Outdoor Kitchens Are Cookin’
The centerpiece of back-yard living, what’s trending in Florida
"Outdoor lanais aren’t what they used to be,” says Ben Poulton, president of Elegant Outdoor Kitchens in Fort Myers. Before the advent of undertruss lanais, Poulton explains, there were simply sliders separating a home’s interior from the patio or back yard. While those earlier spaces were enjoyed to some degree, they were often hot and buggy, and sometimes they were soaking wet, especially during the rainy season. Nowadays, covered lanais allow for more enjoyment more often, as they are out of the sun and protected from the elements.
Along with swimming pools and spas, lanais now frequently include fully equipped outdoor kitchens, as well as dining and living areas. With built-in gas grills, full-sized refrigerators, wine coolers, cocktail stations and even kegerators, the modern lanai makes entertaining family and friends easier than ever, all under a cool and covered space.
“People move to Florida to enjoy the weather, and having an outdoor space, especially with a kitchen, helps them enjoy it a whole lot more,” adds Poulton.
Cooking outdoors has a few benefits. The heat of the oven is kept outside, and sometimes the task of cooking becomes a group activity because, as any cook knows, others like to pitch in.
Having an outdoor kitchen also makes cooking more convenient. “You don’t have to drag out the charcoal and your cooler, as everything you need is right on hand,” explains Bob Knight, president of Paul Homes in Cape Coral.
When it comes to resale value, an outdoor lanai with a kitchen is often a major selling point of a home. “It’s gotten very common to stay in one’s home longer than expected, and so many homeowners are investing in the home they own rather than moving into a new home,” says Chris Baker, president of Tri County Landscape in Cape Coral. Adding an outdoor kitchen also increases the amount of available living space in a home, which may well increase its value.
As with any type of home design, there are trends with outdoor kitchens. These include larger countertops that allow for plenty of food preparation, and substantial bar top areas for serving beverages. These countertops and bar tops are often made of high-end granite. While tile and stucco remain good choices, natural stone is becoming popular. For example, splitfaced ledger panels are being used for façades, backsplashes and outdoor walls. Energy efficiency is also a consideration, so LED lights are frequently installed on the grills and in and around the outdoor kitchens. Also popular are fire pits, fireplaces and wood-fired grills.
Those who particularly love to cook sometimes request special grills and ovens. “Outdoor-rated teppanyaki griddles
When it comes to resale value, an outdoor lanai with a kitchen is often a major selling point of a home.
(flat iron griddles) and pizza ovens are popular right now,” says president John Hull of John J Hull Associates in Fort Myers.
Durability is a major consideration when it comes to outdoor kitchen plans. That’s why items such as high-quality stainless appliances and weather-resistant cabinets are installed. Multimedia options such as outdoor televisions and sound systems are also designed to hold up to the weather.
When making plans to update an outdoor kitchen, or add one, the process generally starts with meeting clients at their homes to find out what they are looking for. “We also find out how they’re planning to use the space, and find out what type of cooking they prefer. We then come up with a plan together,” explains Hull.
Outdoor kitchens are not just about cooking and kicking back. Instead, they offer a deeper purpose. “They are designed to bring the whole family and friends together to enjoy and share their Florida lifestyle,” adds Hull. Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
JOHN J HULL ASSOCIATES, INC. Fort Myers