Outdoor kitchens smaller but more packed with more luxury

A luxurious outdoor kitchen is the best culinary companion.

Whether having close friends over or hosting a large social gathering, a well-designed exterior elevates the backyard into the perfect entertainment retreat.

“Having a full outdoor kitchen enhances a property’s exterior space to not only be more functional but heightens the experience of the indoor/outdoor living,” said Michael Zelina, broker and owner of Red Luxury. “They can be used for eight to nine months of the year.”

Zelina estimates 90 percent of luxury homes feature an outdoor kitchen, an amenity that can increase the value of the home.

“More than ever, outdoor kitchens are a big selling feature,” Zelina said. “The migration of California buyers is so used to entertaining outside that the properties on their must-see list have all been homes with outdoor kitchens and entertaining spaces.”

Outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces became increasingly popular during the pandemic shutdown. Homeowners found value and solace in creating a backyard oasis.

“People saw their yard in a different way and realized they wanted to use it in a different way,” said Dennis Vang, owner and chief architect of Vangson Consulting Landscape Architecture. “They wanted more flow and places to hang out.”

In the luxury market, outdoor kitchens demonstrate the current seamless indoor-outdoor living trend while being integrated into a unified exterior design.

“The goal for exterior design is to have that cohesiveness, that flow,” Vang said. “It has a sense of poetry to it, so it all comes together.”

This is becoming more feasible as manufacturers develop materials, such as exterior-grade porcelain, a product Vang said has gained popularity in outdoor kitchen designs.

“The industry has stepped up the last few years and started purposely making things that flow from the inside to the outside,” Vang said. “I’m loving using porcelain right now.”

Dekton is another recent introduction, offering the look of marble countertops but with higher durability. Other traditional options include Caesar stone, quartzite, granite and natural stone.

Vang notes that stainless steel remains the most popular finish, and designers are applying special treatments, such as powder coating the cabinetry to achieve a cohesive indoor-outdoor aesthetic.

Kara Hawkins, owner and principal designer of KML Designs, has seen the gamut of high-end outdoor kitchens during the 14 years she has operated her firm, from simple barbecue stations to state-of-the-art luxury kitchens.

“It really depends on how the client wants to use the space,” Hawkins said. “And how much money they want to spend. I have worked with a budget of $50,000 all the way up to $300,000 for a kitchen. Whatever your imagination wants, we can find a way to achieve just about everything.”

The outdoor kitchen’s aesthetic and functionality is enhanced by installing high-end appliances, mood and task lighting, heating-cooling instruments and integrated media elements.

“I have a client who wants a complete state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen,” Hawkins said. “They want an oven with custom grill top, Evo grill, pizza oven, refrigerator, ice maker, dishwasher and prep space.”

Hawkins noted new appliances trending in exterior kitchen design include Evo flat top grills, hybrid combination grills, Traeger pellet grills, Big Green Egg smokers and Gaucho grills.

Gaucho grills, retailing around $27,000, provide a wood-fired grilling experience. A spoked wheel allows the food to be raised above an open flame or lowered toward the searing heat.

“They’re spectacular,” Hawkins said. “Appliances have come along way.”

Terence Thornton, designer and project manager with Ozzie Craft Enterprises, has seen a variety of outdoor kitchen design trends during his 17 years working in the industry.

In the modern-designed luxury home market, he is seeing custom builders incorporating simpler outdoor kitchens located closer to the home.

“Most of the newer high-end houses have pretty simple outdoor kitchens: They’re smaller, attached to the house and feature a barbecue grill, side burner and refrigerator,” Thornton said. “We completed eight jobs in the Summit Club, and I can’t think of an elaborate outdoor kitchen up there.”

Judy and Rick Kulis epitomize the trend of wanting a smaller outdoor kitchen space. The couple recently sold their Lake Las Vegas home and hope to break ground on a custom-built home in MacDonald Highlands in Henderson. The home will feature a simpler kitchen from their previous property.

“Building a new house is trickier to visualize what the flow is going to be like,” Judy Kulis said. “But I know I want to simplify the outdoor kitchen. I want a really good grill and a pass-through window from the inside kitchen directly to the outdoor kitchen counter.”

Outdoor Kitchen Showcase

Horizon, The Cliffs, Summerlin

Vang has collaborated and designed exterior spaces for several high-end clients, including the Property Brothers and the 2019 New American home.

One of Vang’s distinctive collaborative designs, which he refers to as Horizon, showcases incredible Las Vegas Strip views while flowing seamlessly from the interior to the exterior.

He worked with assistant D.K. Roth on the project. The outdoor kitchen borders a sunken fire pit, raised spa and pool deck while offering easy access to the home’s interior dining and main living area. The modern-designed outdoor space is accentuated by a large natural stone wall that mimics the interior stone fireplace surround.

“This space really takes you from the indoor to the outdoor,” Vang said. “It adds square footage to the house when you open it all up.”

The 13-foot kitchen features porcelain counters, cocoa-colored Daltile fascia around the stainless-steel appliances, cool-white Shellock Desert paver decking and a covered structure. Appliances include a barbecue grill, lower burner for larger cooking pots, party sink, bottle holder, warming drawers, hidden trash and extra outlets.

A raised bar on the opposite side of the kitchen is graced with Calacatta porcelain counters with a waterfall edge. The bar fascia is wood plank porcelain tile.

Lighting plays a significant role in Vang’s design. He incorporated an FX Luminaire Luxor ZDC color-changing lighting package where each light could be controlled through an app.

Vang estimates the kitchen cost between $15,000 to $20,000.

Summerlin cohesive design

Hawkins’ distinctive Summerlin design features a stylish Renato built-in wood-burning pizza oven with custom-blend Oceanside Casa Blink Dimensional glass tile floor-to-ceiling surround. Bronzite leather finish counters enhance the curved, raised-seating bar lined with custom-designed bar stools by Eric Brand.

The kitchen is equipped with stainless-steel cabinetry, a full-sized range hood, under-counter refrigerators and drawers, Twin Eagle side burner, Teppanyaki prep station and storage components.

Kitchen with serpentine bar

Thornton has conceived a variety of outdoor kitchens. One ambitious project involved creating the ultimate entertainment space. Thornton’s design incorporated two distinct outdoor destination areas on a 1-acre property.

The two areas coordinated with finish materials of tile, granite and stone to mimic the interior of the home. A 90-foot, S-shaped bar wraps between two mature pine trees 40 feet apart. It features two kegerators, six refrigerators, built-in blenders, ice makers, two sinks and storage. Enhancing the space is a 25-foot outdoor kitchen featuring a pizza oven, large grill with side burners, refrigerator, sink, food prepping/serving space and storage. He estimates the entire project costing over six figures.

“Both spaces were fully optioned out,” Thornton said. “It was a very fun project.”

Kitchen in the oasis

Zelina is representing a property showcasing an incredible destination kitchen, designed as a distinctive focal point for the entire exterior space. Located at 2000 Bogart Court, the property is on the market for $2.125 million.

The integrated exterior U-shaped kitchen features a 60-inch grill, warming drawer, searing grill, refrigerator, automatic ice maker, chiller, beer keg dispenser with tap, preparation station with large sink and full round bar seating shaded by a large palapa umbrella.

“The poolside full Viking kitchen is hard to compare to any other outdoor kitchen,” said Leah Marie Monroe, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Red Luxury.

“The owners created a unique experience, replicating the likes of a beach resort vacation equipped to host large poolside parties with plenty of food and drinks, all served from the convenient round bar kitchen.”

Fire Magic grill kitchen

The Kulises’ previous residence showcased an integrated outdoor kitchen that flows seamlessly into an exterior seating area and the home’s interior.

A curved island showcases a professional-grade, 36-inch Fire Magic grill with separate high-heat searing elements and side burners.

The presentation grill faces guests seated on the opposite side of the island. Behind the grilling station, a 20-foot, leathered-marble-topped counter offers extensive prepping and serving space.

“We used our outdoor kitchen quite a bit,” Judy Kulis said. “The whole house opened up on that side and flowed right into the outdoor kitchen and living area.”

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