Tag Archives: landscaping

Design the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen with These Simple Tips

Everyone loves to BBQ, so it’s no surprise that the next trend in outdoor cooking is the outdoor kitchen. An outdoor kitchen can improve the value of your home in every possible way – it’s great for entertaining, it’s a joy for the enthusiastic cook and, of course, it will increase the monetary value of your property. If you’re thinking about building one, be sure to keep a few things in mind throughout the process.

Don’t be Afraid to Enlist a Professional

People make entire careers of professional kitchen design, and the design of an outdoor kitchen can be very difficult to bring together. Bringing a professional designer into the project all but ensures that you’ll end up with exactly what you’ve envisioned while helping to avoid potential design and maintenance problems down the road.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a vision before hiring a professional. It won’t be easy to help you build the outdoor kitchen of your dreams if you haven’t yet established just what those dreams are. Here are a few things to consider as you put together plans.

What’s on the Menu?

Outdoor kitchens are becoming as well-equipped as they are trendy. While the typical space will consist of simple prep, grill and dining areas, new outdoor kitchens can match their full-size indoor counterparts in terms of size and capability. When you’re designing your outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to consider your goals.

An outdoor kitchen that’s made for fun family nights can be designed feel and function much differently from one that’s made for entertaining large groups of clients and colleagues. This is the aspect of design that will bring your budget in line with your needs, helping to define the look and feel of the end product.

Location, Location, Location

The ideal location for an outdoor kitchen is as close to the indoor kitchen as possible. Not only does this provide access to existing gas and electrical connections, but it also makes it easy to utilize additional storage space and seating areas if necessary. This proximity is especially important if you plan to grill outdoors while monitoring the food cooking inside.

There are plenty of other things to consider as well. Don’t forget that the smoke from your grill will generally blow downwind of your location. You’d do best to avoid placing it in a position that could potentially blow smoke indoors – or worse, into your neighbours’ homes.

Environment and Ambience

You’ll want to make sure that your outdoor cooking and dining areas are comfortable, so shade is another vital consideration. If you’re connecting the outdoor kitchen to your home, you can extend an eve or awning to protect your cooking and dining areas from the sun. You can also make use of the natural, cooling shade provided by trees, a shade trellis or a built-in umbrella.

When the sun finally sets, lighting is of the utmost concern. It is, of course, crucial that your cooking area have sufficient lighting to perform your grilling duties effectively. At the same time, ambient lighting in the dining area will provide you and your guests with a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere. Careful planning can help you ensure that the lighting of each area is effective and appropriate.

Pick the Proper Materials

Choosing the proper materials for your outdoor kitchen can be difficult. You want it to look its best no matter the weather, but it’s also got to stand up to spills, stains and cleaning.

Natural stone countertops look great, but they’re subject to a wide range of contaminants so you’ll need to seal them regularly. Granite countertops are another good option, but they’ll lose their colour and gloss if they don’t contain a UV stabilizer.

Tile countertops are subject to cracks if they’re used in regions that must endure frequent thawing and freezing. Wherever you live, you’ll also want to stay away from porous materials like limestone – while it may do well with the proper treatment and care indoors, it’s not an ideal material to use in your outdoor countertops.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that your outdoor kitchen is made for entertainment. Whether it’s a family BBQ or an upscale dinner, you’re building it as a place in which people can sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of contemporary life and outdoor living. As long as you keep this in mind, you’ll love the kitchen you create.

Overcoming the Challenges of Sloped Lots with Landscape Maintenance Services

With problems such as a leaky basement, soil erosion, bare patches and pooling water, a home on a sloped lot can seem like a curse. However, with the right design elements and regular landscape maintenance services, you can turn the curves of your sloped property into a thing of beauty.

Before You Begin

If you love DIY projects, you might be tempted to get started on your beautification project right away. Before your shovel hits the dirt, it’s a good idea to run your ideas by a landscaping contractor. After hearing your thoughts and taking the slope of your property into account, this professional can tell you about possible problems that could arise, like flooding or poor drainage. If you currently have problems because of a sloped lot, the contractor can tell you how to remedy the issue. Beautifying a sloped lot can take a lot of work, so it’s worth your while to make sure the work gets done correctly the first time.

Landscaping Ideas for a Sloped Yard

Retaining walls and terracing: As a multi-purpose solution to sloped land, retaining walls and terracing give you the opportunity to really enjoy your landscaping. Even with just one wall, you can eliminate part of a slope and have a flat surface for a garden bed or entertaining. Give your yard a multi-dimensional look by installing retaining walls on different levels. For example, use one tier for herbs, another for flowers, and include a bench at the bottom.

Working with nature: Gravity is always going to win when you have a sloped lot. Take advantage of this fact and plant water-loving trees, shrubs and flowers at the base of your slope. Better yet, have a landscaping contractor install a rain garden to catch water runoff after it rains.

Xeriscaping: Xeri means “dry.” When you xeriscape, you incorporate into your landscape design native plants that don’t require a lot of water. Such plants can include ornamental grasses and succulents. Mowing grass on a slope can be difficult and dangerous. By xeriscaping, you reduce your yard’s need for water, spend less time on lawn maintenance and don’t have to worry about the bald spot that always seems to form on the slope.

Ground covers: If you don’t have a green thumb but want to fill in the bare spots on your slope, consider planting ground covers. These types of lush plants don’t get tall; instead, they form a lush carpet that prevents weeds and soil erosion. As a bonus, when the ground cover blooms, the hit of color will take your breath away. Some good ground cover choices in the Northwest include pachysandra, vinca, kinnikinnick, or Asiatic jasmine. A landscape maintenance service provider can tell you which ground covers work best in your area.

Multi-tiered water feature: Be the envy of your neighborhood with a cascading water feature that empties into a pond at its base. Such an installation helps break up the monotony of a plain-looking slope, adds dimension to xeriscaping and adds interest to terracing. Because water features require pumps, digging and a lot of planning, work with a landscaping contractor to prevent catastrophic rookie mistakes.

Instead of seeing a sloped lot as space you can’t use, view it as an opportunity to achieve the creative landscape of your dreams.

Guest authored by Landscape East & West, an award winning full-service landscape and design company based in Portland, OR. Landscape East & West specializes in residential landscape maintenance services, from all-organic fertilizing and conscientious pruning to irrigation services and integrated pest management.