Outside In, Inside Out
“If you can’t be in awe of Mother Nature, then there’s something wrong with you.” Clue: The contemporary author of this quote has been a popular fixture on TV since 1984. Answer: Who is Alex Trebek?
Evidently, many of our clients agree with Alex, since a frequent request when starting a kitchen renovation project has long been, “I want to bring the outdoors in”. Recently, however, we have been receiving more requests to bring all the conveniences of their indoor kitchens to their outdoor entertaining spaces. So, this month, since summer is (finally!) in full swing, our Bilotta designers give their takes on bringing the beauty of the outdoors into a new kitchen, as well as bringing the beauty of an indoor kitchen into an outdoor one.
In most cases, creating a stronger connection between inner and outer areas of the home involves adding more glass and incorporating materials (either organic or man-made) that make figurative reference to the outdoors.
For a client in Rye with an enviable view of the Long Island Sound, senior designer Jeff Eakley first gave her kitchen a wall of sliding glass doors to maximize the room’s main asset.
But Jeff is never content to simply settle for the obvious gesture. Instead of a standard window over the second sink, which would have directed the eye straight ahead onto another exterior wall of the house, Jeff added two wide windows at backsplash height so that the client could easily gaze down upon her charming herb garden. Now, no matter where she’s working in her new kitchen, the client feels like she’s cooking outside.
Glass also plays a major role in this kitchen by senior designer Danielle Florie. The house sits on a beautifully landscaped lot that boasts plenty of trees and an outcropping of boulders. The breakfast room is surrounded by two walls of glass; a row of clerestory windows above the wall cabinets floods the room with additional light and affords a glimpse of the treetops.
But many more decisions than merely adding glass were made to unite the kitchen to the backyard. The sink faces the trees, so in order to blur the indoor/outdoor line Danielle chose a wood-grained porcelain tile for all the wall space not covered by cabinetry or windows, taking it all the way up to the ceiling.
The cabinets are quarter-sawn oak (prized for its distinctive figuring) and are finished in a driftwood stain that give them a weathered look. And the slate tile floors appear as though they are a continuation of the rocks outdoors.
For her own kitchen, Danielle wanted to take full advantage of her wooded, rocky property, so she sacrificed wall cabinet storage in order to enlarge the windows over the sink. She also installed two enormous windows on the adjoining dining area wall, which had originally been windowless. Just beyond her back deck are huge rock ledges and boulders that are covered in moss and lichen, which she absolutely adores. For her countertops, she wanted a material that would echo that, so she selected a dark green granite called “Wild Sea” with a honed finish that resembles the moss-covered stone outside her window. (Except a lot more sanitary than the real thing!)
Are you a city dweller with nothing but another high-rise for a view? Or perhaps no view at all? Fear not. As this New York City loft kitchen by designer Tabitha Tepe shows, you can still achieve your own little piece of green. This was a very narrow space, with no room along the back wall for cabinetry, but plenty of room for shallow shelving.
What the kitchen lacked in spaciousness was more than made up for with the texture and character of its brick wall. The homeowners opted to retain the brick instead of covering it up, but Tabitha brought light into the space by whitewashing the brick, which also helped the shelves virtually disappear. These were definitely the little shelves that could. Plates or serving pieces would never have fit, but they could easily be filled with plants and herbs, providing the perfect little indoor garden. The glass cabinet doors on the opposite wall not only helped to produce a more open feeling, but they reflected the greenery wall, visually doubling this petite urban oasis.
No room for even the shallowest plant shelves in your city apartment kitchen? Then perhaps you can spare a bit of space for a countertop LED herb planter! My son used to love growing herbs and vegetables on his suburban patio, but a move to a Chicago apartment without so much as even a fire escape left him yearning to exercise his green thumb. A lighted hydroponic planter now has a permanent place on his center island. Vegetables are still out of the question, but he now has a steady year-round supply of fresh herbs for his culinary creations and a slice of suburbia for his windowless kitchen.
Senior designer Randy O’Kane has definitely noticed an uptick in client requests to connect the indoors with the outdoors. But for two clients, Randy had the opportunity to literally bring the outdoors inside.
Randy’s first client already had an enviably beautiful backyard space, complete with pool, playground, full outdoor kitchen, and stone fireplace. When they hired Randy to design their new kitchen, one of the top items on their wish list was to have a real link to their outdoor area.
We’re not talking about merely adding more glass windows and doors to get a better view of the backyard; we’re talking about making the back wall of the house completely disappear. This was accomplished by utilizing a 16-foot “NanaWall”, which is a moveable folding glass wall system that eliminates the physical and visual barriers of conventional fixed panes of glass and traditional sliding glass doors. Once Randy’s transformation was complete, the zones could now successfully be combined as one, and the homeowners were rewarded with a luxurious uninterrupted space for their outdoor lifestyle.
For another client, Randy executed another literal expression of bringing the outdoors in. This home boasted a lovely pool area that was surrounded by impeccably landscaped grounds. This renovation involved extending the kitchen and family room out and adding a wall of windows facing the extraordinary view. To bring a hint of that gorgeous landscaping into the new space, Randy designed an incredibly creative spot under which to tuck two stools at the island: it’s a 48” diameter live edge slice of an old twin maple tree, perched on the edge of the countertop and further supported by a collection of branches.
This isn’t just a reminder of a tree; it is a tree, and it’s simply breathtaking!
And the cherry on top of the entire renovation? A new built-in outdoor grill that incorporated masonry that was a match to other existing stonework. The result was a kitchen addition that worked seamlessly with their newly enhanced outdoor space for easy entertaining of family and friends.
Now for the most exciting part: outdoor kitchens. If you thought the side burner on your gas grill was the ultimate in al fresco cooking, you’re going to be blown away by these ideas.
Designer David Arnoff offers some convincing arguments for investing in an exterior duplication of your everyday kitchen. For me, his best justification is saving steps. I’m inherently lazy, so even if my deck were directly adjacent to my kitchen (which, unfortunately, it’s not!) I’d still be looking to reduce unnecessary trips back and forth between the grill and the indoor fridge, sink and trash, Fitbit be damned. Even if you welcome the extra steps, do you really want random crumbs and food drippings marking the path to your double trash pullout? I think not; you need an outdoor trash that isn’t 55 gallons and made of green plastic.
Speaking of drippings: ewwww! After touching that chicken, are you sure you didn’t touch any of the grill tools or the screen door handle? Wash your hands! An outdoor sink not only makes that a whole lot easier, but it also comes in handy for food and beverage preparation.
Now I must admit that my husband and I have hosted many an outdoor party where the aforementioned 55-gallon green plastic trash cans (of course, they were clean!) held ice and assorted beverages. A more stylish choice than our uber-budget selection would have been the galvanized metal containers available at housewares stores. But the most elegant option would be a small refrigerator or refrigerator drawers.
In addition to beverages, all your condiments and perishable salads can be conveniently stored within a few feet of the table. When preparing or sharing a meal outdoors, comfort is equally important as convenience, and most decks and patios would be greatly improved by the addition of a shady area. Who wants to stand over a hot grill on a sweltering summer day with no relief from the sun? A vine-covered pergola makes for an idyllic setting for grill masters and guests alike. David cautions, however, that it’s imperative that sinks, faucets, and electric appliances all be rated for outdoor use.
Your kitchen designer and appliance dealer can point you in the direction of safe, weather-resistant selections. You may also need an exhaust hood over your grill and side burners, depending on your overhead structure. Outdoor-rated choices are available for hoods as well. Once you decide exactly what to include in your outdoor entertaining area, your choices for how to clad it are endless: brick, stone, stucco, or stainless steel are all possibilities for making your new space feel like it was always a part of your home.
Senior designer Paula Greer has just two words to describe her ideal outdoor kitchen: “pizza oven”.
Yes, you can throw a crust right onto your grill grates, but imagine how much more fun it would be to have a dedicated pizza oven for your next outdoor gathering. The wood-burning brick or stone pizza oven may be the variation we’re all most familiar with, but it’s certainly not the only game in town. There are now smaller models that can fit right on your grill or sit on an outdoor countertop. Then there are the electric pizza ovens that can be part of an entire suite of outdoor kitchen appliances. In any case, an outdoor pizza oven may make the ubiquitous burger and hot dog menu a thing of your grilling past!
Senior designer Randy O’Kane is apparently the queen of indoor/outdoor design integration, for she has yet another remarkable example to share. This was a client for whom she’d previously designed an indoor kitchen. They returned to her for a screened-in eating and entertaining area and an outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles. The cooking area was clad in stone, which echoed the stone used in the stone and brick pool deck. Randy chose Lapitec (which is a next-generation engineered stone surface) for the countertops because of its weatherproof qualities and resistance to stains, mold, and bacteria.
For drama after dark, she added LED lighting below the overhang for the stools. On the inside of the cook’s domain is every conceivable convenience: an over-sized built-in Wolf grill, and stainless-steel Lynx outdoor refrigerator drawers and sink. Other stainless Lynx products included a slide-out trash and recycling cabinet, storage drawers, and several storage cabinets with doors, all built right into the stone structure. The cooking area connects to the house with a pergola which provides shade and ambiance.
But with all the amazing equipment below it, you certainly wouldn’t want a little bit of rain to cut into your grilling time, so the pergola is fitted with a retractable awning – on remote control of course! The screened-in porch received a standing-seam peaked metal roof with natural tongue-and-groove paneling inside. A ceiling fan keeps those summer breezes blowing. And just in case you can’t bear to miss that sporting event or reality program, there’s even an outdoor-rated TV for your viewing pleasure.
I’ve never been one to grill in extreme heat or in wintertime, but this spectacular specimen of al fresco cooking and dining could cause me to change my mind.
No, Alex, there’s nothing wrong with us: we’re definitely in awe of Mother Nature, whether it’s part of an indoor kitchen or an outdoor one. Enjoy the rest of the summer!
This post was written by senior designer, Paulette Gambacorta. Paulette has been designing kitchens with Bilotta for over 25 years.