Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you’re entertaining at home, everyone always ends up in the kitchen? It’s the social hub of your home—and where the food and drinks are—and thus where everyone wants to be.
As the weather warms up and the action moves outside, so should your prime gathering spot. Here’s how to create an outdoor kitchen that feels just as comforting and connected as your indoor kitchen.
It’s a natural addition to your outdoor entertaining space—if you have a pool and/or an outdoor living and dining area, it just makes sense from a practicality standpoint. It’s another place for people to hang out, but it serves a specific purpose too.
You need to put thought into where you’re going to build it. Sight planning is super important—you want an outdoor kitchen in a place that’s shaded by trees or the house, or where you can create some sort of cover. If you have the sun in your face and you’re baking from the heat, you’re never going to use it. You want it to be comfortable and have a sense of utility.
Building a structure overhead or taking advantage of natural shade is key—you don’t want to be in direct sunlight when you’re preparing food or grilling. The other thing I like to have is a countertop or island where people can pull up an outdoor bar stool and hang out while you’re cooking, kind of like what you do indoors. It should feel welcoming and have a social aspect.
It’s much simpler in terms of appliances. Usually, people just want a big grill, although outdoor pizza ovens are getting more popular and you can use them to bake other things too. We’ll do a small prep sink—you don’t need a full-size one because you’re not doing dishes out there, and for that reason, you don’t need a dishwasher either. A refrigerator or two go below the counter, and what you drink influences what types of refrigeration we install. People do separate wine fridges, beer drawers, countertop beer taps —it’s all very personalized.
For countertops, you want something durable like granite, limestone, or quartzite. Since the structure is somewhat open, you don’t have a backsplash. Cabinetry tends to be pretty simple as well—you don’t need a ton of drawers for storage, and upper cabinets are very rare. I like to use cypress or teak for outdoor cabinetry; you want a more weather-resistant wood. But most people don’t store much outside; usually you’ll have a drawer for grill tools and wine openers, and maybe a little bit of storage for outdoor plates, glassware, and utensils.
It depends on where the kitchen is located and whether there’s a structure overhead—that influences the permanence of the lighting. If you just have trees or a shade overhead, all you need are string lights and, if you want, some in-ground LED lighting in the hardscaping. But if you have a pergola or more of a structure to work with, we can do pendant lights, sconces, or even task lighting.
Generally, it’s stone pavers, poured concrete, tile, or whatever the adjacent hardscaping is. You want it to tie in with what’s nearby. It’s not always the most practical to have decking underneath.
Infrastructure can definitely be an issue. You’ll have to run electricity, gas, and water lines to an outdoor kitchen, and depending on the size of your property, that can be cost prohibitive or logistically complicated. I think it’s why a lot of people end up backing it up to those lines in their indoor kitchen, because that’s the easiest thing to do. But I prefer it to feel like more of a destination versus something just tacked on to your house. An outdoor kitchen should feel like you’re outside.
Your outdoor kitchen should feel like a destination.