Article for Remodeling Ideas for Your Home magazine
Take It Outside
A full-service patio proves that today’s best outdoor living spaces take their cues from what works indoors.
With a year-round forecast of warm, sunny days and cool nights, there’s no mystery behind San Diego’s leading role in moving everyday dining and family activities outside. The backyard project at Drew and Cyndi Peterson’s Solana beach home is a dassic example of Southern Califomia’s practical thinking about outdoor living.
The Petersons carved their outdoor dining and entertainment setup from a sloping backyard during a project that involved refurbishing a pool and hot tub, providing play space for their three sons, and planting lush gardens for year-round color. The new stone-and-slate patio is outfitted with a massive fireplace and a kitchen boasting amenities more typically associated with indoor dining than backyard grilling.
The patio area, which sits three steps above the pool deck, provides a view of the nearby Pacific Ocean. With a year-round forecast of warm, sunny days and cool nights, there’s no mystery behind San Diego’s leading role in moving everyday dining and family activities outside. The backyard project at Drew and Cyndi Peterson’s Solana beach home is a classic example of Southern California’s practical thinking about outdoor living.
“We actually spend more than 75 percent of our time in the backyard, Cyndi says, “and we wanted a user-friendly space that was comfortable and also allowed adults to socialize while still keeping an eye on the kids.”
The patio handles all those needs in one comfortable space. The outdoor kitchen lets the family and any guests dine alfresco nearly every night. The 40-inch-wide fireplace cuts the evening chill from ocean breezes, and the open spaces around the seating area offer a perfect place for Drew, 9; John, 6; and Jack, 4; to play while their parents cook.
Just as with well-designed indoor spaces, the patio design depends on good connections with the other “rooms,” such as the backyard gardens and play area. The kitchen setup, for example, lets Drew and Cyndi prepare or clean up meals while talking with quests sitting at the table or watching the kids swim or play.
Drew, who helped design the centerpiece fireplace, says the patio has proved to be the perfect complement to the lifestyle goals that drove its creation. “We wanted to tie in a way to have the family together and to entertain outside, and we found the outdoor kitchen and fireplace concept to the the way to do it.”
Cooking Up An Outdoor Kitchen
Creating a modem, outdoor cooking area goes beyond rolling out the grill and donning a chef’s hat. Architect Steve Hawkins, who helped Drew and Cyndi Peterson design their outdoor kitchen, says outdoor cooking areas require as much forethought as any other living space.
Issues such as traffic flow and entertainment plans will determine where to build an outdoor kitchen and what elements you’ll put in it. “If you don’t think about traffic flow, you may end up with an outdoor kitchen you don’t really use,” says Linda Chisari, the Del Mar, California, landscape designer who worked with the Petersons.
One key factor is the distance between the indoor kitchen and the outdoor cooking area. If it’s too far for frequent trips, consider upgrading your outdoor kitchen from a simple grill and countertop to a full-fledged prep and cleanup area with a sink, a small refrigerator, and maybe even an icemaker. (Remember that in cold-weather climates, you’ll have to winterize your kitchen each fall.)
Another option is a portable kitchen that includes a grill and storage built into a rolling cart. Look for durability when choosing materials for a kitchen exposed to the elements. Hawkins recommends stainless-steel appliances with masonry and stone for floors and counter facings.
Be sure to build in plenty of storage so that you don’t have to carry utensils and dishes in and out all summer. And if you live in an area plagued by hot sun and wind, design the outdoor kitchen with a pergola or awning overhead to ensure you can enjoy the space on hot days.