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Outdoor Kitchens - Simple and Sophisticated

After September 11, many of us decided to stay closer to home. We are electing to remodel our existing homes instead of buying new and moving. We are also entertaining in the backyard more than ever, so it is a natural progression to take what we love about our hearth and home and put it all outside creating the perfect outdoor room. If you have never thought of installing an outdoor kitchen before, it is time you start thinking about it. You don't need a backyard the size of Southfork to create an efficient, fun outdoor kitchen of your very own.

When it comes to designing an outdoor kitchen, the sky's the limit. Everyone can have gas or charcoal grill at any price in their backyard. When you think about adding a wine cooler, outdoor sink, appliances and bars, you are talking about something altogether different. You are only limited by your imagination, and for most of us, the budget. What type of entertaining do you enjoy? Do you have a large family? What is your favorite method of outdoor cooking? Is food preparation more of a priority or do your friends like to sit around the bar and socialize? Do you have a pool or hot tub that you want to incorporate into the area? Would you like to build around a focal point such as a fieldstone fireplace? If music is a consideration, what about an outdoor sound system? If you live in a hot climate such as Arizona, should outdoor misters to be part of the plan? If ease of cleanup is an issue, do you want something that can be cleaned with a garden hose? Would you like a gazebo or some type of partial screening for privacy and weather protection? As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about during the design process. You want to consider all of your options before you make decisions because things may not be the easiest to change midstream.

An Outdoor Kitchen Northwood's style My husband and I live on a lake in the north woods so the outdoor kitchen plans started with how our guests could best enjoy the beautiful lake view as we were cooking and entertaining. We have a boathouse and many tall pines and white birch trees that must be considered in the plans. I wanted a dramatic entrance of well-lit timbered stairs leading from my home down to the outdoor kitchen area which encompasses a patio of cut flagstone. We don't have room for an outdoor fireplace, but every lake home needs a fire pit, and ours is set in another section of the yard that we use more for fun and late night conversation. We have a copper fire pit on the patio for warmth and ambiance on a cool Wisconsin evening. We decided to take advantage of the boathouse and extend it out as partial protection from the elements for the cooking station. My husband prefers cooking with gas so we installed a built-in grill with warming burners. We have a sink and refrigerator close at hand, also protected by the extension of the boathouse.

My patio is filled with Adirondack style patio furniture. We have a rope hammock swinging between two tall pines. A wonderful bistro table and chairs sits close to the cooking area so we don't have to carry the food very far and an outdoor bar is near the refrigerator so it's close to ice and drinks. We have a gentle slope down to the lake that is terraced with perennials for color and foliage. More split timbers were placed for extra seating as part of the patio's backdrop. We installed lights below the trees so our yard would be lit in the evening, creating a festive mood for parties. Our guests enjoy waving as the boaters go by, or finding out how the fishing is for the day. There is so much entertainment on the lake; even if it is just watching the mallards or loons swim by for an occasional visit.

You don't have to live in the Northwoods to have a beautiful outdoor kitchen. You can install something right next to the house or close to a pool. You can make your outdoor entertaining experience as elaborate or simple as you wish. Just think about how nice it would be inviting your friends over to enjoy your famous barbecue ribs under the stars or relaxing on a warm summer day realizing how good life can get.

Bev Hlavka is a successful freelance writer offering guidance and suggestions for consumers buying patio furniture, gas grills, picnic tables and more. Her many articles can be found at She gives information and tips at to help you save money and make informed buying decisions.

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