I may have an unhealthy obsession with outdoor kitchens. When I want to relax, I’ll pore over ideas and images of stunning outdoor spaces dedicated to cooking, eating and entertaining. Same goes when I can’t sleep. Instead of counting sheep, I create mental floor plans of outdoor kitchens for my house and for the homes of family and friends.
My ideal outdoor kitchen would be outfitted with a sink, top-of-the-line grill, exterior-grade appliances and plenty of counter space for cooking and entertaining. Alas, I’ve yet to realize this dream amenity since there’s always some obstacle — budget, bugs, climate, space limitations — standing in my way.
Fortunately there are many ways to create an outdoor feeling in an indoor kitchen.
1. Location, location, location. The best way to bring an outdoor vibe to an indoor kitchen is to maximize the amount of natural light pouring in throughout the day. If you are building from scratch or have a healthy remodeling budget to tap into, think about positioning your kitchen to receive maximum daylight.
South-facing kitchens receive the most sun, whereas kitchens oriented to the north receive the least amount of sunlight. Of course, the downside to a south-facing kitchen is the additional solar heat gain, so if you live in a hot climate, you may wish to orient the kitchen to the east to capture the soft morning light.
2. Add oversized glass doors. Relocating the kitchen is not in the budget for most of us, but there are other design moves you can make that allow sunlight to flow in without hitting your pocketbook quite as hard. You could create an indoor-outdoor flow in the kitchen by literally breaking the barrier between the two with large glass doors. If you are fortunate to live in a bug-free climate, you can keep the doors wide open and really amplify the connection to the outdoors.
3. Be generous with the windows. Given a choice between windows and wall cabinets, I will always root for windows. Yes, you lose some storage space, but what you gain in natural light — and if you’re lucky, views — is worth the loss of a few cabinets, in my opinion. Make up for lost storage space by installing tall pantry cabinets on an interior wall, where you can’t have windows.
4. Go big with skylights. If large glass doors and windows aren’t an option, perhaps you can install a series of skylights or light tubes. This is a great way to compensate for the lack of natural light common to north-facing and interior-sited kitchens. Just keep in mind that skylights turn into black boxes at night, so be sure to work in enough light fixtures to keep the space properly lighted at night.
5. Get colorful. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to bring a bit of the outdoors in is through the use of color. Think soothing, soft sky blues, verdant greens and sunny yellows for a little dose of the colors we associate with being outside.
6. Grow your greens. Another element that immediately calls to mind exterior spaces is live plants. If you don’t have the space outside for a garden, perhaps you can bring one inside. Vases with fresh-cut flowers or pots of your favorite houseplants are other ways to add a touch of nature to an indoor kitchen.
7. Keep it airy and open. If you are going for an outdoor vibe in your kitchen, try keeping the space as open, clean and uncluttered as possible. With ample light and an open feel, you can fake it like it’s the great outdoors.