Back in the 50’s, life was simple. You could look out of the door of your rambler and watch as a couple of excessively chromed-out cars, the size of small yachts, cruised down the neighborhood street on a warm summer afternoon. There were children playing in their yards, walking their dogs and waving at passersby, void of the technology that brings their attention inside as it is today. Now, in all honesty, I’m only 25 and that’s how the 50’s were portrayed in every nostalgic movie I’ve seen, whether that was an accurate depiction of the times or not I have no clue, but it sounds nice… doesn’t it?
One concept that I do know was accurately borrowed from back then was “Keeping up with the Jones’”. I feel like I can safely assume most of us have heard that phrase at one point or another and I think we can agree on a similar opinion of what it means.
For me, it was a thriving economy that led to mass consumption of marketable goods, appliances, cars, and clothing, along with anything else that had “flare”. Once your neighbors got a new fridge with a frostless freezer, you had to get one. Once the neighbors drove home in a beautiful 1957 Pinecrest Green Chevrolet Bel-Air, you were on your way to trade your car in for a Cadillac Coupe De Ville. It was the ultimatesocietal game of “One-upmanship”
Fast forward a few decades and this concept is easy to see in any kitchen. It’s about the shine of that beautiful stainless steel finish on your freshly installed Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s about the deep red knobs front and center on the Wolf range or having the newest type of oven that makes people go “ooooh” and “ahhhh” just by the sight of it, not to mention how it bakes! Interestingly, in our region, this idea was usually limited to the inside of the home only, never the outside of it.
I’ve lived here in Seattle my whole life. I empathize with my fellow Pacific Northwesterners whom consider going outdoors in Washington as a gamble for three quarters of the year and believe that Summer doesn’t officially starts on or around July 5th. I understand the apprehension to explore the concept of outdoor living in our beautiful state; however, that has not stopped more and more people from investing in their outdoor spaces. Shocking to hear that people are planning on spending a lot of time outside in our climate all year around isn’t it?! Well, that just shows the trend of transitioning the cooking area to not only “BBQ” outdoors, but to LIVE outdoors! The idea of having an outdoor living area right outside the home has become so popular that many new homes being built today are including a covered patio space in the backyard of the home, complete with a natural gas line to hook that grill right up to.
WHAT IS OUTDOOR LIVING?
I want to back up bit and explain, for those of you who may not have come in direct contact with an outdoor living space, what it actually means.
Outdoor living is not just a small, uncovered concrete patio where you can put a temporary table and have a gathering when it’s sunny…. that’s outdoor visiting. Outdoor living is:
- A permanent overhead structure built outdoors that will provide cover from weather for an entertaining space
- Accessories to make the space usable for entertaining and include some sort of climate control. (Fire bowls, Heaters, Ceiling Fans, etc.)
- A full-fledged fireplace and weather proof TVs are 2 staples of a true outdoor living space
- Weather-proof furniture as well as the pillows, throws, planters and plants. Everything that you have in your living space inside… Just outside!
THE KITCHEN OUTISDE THE HOME
In addition to the pieces listed above, the cooking area is usually the hallmark of the space. Now I don’t mean just a grill on its own, this concept goes beyond that. It’s expanded into a full blown outdoor kitchen made specifically to be the main feature of a living area, created to be even more usable than a pool. It’s a place where not only the family can enjoy the time together in a more natural area but the focal point for get together with friends. And I know what you are thinking, “No one is going to be outside when it’s snowing!”, but I can tell you with absolute conviction…they do! This trend is so popular that people invest in dedicated outdoor heaters to make the space usable during any type of weather.
While I can’t pinpoint an exact moment in time that started this design phenomenon in our region, starting around 2010, it seems to be a driven by the consistent desire of someone who saw the outdoor living space of a friend and was so enamored with it that they decided right there and then to pursue this idea on their own.
According to a survey conducted in 2014 by Houzz, regarding outdoor living, this trend is on an exceptional pace and has not shown any signs of slowing down lately:
“With temperatures heating up, so is outdoor living. Backyards are turning into entertaining spaces (83 percent), outdoor eating spaces (73 percent) and outdoor living rooms (53 percent). To make this possible, homeowners are incorporating features like patios and decks (83 percent), BBQs (48 percent), fire pits (48 percent), sound systems (19 percent) and outdoor kitchens (14 percent). For evening entertaining, seven in ten homeowners are installing lights to illuminate their hardscape” (Houzz)
Part of my history in the world of appliances has included a stint at a company that specialized in producing structures for luxurious outdoor living spaces as well as supplying cooking equipment. I truly was amazed to see how often a modest outdoor space that was planned for a single grill and a fire bowl only would then accelerate into adding an outdoor refrigerator, an ice maker, a sealed storage pantry for food and even a fully functional sink and faucet! Before you knew it, they had put together an outdoor living area! Purely due to the fact that as the clients thought about the usability of the space, their desire to remain outdoors grew.
With the variety of products available today for installation outdoor, the indoor kitchen of your dreams can be replicated and placed right outside your back door. I want to take a moment here and talk about some outdoor specific items and brands that can be used in these spaces. We will start at the obvious, the grill, and we will move on from there.
As I was saying earlier, grills in planned outdoor kitchens generally go beyond the classic Weber or a grill surface on a cart. What ends up in an outdoor living area is something like the Hestan GSBR36LP Grill. This is a built-in grill top with 3 sear burners, spring assisted hinges, heavy duty stainless steel tubular burners that provide 25,000 TBs of power. There is even lighting under the hood and above the controls so you can continue cooking long after the sun has gone down. I forgot to mention that the grill is available in twelve different colors. Imagine the design possibilities!
Man cannot live on grilled meat alone, no matter how much he wants to. You need built-in burners in your outdoor kitchen! How are you going to cook your side dishes or keep your sauce warm? These burners can be powered by natural gas or propane, can produce as much as 20,000 BTU of heat, are sealed for easy clean up, and the LED lighting from the grill is carried over to the burner as well so you can keep an eye on your temperature setting. Shown below is the Hestan AGB121LP side burner. Also, these are available in the same colors as the grill!
Now this is where it gets fun! You would think that a simple refrigerator is all you need to include in your outdoor living space, right? Wrong! You have your undercounter refrigerators, undercounter beverage systems and undercounter wine coolers. Your refrigerators can be drawers or traditionally hinged. Your beverage refrigerators can have glass fronts, cabinet panel fronts or solid stainless steel fronts. Outdoor wine coolers can hold up to 40 bottles of wine!
I also did not mention one other refrigeration item of great interest that no outdoor entertaining space should be without. The refrigerated outdoor beer dispenser! The Hestan GFDSR241 that I have included a photo of, has one tap (it also comes with two!) and room for one ¼ barrel or a slim ¼ barrel, or two 1/6th barrels (pony kegs). How cool is that? Talk about keeping up with the Jones’, now the Jones’ will be keeping up with you!
Freezers and ice:
You cannot host an outdoor get-together with out having ice for your cocktails. Instead of sending guests out to to get a bag of ice, you can have a built-in ice machine right next to your grill! The U-Line UCLR1215SOD40B clear ice machine takes your water, and turns it into crystal clear cubes of joy for those 90+ degree days. Clear ice also has no effect on the quality of your beverages, so those special Manhattans will taste the way they are supposed to! U-Line’s ice machine holds 30 pounds of ice in reserve and makes up to 60 pounds per day.
Cleaning? What could I possibly be talking about? A broom or a mop? Remember, we are bringing the inside outside! We are talking about dishwashers. That is right, an outdoor dishwasher! This Asko D5956OUTDOORPH has 10 wash settings, 2 baskets, a delayed start and can hold up to 15 place settings. I think this might be giving your indoor dishwasher a run for its money!
Whether your space limitation is 100 square feet or 1000 square feet, once your neighbors have experienced true outdoor living at your home, YOU are the Jones’ that they will want to keep up with. Who doesn’t want to kick back, have a icy cold brew from their outdoor tap, grill a steak and catch up on that long list of movies that you want to get to, all outside!