacrificing creative design.
Universal design also aims to eliminate the expense and hassle of constantly adapting your home to your changing needs.
As you read through the general principles of universal design and how they can be applied to kitchens, you'll probably start thinking that the recommendations sound like plain old common sense. That's the point. Don't leave common sense out of your kitchen design!
And, if you do have special needs, such as wheelchair accessibility or extra lighting, realize that you can meet those needs and still cook and entertain in a stylish and beautiful space.
Applying the Art of Placement in Your Kitchen
Use feng shui to optimize your kitchen layout.
Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) concerns the art of placement; arranging your home in a way that enhances its good energy, or, Ch'i (pronounced chee). Translating to "wind and water," feng shui is a Chinese discipline first used by royals some 15 centuries ago to harness the land's positive energy and bring wealth to the kingdom.
A city constructed on ground that carried positive Ch'i would find its people nourished, while burying an emperor in a place of negative Ch'i would cause catastrophe. From this tradition, feng shui later found its way into the general population as a guide for selecting home plots.
Today, feng shui has entered the homes of the Western world. Have you ever rearranged your couch or moved a vase of flowers from your table to the counter and felt like you were in a new, refreshed room? That change in mood, energy, sensation-all components of Ch'i-owes itself to placement, the basis of feng shui.
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home for generating good Ch'i. Food nourishes us, leading to improved health, which allows us to work harder and achieve greater prosperity. Because food preparation occurs in the kitchen, the room's Ch'i affects your food and, in turn, your overall well-being.
Small changes, such as freeing your space of distracting clutter and using a round dining table (to best circulate mealtime Ch'i), can improve your happiness and functionality within your culinary corner, which, according to feng shui, will bring wealth and health to you and your family.
With those kinds of promises, why not give it a try? At the very least, you'll have experimented with a creative alternative to more traditional design solutions.
The Kitchen is Getting Smarter and Faster
Photo courtesy of Samsung Appliances
Keep your kitchen and family organized with special apps made for your refrigerator.
Families come in various shapes and sizes, but the one constant in many homes is that everyone in the family is busy. Work, school, lessons, and anything else you can think of takes up a good chunk of waking hours. In the kitchen, it's often about making the most out of what little time you have to cook. Luckily appliances are getting faster and smarter to help you maximize your time. The refrigerator and oven seem to be the main beneficiaries of these technological advances, although products that store and make beverages have also received some help as well.
It appears that ovens are beginning to adhere to that old business adage, "Work smart, not just hard." The latest batch of ovens coming to a kitchen near you have high IQ features, like remote programming and display screens that offer cooking tips. Some of them can even cook your food up to 90 percent faster than traditional ovens. Now if only they could convince your kids to eat their broccoli.
Cost: $7,495The Connect Io might be the first oven that takes cell phone calls. It uses remote connectivity based on NASA space technology that allows you to operate it using the Internet or even your cell phone. Whichever browser you use, you can view the oven's controls and settings in real time. There is also built-in refrigeration to ensure your food stays fresh until you give the Connect Io cooking instructions from a remote location. You can operate this 30-inch, double wall oven from your kitchen too, but what fun would that be?
TurboChef Speedcook Oven
The 30-inch Speedcook double wall oven is as fast as a slow cooker is slow. Its claim to fame is being able to prepare meals up to 15 times faster than conventional ovens, all while preserving your food's flavor and quality. It also includes a digital display to calculate cook times; a helpful feature, since your Fannie Farmer cookbook doesn't have recipes adjusted for the Speedcook.
The 21st-century refrigerator is quickly evolving into the entertainment and command center of the kitchen. Integrating a television into the fridge door was the first new trait of the modern fridge, but that turned out to be just the tip of the icebox. Here are two fridges that entertain, inform and talk.
LG TV Refrigerator (LSC27990TT)
Cost: $3,499 to $3,699
LG has been producing television refrigerators for the past couple of years, and their latest model has the biggest TV screen to date, with a 15-inch LCD screen that can also function as a DVD player and FM radio. This refrigerator's other feature is a weather and information center, which can tell you the temperature inside and outside and even provide a five-day forecast. Other amenities include a calendar, alarm clock, recipe finder, and the ability to store digital photos. Available in stainless steel, this side-by-side, 26.2-cubic foot refrigerator also keeps your food cold.
Samsung Refrigerator with Wireless ICE Pad
This 26-cubic foot side-by-side refrigerator has a detachable, 10.4-inch LCD screen called the ICE (interactive control entertainment) pad. It can be used as a television, but this thin touch screen is hardly one dimensional. The ICE pad allows you to record voice messages for family members, and with help from a stylus pen, you can leave hand-written messages on the LCD screen. Using the touch screen, you can inventory what's in the fridge and set reminders to tell you when products will expire. If only it could prevent certain family members from drinking out of the milk container, you'd be all set
How can you tell a casual wine drinker from a full fledged wine enthusiast? Look in their kitchen, of course. If they own a wine fridge, you've found an oenophile. For the truly obsessed connoisseurs of fermented grape juice, these two high-tech products will surely take a passion for wine to the next level.
GE Monogram Wine Vault
Rest assured, this is only for the serious (and seriously loaded) wine lover. From the outside, the wine vault looks like it belongs in a bank with its stainless steel frame. Inside, a 3,000 Btu cooling system keeps the vault at 55 degrees Fahrenheit with a consistent humidity level, while the redwood racks can hold between 1,031 and 1,100 bottles of wine, depending on which design you choose. But what truly makes the wine vault high tech is its electronic inventory system. Using a 15-inch touch screen attached to the outside of the vault, you can scan bar codes, create labels and manage your supply of wine.
If buying wine just doesn't do it for you anymore, consider the WinePod, a device that makes wine-making easy and vineyard free. The WinePod ferments, presses and ages frozen grapes (which can be purchased through Provina) to create four to five cases of wine per batch. This wine-making machine transmits data wirelessly to your computer, and with the WinePod's software, you can monitor each batch you make. This software also helps you choose the appropriate grapes, and gives instructions for making various types of wine. Unfortunately, the WinePod is currently sold out. However, the next round of WinePods should be available in May, and you can sign up online to reserve one.
Most parents want a kitchen where children can help bake and cook.
No mom ever poured pancake batter in the shape of a snowman for herself. Kitchens are meant to be kid-filled. Whether you're a grandparent, rearing a gaggle of little ones, or think you might want to one day, it's important to consider the kid-factor. After all, you want to make sure they can reach the counter to bake those chocolate chip cookies; and that they won't burn their hand when they try to grab a piping hot one from a just-out-of-the-oven sheet. Here are our tips for safe and accessible kitchens for kids:
You may have a top-of-the-line playroom, but kids, especially little ones, want to be where their parents are. That's why it's often a good idea to include a "kid's cabinet" in your design. An easy-to-reach set of base cabinets can make it a snap for kids to access (and, hopefully, clean-up) their crayons and paper.
Adding a cubby area is also a wise choice for both parties: Mom and Dad can quickly toss forgotten toys and half-read books into each child's cubby for safekeeping. Neatly stored toys are then ready and waiting for the next time that boredom strikes.
Countertops and Flooring
But where should your little Picasso sit after diving into the arts and crafts cabinet? Betty Nairn of Cabinet-S-Top of Medina, Ohio, cautions parents to "be careful not to incorporate high bar areas into your design." Kids perched on towering stools just spells trouble. Avoid tumbles by incorporating a table-height seating area: One smart pairing is a higher island that features a raised countertop for the adults to work on, with a lowered second tier that's kid height but still close to the action. But be careful not to get the little ones too close to it all-it's best not to install a cooktop on an island if you have young children, as they can grab for a pan or be splattered by hot oil if seated nearby.
In addition to the height of your countertop, think about the surface itself. Nairn recommends choosing a non-porous surface like quartz surfacing that won't stain easily or show excessive wear and tear. You'll also want to trade sharp corners for rounded edges. Look below the feet, too. Flooring should be user-friendly in terms of cleanability and slip-resistance. Something with a pattern tends to hide dirt more effectively, and be sure to inquire about durability ; your floor may double as a tricycle track on occasion.
A Kid-Safe Cooking Space
It's an all-too-familiar medley: "I'm hungry" meets "what's for dinner?" meets the endless open and close of the refrigerator door. Give kids a bit of autonomy and accessibility with a designated area for them to prepare meals or snacks. A breakfast area, for example, could allow for access to cereal, plastic bowls and spoons. Rather than grapple with milk set on a high shelf, a refrigerator drawer installed in an island provides easy access. When it comes to the main fridge, however, be sure to select a model with an ice and water dispenser on the door.
The microwave is a safe and simple way to get your child excited about simple meal and snack preparation, from making popcorn to heating up oatmeal in the morning. It allows them to sidestep the need to use the oven so don't do something as unsafe as installing a microwave over a range. Sharp recently introduced a microwave drawer that can be installed into an island. A user-friendly interior control panel makes it simple for the kids to heat up mac 'n' cheese. and eliminates bending and reaching for mom and dad as well.
Basic Safety Tips
Nairn advises parents (and cooks in general) to keep a fire extinguisher in kitchen; locate it away from stove in a place that's easy to access. However, a number of items, like cleaning products and knives, should be kept far from curious hands. A number of manufacturers offer safety locks that aren't visible from the outside of the cabinet, meaning you don't need to ruin your design with unsightly plastic claws to ensure your children's safety.
For the times when you're ready for them to take part in supervised cooking — like helping stir a warm pot of pasta sauce, for instance — you'll want to be sure to keep a stepstool (with slip-resistant legs, preferably) on hand. It allows you and your junior cook to worry about licking the bowl; not how to precariously reach to counter.
The Little Things
Because the kitchen is the heart of the home, don't forget little touches that will make the home itself operate more smoothly, and more whimsically. A corkboard or chalkboard panel lets your fridge pull double duty as the family's message center.
Add a punch of color; after all, the kitchen is a place of memories. Don't make them beige ones. Bright lime green walls can spruce things up, as can your children's drawings: incorporate an area to hang recent masterpieces.
And, while opting for a specific faucet doesn't have any specific safety value, Nairn recommends getting a model with a pullout spray that kids can give a squirt on every now and then.
Because it's good to be safe and silly.
Bring Regional American Flair to Your Kitchen
Designed By Keystone Kitchen & Bath, Asheville, N.C.
Custom pine cabinetry gives this kitchen it rustic character.
Rustic kitchens often have a regional American flair: Adirondack or Pacific Northwest, for example. Others resemble a lodge or log cabin.
Expect to see:
Wood paneling and ceiling beams
Knotty pine, hickory and alder woods
Warm, rich earth tones and reds, greens and yellows
Log Cabin/Mountain: Try bold and natural choices, like warm cabinetry with a strong grain (such as knotty pine or alder) stained in reds, greens, or yellows. Wide rails and stiles (such as those of a Shaker door) enhance the look.
Rustic Country: Warm hickory wood tones shine on recessed flat panel doors. A hearth-style mantle hood, hand-carved turnings and furniture-like pieces bring a rustic country space to life.
Other rustic styles: Lodge, Southwestern, Mountain West, Coastal
Modern, Minimalist and Geometric
Designed by In Detail Interiors, Pensacola, Fla.
An aluminum toekick creates a strong contrast against the dark cabinetry and echoes the use of stainless steel throughout this contemporary kitchen.
Contemporary kitchens tend to be described as modern, minimalist and geometric. The characteristics include horizontal lines, asymmetry and a lack of molding and other ornamentation. Materials often are man-made rather than natural: stainless steel, laminate, glass, concrete, chrome and lacquer.
Contemporary encompasses styles from the 1940s to the present, with Europe-especially Italy, Germany and Scandinavia-leading the way.
Expect to see:
Frameless cabinets with oversized hardware
Cabinet material: stainless steel; white or bold-colored laminate; or subtly grained woods such as birch, ash or maple
Cabinet door style: slab or horizontal lift-up
Frosted glass inserts
Stainless steel and other metallic accents
Curved cabinets and counters
Contemporary styles: Art Moderne, Futurism, Functionalism, Modern, Post-Modern
Form, Function, and Craftsmanship
Designed by Jan Neiges, Denver, Colo.
Exposed Douglas fir wood beams and mission styled detailing in the chairs establish a traditional Arts & Crafts theme.
Grounded in form and function, Arts & Crafts kitchens rely on a natural bespoke look with a strong emphasis on craftsmanship. Recessed panel doors with thick frames are dominant; consider letting the doors into the frame by using flush frame cabinetry. For an interesting accent, contrast the finishes or woods of the frame against those of the door and panel.
Expect to see:
Neutral colors found in nature
Inset or recessed panel cabinet doors
Stained glass windows and lighting fixtures
Mullioned glass doors
Clean, strong lines
Shaker: Look to maple, birch, beech or oak veneered woods. For this simple, puritan style, choose inset flat panel doors. Wide rails and stiles are fairly typical in the cabinet frame.
Related styles: Craftsman, Prairie, Mission
Even for Chefs, the Home Kitchen is not Just About Cooking
When cooking at home, chefs prefer an open layout with the cooktop on the island, allowing them to interact with family and guests.
It sounds bizarre, but the oft-maligned galley kitchen is actually the most efficient layout for cooking. Yet none of the chefs we interviewed had or wanted one in their homes. Why?
Simple. At home, the kitchen is not just about cooking, even for a chef.
"From a functionality perspective, most kitchens in restaurants are galley kitchens," says Chef Duncan Firth. "For a chef, it works great. Everybody's lined up close togther. Plates are on one side, pans on the other. That's the most functional. But nobody wants to build those these days. A galley kitchen is narrow, hard to light, and doesn't fit the size of the appliances."
He adds: "An open kitchen is great for entertaining, but not the most efficient. Guests stand on the other side of the countertop. They like to stand and watch and ask questions." Firth prefers the interaction to having a more efficient but closed-off kitchen: "You're trotting out the plate like you're catering."