3 open-air kitchens to inspire your outdoor entertaining dreams

For Chesapeake Home + Living
3 inspiring outdoor kitchens:

When the sun is shining and the air has reached that perfect temperature for a backyard barbecue, no host wants to be confined to a hot kitchen. As fair weather draws our gatherings outdoors, homeowners with al fresco appliances can simultaneously prepare a meal and enjoy the open air with their guests.

If you’ve been thinking about expanding your backyard entertaining options with an outdoor kitchen, consider what you want that entertaining to look like first.

“Is it about food? Bartending? Just the two of you?” asks Kevin Fox, co-owner of Affordable Outdoor Kitchens in Millersville. “Some people do a lot of entertaining and want something that looks like a backyard resort.”

Once you’ve decided how you want to use the space, set a budget with the weather in mind.

“People grow up familiar with indoor kitchens and appliances,” adds Karen Fox, co-owner of the business. “But when it comes to outdoor kitchens, we often have to provide some guidance. Appliances and countertops are going to be there awhile and need to stand up to weather.”

Chesapeake Home + Living gathered insights from owners and builders of three beautiful outdoor kitchens to find out what makes them pleasing to the eye — and to the taste buds.

A culinary playground in Severna Park

The owners of this Severna Park kitchen, Paul and Elizabeth Fenn, were looking to replace aging decks and create an expansive outdoor living space that would be enjoyable spring through fall. A centerpiece of that new design, created by Scapes Inc. of Lothian, was an outdoor cooking area.

Scapes President Jeff Crandell says he built a new deck space off the home’s first floor master suite to allow for a covered outdoor living area. The space features automatic screens installed between the deck columns to keep out insects in the summertime.

An outdoor fireplace made of Lake George stone anchors the corner of the patio and connects to the kitchen with its Bull appliances, including a grill, refrigerator and warming drawer. The countertops are bluestone with honed edges, while the patio features Pennsylvania cut flagstone. The space also features more than 50 outdoor lighting fixtures, creating an ambient and livable space well into the wee hours.

Pavilion living in Crownsville

Gary and Missy Evans of Crownsville also started their kitchen project a bit by happenstance after winning the bid on an outdoor kitchen from Olmo Brothers at their son’s school auction. Space limitations at their residence made for some challenges, however.

Today an expansive pavilion covering the Evanses’ outdoor entertaining area occupies a space that was once a steep slope. “We poured footers and blocked-and-mortared our way up to create a level entertaining space,” Gene Olmo explains.

The Evanses already had a $10,000 Viking grill, so Olmo built a custom space to accommodate it and also added a Viking fridge, sink, and storage spaces. The kitchen features an island for food prep and eating, all encased in stone and supported by a flagstone floor. The company installed the outdoor fireplace as well, adding a gas assist to make lighting it effortless.

“Usability was the key here,” says Olmo. “The Evanses used the pool, and then once it got dark, they went inside. Now they can be outside all night.”

Outdoor entertainment in Glenwood

Craig and Cindy Coburn came to Rhine Landscaping in Sykesville two years ago looking to create an outdoor entertaining area that would expand their opportunities for warm weather living. The result, under landscape architect Dan Murphy’s guidance, was a space that would soak up the sun, provide a shady retreat, and allow for outdoor cooking well into the night.

“We situated the kitchen right off their screened porch to make it convenient for bringing food in and out of the house,” Murphy says.

The Coburns’ kitchen features a Summerset grill and sideburner surrounded by a cultured stone base with an inserted Blaze refrigerator as well as slide-out trash disposal, storage cabinets and bar sink. All appliances are stainless steel, and countertops are granite to allow for easy clean-up and a stain-free surface.

“You have to choose a grade of granite meant for outdoors and a lighter color so it won’t get hot in the sun,” Murphy advises.

The kitchen counters feature an extended overhang opposite the cooking space so guests can pull up chairs and talk to the cook. Meanwhile, the grill has interior lights to make night grilling easier.

Adjacent to the outdoor cooking area on this expansive patio is a wood-burning fireplace made of the same cultured stone as the kitchen base and a pergola with a misting system for hot days.

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