If You Can’t Stand the Heat… Bring the Kitchen Outside
The only thing more enticing for a gourmet chef than a well-equipped kitchen is an equally decked-out outdoor cooking station.
“The point of coming to the mountains is enjoying the outdoor views and living spaces,” says Lauren Ruehring, owner and president of Kitchenscapes in Breckenridge, Colorado. “We are finding that homeowners are much more savvy in connecting the inside of their home to the outside. It used to be with picture windows. Now it’s all about outdoor living and outdoor cooking.”
Ruehring, who with her business partner and husband lived in 13 homes in 30 years across the country before moving to the mountains, says that constructing an outdoor kitchen in an alpine environment comes with special considerations. “You need products that stand up to the harsh sun and cold,” she says. “And now manufacturers are offering cabinets, countertops, flooring and appliances that can handle the climate.”
Homeowners are focused on the cooking facilities for their outside spaces, installing professional-grade appliances, she says. In addition to grills and smokers, pizza ovens are gaining in popularity. “It’s a community social activity to make pizzas, plus the oven puts out radiant heat.”
As for all the components in the cooking area, “It’s like Legos; you can add and subtract pieces” including side burners, warming and storage drawers, sinks and kegerators, the designer says.
She doesn’t recommend installing a functioning sink because it has to be drained and the water turned off for the winter. Instead, Ruehring suggests using a beverage holder that keeps drinks cold and has a simple drain that doesn’t require additional seasonal maintenance.
While not inexpensive, “a well-designed kitchen built with quality materials that will stand the test of time and elements is one of the better investments you can make,” Ruehring says.
Statistics back her up. A 2017 Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence report notes that outdoor kitchens bring a 130 percent return on investment and that close to 3 million American homeowners are planning them this year.
Nancy Moon approaches designing an outdoor kitchen the same way as she does an indoor kitchen. Materials and colors need to be harmonious and the style should be the same throughout the house, whether it’s rustic, contemporary or ultramodern. “You wouldn’t use river rock outside if the inside of your home is contemporary,” says Moon, a certified kitchen designer who owns Beckony Kitchens and Baths, which has showrooms in Colorado Springs and Castle Rock, Colorado. “Great design takes elements from all over the house and blends them with the outdoors.”
Aside from design, function is key, which is why she advises to “start with the appliances and build everything around them.” Moon recommends putting plenty of counter space and storage around the grill “so you don’t have to run inside when you need a plate or a potholder.”
And just as with indoor kitchens, an island or peninsula with seating is a popular design element. “There is something magic about watching a person grilling food. It’s entertaining,” Moon says. “We want to be outdoors as much as possible, and making it livable with an outdoor kitchen is something people love to do.”