Posted In Garden Design, Gardening tips

The Outdoor Kitchen

My timing is impeccable. Heatwave over, it’s pouring outside and I’m writing about the next best thing since sliced bread: the outdoor kitchen. Despite our climate, people are looking at outdoor space, not just to look nice,but to make it part of their life and lifestyle. Pour yourself a generous Pimms, think sunshine and imagine…

This year alone, we have created four different outdoor kitchens, or gardens that are focused around some kind of outdoor cooking facility. One of the designs included a rather nifty, bespoke Jo Thompson cantilevered BBQ. Admittedly, the structural engineer deserves some of the credit, but still…

With space at a premium, particularly in urban areas, gardens increasingly need to be functional as well as beautiful. Functional meaning not just offering storage for one’s garden tools and ubiquitous croquet set, but a real usable space to enjoy, to entertain, where one can cook, and be warm on a cold evening. With the recent heatwave in mind, and especially in the inner cities, we want to be outside when the temperatures are high, but are increasingly less keen to fight for that inch of space in the park amongst the denuded crowd, or queue up at the few restaurants/pubs in town that have a terrace. The garden, even if small, can accommodate outdoor kitchens, with just a few simple guidelines:

Choice of a cooker can be somewhat daunting as the options are endless. Selection will depend on one’s cooking requirements, but think too that the cooker in question could offer multiple options. A pizza oven for example, is not just for pizza, but can also be used to roast, stew or bake. At the same time, the pizza oven offers an effective heat source, which can also be used in inner cities as they are wood burning. Granted pizza ovens are quite an investment, starting at around the £1500 mark, but they offer cooking as well as heating facilities, which can be costly if purchased separately.

If you need some guidance on possible cooker options, we have worked with Jamie Oliver ‘s pizza ovens, which are attractive, they provide good service and help with installation, and there are endless video’s for clients for recipe ideas. In terms of BBQs, the ceramic Big Green Egg is very popular at the moment, providing a versatile multitasking cooker.

Consider the preparation area, which should be accessible from the kitchen and close to the cooker of choice. One of the outdoor kitchen gardens we are working on includes a sink. Practically speaking most of the washing up will still happen indoors, but cleaning one’s BBQ equipment outside can be useful, so too is prepping one’s homegrown vegetables.

The design should be usable throughout the year, even if the weather’s a bit nippy. Take into account the landscaping of the area around the cooker for all season use, as grass wears down in winter, and can get incredibly muddy. If the cooker can double up as a heater, space is spared and seasonal use guaranteed. Otherwise, consider a fire pit, or an attractive brazier of some kind. Patio heaters are a definite carbon footprint no no, so avoid those at all costs.

Ensure the space is comfortable and practical. Choose comfortable seating, which should be easily accessible from the kitchen and for added ease, incorporate storage into the design so that cushions are close to hand. The design for a London kitchen garden, included staggered beech hedges to hide the cushion store for the seats, and also the fold-up tennis table for the children.

Use the space wisely. Apart from the strong desire to build it, the cantilevered BBQ for the Knightsbridge outdoor kitchen garden was designed as such to prevent it from blocking the view of the garden. For a current project, we are designing a kitchen garden at the corner of a terrace and pool; we are looking how best to incorporate herb planters on the wall, providing practical storage, but without it looking clunky.

The ultimate space-saving, outdoor kitchen-garden-gadget one could consider, and often part of my design portfolio is a rill. The reason being? This: rills look attractive, provide that soothing sound of running water, but if built to the right spec, are simply the best wine coolers….