For the past several years, the outdoor living trend has exploded across the country. Bland decks and patios no longer make the cut and homeowners are seeking out more luxurious designs for outdoor spaces that include built-in kitchens, fire pits, fountains, and formal seating space.
Outdoor kitchens are among the most-wanted kitchen features in new architectural projects, according to the American Institute of Architects’ 2019 Home Design Trends Survey. The quarterly survey’s fourth-quarter 2018 poll shows 49% of respondents report their popularity has increased, compared with 45% of respondents who noted the trend the year prior.
However, as recently as 1999, the “outdoor kitchen” barely existed beyond stone or stucco grill islands. Mitch Slater, founder and CEO of Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens and Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, began his outdoor kitchen cabinetry business when the concept was near unknown among builders.
“Thanks to today’s design trends and technological advancements, the lines between indoor and outdoor kitchens are blurring—and in some cases disappearing completely,” says Slater. “While it’s now possible to maintain the same aesthetic for indoor and outdoor kitchens, it’s crucial to choose durable, low-maintenance materials that will withstand exposure to rain, snow, and the elements.”
Powder-coated stainless steel cabinetry outperforms other players in the market and allows for a wide range of design options, including bold or neutral hues, realistic wood-grain imitations, or industrial-inspired finishes, says Slater.
“We’ve seen an increased demand for storage and cabinetry, as more homeowners seek spaces that can operate independently from the kitchen proper and have space to keep tools for meal prep and cooking on hand,” continues Slater. “In that same vein, there’s a growing interest in cabinetry solutions that can accommodate a range of kitchen appliances.”
The traditional barbecues and grills that used to be the highlight of outdoor kitchens have expanded to include specialty appliances, such as pizza ovens; smokers; side burners; drawer-style, undercounter refrigerators; kegerators; and wine refrigerators.
Cleveland-based research company The Freedonia Group forecasts the demand for hardscape products in outdoor living spaces will increase 5.4% annually through 2023, likely driven by products such as stamped concrete plank pavers that resemble wood, natural stone products, porcelain pavers, and permeable pavers that can help prevent water runoff and flooding issues.
Other trending products that can boost the functionality and longevity of these outdoor spaces include layered heat sources, such as heating lamps or built-in infrared heaters; shade solutions, such as pergolas or retractable patio covers; and cooling sources, such as fans and misters.
While many would assume outdoor living spaces are popular only in warm climates, data from Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens’ recent Outdoor Living Report says the concept has gained traction across all regions, with varying design styles and features in each section of the country.
“Peoples’ conception is that Florida must be our top territory, or Texas or California,” Slater says. “California is first, but the second largest territory for us is from Boston down to Washington, D.C.”
The report also states outdoor kitchens provide a significant return on investment for homeowners. Real estate website Zillow analyzed listing descriptions from nearly 4 million homes nationwide that sold from January 2016 to December 2017 and found homes with outdoor kitchen features sold for nearly 25% more than expected. In addition, Dallas was the most common metro with the home feature keywords.
Looking ahead, homeowners will continue to demand sophisticated, tailored designs outdoors that mimic the interior of their homes. Whether the area is small or large, these inviting outdoor rooms create a stylish oasis for entertaining and provide a second, functional kitchen that goes beyond a standard grill.