Set your sights on a truly moveable feast
Enjoy the versatility of an outdoor kitchen – great for relieving the pressure on the interior domestic hub of the home, dispersing a houseful and encouraging/involving those reluctant chefs! There is no doubt that some dishes taste even more delicious served in the open air – barbecued food in particular, with all its smoky aroma, holds unique seasonal appeal. The trick is in designing an area that is functional, organised and that offers a credible alternative to a sleek and spacious indoor kitchen.
The answer may lie in your choice of exterior cooking appliance. Choose a portable barbecue and enjoy the flexibility of being able to cook in different locations and positions. This needn't restrict an organised approach – portable models that include burners, a rotisserie and smoker drawer might appeal. Add linked, separate units for extra storage. Designed to be wheeled around the garden, these cooking stations can be stowed undercover when not in use and easily pulled into action with the first signs of calm weather.
For a more permanent solution, include a stainless steel counter top grill set into a work station that might include a refrigerator, a smoker, sink or dishwasher – with all your cooking utensils to hand. Ensure this arrangement blends harmoniously with the architecture of your home. Rustic stone complements granite, stainless steel with slate and smooth render, tongue and groove with clapperboard and so on.
Build a wood-fired oven outside and you start to embrace the garden and beyond. This provides an all-year, all-weather solution and may serve as a loggia, verandah or summerhouse. Enjoy the heat from this centrepiece in the winter – a great excuse to lure everyone outdoors. From home-made pizza to a slow roast, it's tastier and cheaper than a gas alternative.
Use this wood-fired oven as a focal point around which to congregate on summer evenings. Choose comfortable sofas and cushions or some statement seating. Include a swinging chair or bench alongside a pod-style daybed, sculptured and cocooning, to capture the 'chill-outdoor' experience. Include some outdoor fun for children and adults alike – giant jenga, rope quoits, croquet played in its purest form, or for the more active – the cross-country 'crolf' version.
Enhance an outdoor kitchen with a little help from natural surroundings. Plenty of foliage trailed up and around structures and raised beds that include edible plants such as salad leaves and herbs. Say it with fabric! Using all-weather fabric, create the sense of an alfresco room with curtaining, panels, roll-up roll-down blinds and an overhead canopy, or sail-type structure.
A table that extends when numbers swell might appeal, while chairs and benches can be made more comfortable with robust, colourful cushions, covered in all-weather fabric.
Caroline Palk, BIID member, runs Ashton House Design, C2 Linhay Business Park, Eastern Road, Ashburton TQ13 7UP. Showroom open weekdays 9am-5.30pm, Saturdays by appointment. Telephone 01364 653563 or visit www.ashtonhousedesign.co.uk and follow Caroline on her Room for a View blog.