Houston Lifestyles & Homes October 2009
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Designing an Outdoor Kitchen
The most important thing, however, when designing your outdoor kitchen is to choose a design, layout and features that suit your specific needs.
“Start with a personal shopping list,” says Erik Hanson, principal of McDugald-Steele/McDugald Steele Austin, LLC, a Texas-based landscape architect and design firm. “Pizza ovens, microwaves, refrigerators, charcoal units or gas—all of these decisions can affect your design layout. Personalize your summer kitchen to suit your particular needs. ”
Many manufacturers of kitchen appliances are seeing the wisdom of offering products to meet the growing need for outdoor kitchens. KitchenAid, a leading manufacturer of cooking products for over 90 years, recently introduced a new outdoor collection that includes everything from simple grills to built-in stovetop ranges.  
“These latest features, along with our warming drawer, adjustable warming rack, side burners and rotisserie, allow cooks to easily multitask without sacrificing the end result, ” says Debbie O’Connor, senior manager of brand experience for KitchenAid.
But how do you decide among the myriad of options available? And can you change your mind later and add in new features to your existing design plan?
Hanson suggests you think about how you want to use your outdoor kitchen and customize its design to your own specifications. While you can always add new features later, Hanson recommends you have those features included during the original install to save both time and money. Adding unexpected features later is feasible, but can be a lot more costly if you haven ’t included them in the long-term plan.
“When I work with my clients, I ask them to think about the function of the outdoor room, ” Hanson adds. “Will it be formal or more informal? Will you want to watch a flat-screen TV over the top of the grill? Or will this be a more functional space for cooking and you plan to move to a different location for dining? ” Just as our indoor kitchens aren’t just for eating, our outdoor kitchens become the hub of entertainment.
Hanson suggests that once you
have the answers to these questions,
you’ll then be ready to make design
decisions.  
But don’t forget about your outdoor lighting.
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When planning your summer kitchen, choose the cooking elements you enjoy most while entertaining outside. Photo courtesy of McDugald- Steele/McDugald- Steele Austin, LLC.
KitchenAid offers the ultimate in outdoor entertaining will this fully-stocked summer kitchen. Photo courtesy of KitchenAid.
“Dimmer switches are a must for outdoor lighting,” says Lexington, Ky.-based IES Architect and Lighting Designer Joseph A. Rey-Barreau, AIA. “They can set the mood and create the desired ambiance you want for your outdoor event. ” Lights are low, the moon and stars are out and dinner is served.
Task lighting in the cooking area is also another must-have.
“Ideally, you should place at least one light fixture to the left or the right of the cooking area, at shoulder level, which will provide great task lighting during food prep, ” adds Rey-Barreau.
Ultimately, of course, the decisions you make about your outdoor kitchen will reflect your needs as well as your personal preferences and budget. Consultation with a reputatable landscape architect/designer can identify the features and options ideally suited for your own backyard.  
So get those outdoor kitchen plans a cooking.  Happy home entertaining!
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