Turf Design Build Magazine – May 2013


The kitchen is home base – the literal central gathering hub where families and friends congregate to share good food and conversation. During busy days when parents are running off to work and children are going to school, the kitchen is the place where people connect and where plans are made. In fact, the average American spends 175 hours in their kitchen monthly and only 31 hours in their living room, according to KitchenLab research.


Today, homeowners are trying to extend this useful space outdoors, creating more room for practical meeting and greeting. Enter outdoor kitchens. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, architects saw a 64% increase in outdoor kitchen requests in 2012 compared to 47% in 2005. And a new U.S. survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) shows that consumers are looking to increase spending on hardscapes, including outdoor kitchens and patios.

“Imagine dining at the hottest bistro in town where you do not need a reservation or to fight traffic to get there because this hot bistro is in your backyard,” describes Dave Gaffney, Landscaping by Gaffney, Glenmoore, Pa. “The allure of cooking outdoors is not surprising given the fast pace of the digital world; it’s no longer just a trend, but a lifestyle worth attaining.”

Plus, the form and function of outdoor kitchens is natural for after work and school get-togethers, and the surrounding green environment effortlessly eases daily tension in the process. ” In this way, the outdoor kitchen trend seems to go hand-in-hand with the green living trend,” suggests Jan Ledgard of Yorkshire Kitchens in Pasadena, Calif. “These days many people are trying to bring the outdoors in – or the indoors out – and blend their whole living space into functional space.”

Outdoor Kitchens By The Numbers

A majority of homeowners (53%) believe now is a good time to remodel, according to Florida Realtors’ 2013 Houzz & Home survey.
Kitchens are high on the list of remodeling projects with 23% of homeowners planning to update these spaces. And they command the lion’s share of the dollars spent, Florida Realtors’ survey says. In fact, over the last five years, nearly four in 10 home improvement dollars have gone into kitchens, and survey data indicates future spending is likely to follow the same trend. Specifically, during the last half decade, homeowners have spent an average of $28,030 to remodel their kitchens, but this varies widely at different budget levels – $54,942 nationwide for a high-end kitchen, $22,390 for a mid-range kitchen and $7,133 for a lower budget kitchen.

While these figures are focused on the interior, the allure of the kitchen as a remodeling focus is important for landscape designers and architects to note when planning their clients’ outdoor areas, realtors and industry professionals point out.

Who is spending money on exterior cooking spaces? Men outpace women (39% to 32%) in spending, and younger adults (ages 18 to 34) stand out as most likely to have hired professionals for building outdoor living spaces, PLANET’s survey reveals.

When it comes to kitchen installations, 58% of homeowners planning these projects in the next two years will hire professional help, Florida Realtors’ survey points out.

Most outdoor kitchen experts agree a professional eye toward design and installation is vital to creating a long-lasting, functional and aesthetically pleasing space. Some of the mechanicals, including placement of electrical outlets, gas lines, venting and plumbing, can complicate the project. “An outdoor kitchen really needs to be designed, not just built,” explains Mark Allen, president of the National Outdoor Kitchen and Fireplace Association and Outdoor Kitchens by Design. He says professionals can help incorporate a cooking zone with preparation areas, a refrigeration area, an entertainment or sitting area and even a nearby vegetable or herb garden.

When citing reasons for hiring a professional vs. installing outdoor kitchens themselves, 42% of homeowners responding to the PLANET survey say “they don’t have the knowledge, skills or physical ability,” and 42% say they “don’t have the right equipment” to do the work themselves. Younger adults in the 18 to 34 age group were more likely than their older counterparts to say they “don’t have the patience” to do the work themselves.

“Eighteen to 34-year-olds might be more digitally connected than their parents, but they are still putting a high priority on outdoor entertainment areas,” explains Sabeena Hickman, executive director of PLANET. “They are looking to landscape professionals to take on work that is not only time-consuming, but also requires a high degree of expertise to be done well.”

While it might be easy to assume outdoor kitchens are extravagances reserved for more wealthy homeowners, Marlene Boucher, president of Outdoor Dreamscapes of North Olmsted, Ohio, shared with Sarah Reep, a nationally recognized leader in the kitchen and bath industry and award-winning kitchen designer, that these spaces are becoming more popular among middle-class families. “A lot of people with children at home are choosing outdoor kitchens,” she says. “Rather than spending the money on a vacation, they want to enjoy their outdoor living area.”

Is the money spent on outdoor kitchens worth it? The ROI on outdoor kitchens looks promising. Homeowners who invest in outdoor kitchens “can get as much as 130% of their total outdoor kitchen and BBQ investment,” says Brancato Landscaping in Fontana, Calif. “The market has a high demand for homes with these outdoor fixtures. That’s good news for homes that are not only living spaces but also profitable investments.”

Northeast Distribution LTD says outdoor kitchens can even cut utility bills, saving homeowners money. “The more cooking that can be done on gas grills or charcoal grills, the less spent on electricity to run an oven or stovetop,” the company reports. “Also, that’s less money spent having to turn down the air conditioning because the indoor oven heated up the dining space while dinner was being prepared.”

Heating Up

Today’s trends in outdoor kitchen design create new perspectives on exterior cooking and entertaining. Products have come a long way in making these spaces more functional.
“Ten years ago, products for outdoor kitchens were very expensive or simply not available,” Allen explains. “Now, many manufacturers offer a vast array of accessories, and there are infinite options.”

Outdoor kitchens “can include a dizzying array of amenities, take any number of shapes, be as large or small as one wants and span any size income,” Reep says. “For example, a 10-foot kitchen can cost $10,000 to $14,000, while a 15-foot kitchen with a fireplace and pergola ranges from $40,000 to $60,000. Options such as a fireplace ($10,000 to $20,000) and a pergola ($5,000) add to the ambience and ‘wow’ factor. Options for finish materials include brick, stone, stucco, porcelain tile – most homeowners choose whatever best matches their house. The same is true for outdoor countertops; granite, tile and stone are popular choices.”

Preparation sinks with garbage disposals and single dishwasher drawers create necessary prep-and-clean areas in many high-end outdoor kitchens today, according to The National Outdoor Kitchen and Fireplace Association (NOKFA). The under-counter refrigerator for storing water, fruit or chilling wine has also grown in popularity for active families.

“Anything you have inside the house can be used outside in the kitchen, too,” Reep says. “Sinks, warming drawers, ice makers, dishwashers, refrigerators … you name it, it can be done. Other amenities specific to the outdoors include barbecue grills, wood-burning pizza ovens, fire pits, patio heaters and weatherproof stainless steel cabinets.”

Concrete countertops are being recognized as highly functional, low-maintenance and decorative ways to take cooking and entertaining activities outdoors, adds JPC Landscape Designs in El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Ultimately, outdoor kitchens being installed this year are far from the simple grilling stations of the past. “We’re seeing designs that are much more grandiose and elaborate – for example, if you incorporate a bar seating area and perhaps an outdoor fireplace, you’ve created the ultimate backyard oasis,” Allen agrees.

The outdoor fireplace has certainly become the heart of a complete outdoor living theme. A whopping 97% of landscape architects answering the American Society of Landscape Architects recent survey predict fire pits and fireplaces will be in high demand this year, followed by grills and seating/dining areas. “Quite often, clients having a beautiful outdoor kitchen built are including the outdoor fireplace for relaxation and enjoying those cool evenings entertaining family and friends,” NOKFA reports. “This also considerably extends the time you can enjoy your backyard as the season gets colder.”

As the desire for outdoor kitchens heats up, Northeast Distribution LTD says architects are even being asked to design these areas into new homes, and builders are making them part of the models in new developments.


Outdoor kitchens and fireplaces also provide great business event venues to showcase landscape designers’ work.
On average, Outdoor Dreamscapes hosts one event monthly, Reep says, explaining that most are after-hours parties held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for special groups or associations, such as homebuilders’ association members. The events include hot and cold appetizer buffets and drinks.

Keeping a list of home & garden show booth visitors can create the invitation lists of potential clients for these events, Boucher suggests.

Landscape design professionals can capitalize on the outdoor kitchen and living area niche market by showcasing their unique perspective and showing clients at all levels that naturally extending the home from indoors to outdoors is possible. As Gaffney says to his clients, “Implementing an outdoor fireplace or customized kitchen can help create a vacation destination that’s only a few steps away.” TDB