2021 was the year of renovations. Be it a small weekend DIY project or a major overhaul, it seems that every homeowner felt the itch for change.
For those who haven’t included an outdoor kitchen in their plans, you’re missing out on one of the top trends of the year. South Africans are no strangers to cooking outdoors, and building a dedicated outdoor kitchen is just a way to take the cultural staple of the braai to the next level. No more running back and forth to fetch tongs or a flashlight or the dish you forgot – your outdoor kitchen has everything you need.
Combined with seating, plus some lights and a little music to set the mood, an outdoor kitchen is the ultimate entertaining accessory. Whether your budget is bite-sized or bloated, whether your garden is gigantic or petite, an outdoor kitchen is not an unattainable dream. These tips will help you perfect and execute your outdoor kitchen plan to build the ultimate braai area, with a touch of class.
Imagine your dream kitchen
Before you get planning, you need to start with a goal in mind. Outdoor kitchens are no longer about a portable braai and movable plastic chairs. This year, the trend has leaned more toward recreating exact replicas of indoor kitchens outdoors, with the only difference being the stars above your head. Construction companies and designers are developing entire outdoor kitchen solutions, complete with cabinets and countertops, sinks for washing up, fridges and plug points for all your essential appliances. With the right space, and some shelter from the elements, there is truly no limit to the kind of outdoor kitchen you can build.
Understand your space
Placement of your outdoor kitchen is paramount. Those with plenty of outdoor space will need to select an area close enough to your home to install utilities and move between indoors and out without hassle. Those with smaller outdoor areas need to consider how best to maximise utility without overcrowding. Start by allocating a space close enough to your home and measure the area. Plot out the space in a design app or website, or whip out the old-fashioned pen and paper. Test different configurations of countertops, cooking areas, seating areas and washing up space until you find the right fit. Starting off with all guns blazing but no plan is a sure-fire way to blow your budget while causing a million logistical issues along the way.
Consider the flow
When drawing up your outdoor kitchen plan, remember that it is not a contained room cordoned off from the rest of your house. Your outdoor kitchen should gel with your home design, as well as your garden design. This is not only in terms of aesthetics, but ease of use. You don’t want your outdoor kitchen attached to a remote part of your home, far from the kitchen and difficult to access. It should fit seamlessly with your existing outdoor architecture, including outdoor dining areas and your pool, to create a harmonious entertaining space. Plus, the last thing the braai master wants is to be isolated from the party while cooking everyone’s dinner (we’ve all been there). Place your outdoor kitchen in a prime position, and use materials and design elements that match with the interior and garden to create a seamless transition.
Keep it low-maintenance
Patio owners will know how messy an outdoor area can get in what seems like a matter of minutes. Exposure to the elements leaves everything dirty, wet or windblown, or all of the above. When you’re dealing with kitchen items, many of which are not designed for the rugged outdoors, choice of materials is paramount. To avoid rapid deterioration of your brand-new kitchen, choose hardy low-maintenance materials that keep their shine, even under scorching sun or torrential downpours. Stone, stainless steel and concrete are ideal building materials for cabinets and countertops. Your base structures, and all the tools in your outdoor kitchen, should be as easy to clean as possible (especially if there is no outdoor sink in which to do the washing up). All kitchen items should also be resistant to UV damage to prevent deterioration in the summer sun.
Light it up
Nothing dampens a mood more than bright, sterile overhead lighting. While plenty of light is essential for cooking, don’t take that to the extreme by blowing out the area. Use brighter warm lights in key areas – around workstations and over the cooktop – and stick to dimmed lights or fairy lights for seating areas. Table lamps dotted over dining areas or around your outdoor bar create a wonderful atmosphere that can’t be achieved with the equivalent of midday sunlight shining in your eyes 24/7.
Have fun with it
Creating an outdoor kitchen is not all about building materials and tape measures. The goal is to create a space you want to use as much as possible, encouraging you to move your indoor life outdoors and be closer to nature. When planning, don’t forget to add a few exciting elements that match your cooking style and entertainment needs. Fancy a free holiday in ‘Tuscany’? Build a wood-fired pizza oven as the main cooking space. Are you a staunch lover of charcoal or do you prefer (gasp!) cooking with gas? If you like to spend your afternoon braai watching the game, make space for a TV, or add a sound system for the music lovers. The kitchen is known as the heart of the home – that statement is even truer for outdoor kitchens. Ensure you add enough excitement to your space to make it the place to be.