Outdoor Kitchen Blends Trend, Tradition

Bob Oster and his team stared out over a crowd of 300 smiling faces.

Oster, the director of design and sales for GreenSource LLC, a landscape design/build firm in Mentor, Ohio, had spent the past several weeks overseeing the construction of a residential outdoor kitchen in Pepper Pike, a picturesque suburb on Cleveland’s eastside.

After developing a meaningful professional relationship with the client, Oster and his staff had been invited to the homeowner’s housewarming party for close friends and family. He had hired GreenSource to perform the exterior landscape development of his new home construction. It was very much a celebratory event, as caterers greeted guests with helpings of savory party foods and bartenders popped tops and concocted drinks.

“The best thing was standing atop the deck, looking down on the outdoor kitchen we built,” Oster says, reflecting back on that moment in 2010. “People were using this thing exactly the way it was designed for. That was the most impact I’ve ever had and felt with a project. You’re designing something and making sure it’s going to work out, but then seeing it come to life like that was an incredible feeling. I was proud to see it and in that moment, we knew we did a good job.”

Fast forward to August 2012, and Oster, along with thousands of others in the landscape-architecture industry, has spent the summer months creating spaces that don’t need four walls to be called a home–outdoor kitchens are an extension of the home, constantly growing in demand and design. Whether it’s a simple built-in grill, a pizza oven featuring a grand chimney, or a 30-foot half-circle, hand-chiseled, briar-hill sandstone bar like the masterpiece GreenSource crafted for the family in Pepper Pike, landscape architects are constructing spaces not only to charbroil a steak or to pour a glass of pinot grigio, but to toast the joy and comfort of the backyard as a place of retreat and peace of mind.

Jerry Scott of RH Peterson Co., a grilling manufacturer inCity of Industry,Calif., sums it up perfectly.

“Many folks are deciding to simply stay home,” Scott says. “They are cocooning. They want to stay home and make their home as nice as possible. With extended patios, outdoor fireplaces, or fire pits, it’s about extending your ability to stay outdoors and after dark, preparing your meals. The exterior becomes a social gathering place.”

Many industry leaders attribute this retreat-to-the-backyard mentality to the national economy, which continues to find its footing.

“Anytime there is a recession, there is an attitude of wanting to reinvest in an asset you already have,” says Mark Rhodus, president of Two Brothers Brick Paving with locations in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio.

Rather than purchasing a new home, many people are instead looking towards updating their current residence. The backyard, with its humble patch of grass, unassuming portable grill, diminutive patio, and overlooked mulch beds, is often the first place homeowners look to.

The Perfect Recipe…

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