The Summer Kitchen

Performing Art in the Landscape

By Mary and Hugh Williamson

120821_9163Kitchen design has been evolving since man first placed rocks around the fire to avoid sparks on loincloths.  In the last 50 years, interior kitchens have gone from being utility spaces located adjacent to the laundry room to what can be delightful, luxurious entertainment spaces. So, too, can outdoor cooking areas be transformed to well-appointed and beautiful additions to the landscape.

Summer Kitchen possibilities have progressed from a simple grill and perhaps a small fridge to dazzling and beautifully equipped stages for what can be theatrical and entertaining culinary performances!  Whether they are acted out by you, your staff or your caterer, guests can be charmed by the presentation of seemingly effortless culinary delights, with the added glamor of flickering fire, and well-designed and dramatically lighted stage sets.

A Little History
The Southern Summer Kitchen developed from antiquity, such as from the cooking spaces of ancient Greece, the Middle Ages and strides made during the Renaissance.

For example, the Colonial kitchen outbuilding was separated from the main house to avoid added heat in the summer, as well as to mitigate cooking odors. That concept still applies in the south.  The Colonial outbuilding was also often the repository of serving implements, and sometimes weapons. Located near a well, it served as a cannery and staff quarters.  While early stoves utilized wood or coal, today we have the luxury of gas lines. Of course, some outdoor grilling aficionados insist on charcoal!  And running water has replaced wells – a must for the perfect summer kitchen!

A Little Modern Drama
Our South Florida climate offers the opportunity to entertain in the great outdoors for most of the year.  Carefully planned menus can allow for early preparation of every course, affording your ability to finish the presentation with a flourish on your grill; a spectator sport entertainment.

Bringing the idea of the interior kitchen island to the summer kitchen gives you added flexibility, whether it is used for prep space, a bar or a buffet station. Counter or bar stools for your island give your guests VIP seating for your grand performance.

There are many other items to consider for your summer kitchen, and they are not just about hardscape: a refrigerator, sink, perhaps an oven or warming oven, grill, burners, work surfaces, cutting board, lighting, storage for glassware, dishware and utensils, seasonings, wine and  bar accoutrements.

Tablescape elements should also be considered.  Also contemplate a sound system, and maybe a weather-proof screen for festive sporting event gatherings. You may have an opportunity for a covered space, and would then want to include an extraction hood.

An herb garden folded into the plan provides garnishes for your presentation, and sculpture and fountains contribute to the ambience, as well. Available outdoor lounge seating and dining furnishings have come a long way, and examples range from simple to opulent. The Summer Kitchen should look beautiful whether in use or not, just like a pool setting.  Avoid the predictable and utilitarian, and focus on an interesting mix of garden, kitchen and home theatre components.  It can be accomplished on a balcony easily… It is simply a matter of scale.  You won’t need as much storage for balcony iterations, as an interior kitchen is likely to be close by.

For any application, large or small, your design professional will incorporate kitchen planning guidelines that ensure a convenient and efficient installation that fits your South Florida lifestyle.

Photo Credit:Darren James Interiors

The Summer Kitchen