EatingWell

Chill & Grill

Get even more out of summer by upgrading your backyard BBQ into a full-on kitchen and entertaini­ng area. Your inspiratio­n starts here.

- By Lucy M. Clark

Get even more out of summer by upgrading your backyard BBQ into a full-on kitchen and entertaini­ng area. Your inspiratio­n starts here.

Ilove to cook—and I love to cook outside!” says photograph­er, stylist and lifestyle blogger Aniko Levai. After making the most of their home’s 10-by-10-foot deck for several years, she and her husband set out to build her dream outdoor kitchen off the back of their Richmond, Virginia, home in the summer of 2017—a total DIY project. “I wanted to create a little backyard oasis,” says Levai. With her plan sketched out on paper, the couple spent about a month on the install, working late into the evenings and on weekends. You’re looking at the results! Check out what they did—and the lessons they learned along the way.

ID Your Space Needs

Levai says that taking the time to live with her house’s existing deck showed her the pain points—and helped her zero in on exactly what she’d want in the future. As a frequent entertaine­r of large groups, she quickly learned she needed more seating. Adding an adjacent lower deck created more lounging space.

Think Modular

The biggest splurge on the remodel was a full outdoor kitchen—with a range of appliances—to make for fewer trips inside. Levai went with a modular Master Forge set from Lowe’s. Because the pieces are sold separately and can be arranged however you like, a modular system allows you to customize the kitchen to be as big or small as you want. Levai chose a grill, side burners and griddle, outdoor refrigerat­or, sink and marble countertop. This model is no longer available, but for something similar, check out Char-broil’s modular outdoor kitchen, pieces sold separately and starting at $800, lowes.com. Want a modern look? Try Newage Product’s Modular Outdoor Kitchen Cabinet, which includes a sink, bar and grill cabinets, a countertop and weather covers, from $3,800, lowes.com. Before you shop, consider what your family will use the most. Levai’s two favorite elements: “The griddle for cooking vegetables. (My husband and I are both vegetarian­s.) And the fridge for refreshmen­ts!”

Throw Some Shade

Adding a pergola not only looks stylish—it also offers a welcome dose of shade, especially over the cooking area. For even more sun coverage, Levai topped an Allen & Roth outdoor dining set with a large umbrella.

Belly Up

As a finishing touch, Levai installed a small bar area with two stools off the back side of the kitchen counter, “So my husband could sit and watch me cook and have a drink.” To complete the relaxed vibe, she added candles, string lights and plenty of potted and hanging plants.

Get Your Hands Dirty

“It was a lot of work and labor on our part, especially my husband!” Levai says, but adds that the cost savings of doing the work themselves—as opposed to hiring it all out—made it totally worth it. If you’re inspired to build your own outdoor kitchen, check out her blog, Place of My Taste, for step-by-step how-tos.

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