Warmer weather entices people outside, and let’s face it, wide open spaces can provide more room to move around and reduce the potential for damage to your home’s interior.

However, to truly provide an outstanding outdoor entertaining experience, you’ll need to create a fun and inviting environment, Here’s what you need to create the type of outdoor space that neighbors won’t want to leave.

More than a grill

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You’ll gain a lot of friends with this Artisan Fire Pizza Oven by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

You’ll gain a lot of friends with this Artisan Fire Pizza Oven by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. Image courtesy of La Cuisine Appliances.

A grill is an obvious starting place. “You’ve got to have a good looking and functional grill,” says Daniel Germani, founder and creative director of Daniel Germani Designs.  “My favorite is the one has a lid that folds all the way back and goes flush with the countertop.”

However, Josu Gaubeka, president of La Cuisine Appliances, a kitchen appliances distributor, says he’s also seeing an increasing number of other appliances and accessories in summer kitchens.  “They’re going beyond the BBQ, and building out full kitchens. In fact, many families are adding pizza ovens to keep the kids and their friends close by.”

Specialized cookers

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Increase your cooking options with the Goucho Grill by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

Increase your cooking options with the Goucho Grill by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. Image courtesy of La Cuisine Appliances.

In addition to grills and pizza ovens, homeowners are also adding other types of cookers. “We’re seeing specialized cookers, such as side burners for boiling seafood or wok cooking, and smokers,” according to Mitch Slater, CEO and Founder, Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens and Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens.

However, if you want to put a specialty appliance, like an Argentinian grill, in cabinetry, Slater warns that you’ll need to use non-combustible materials, like stainless steel, “Also, it’s best to line your cabinets with firebrick so they won’t become discolored due to extreme heat exposure,” he says.

Another point to keep in mind is that your exterior kitchen layout is as important as your indoor kitchen layout.

Water and refrigeration

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Sinks and refrigerators add convenience.

Sinks and refrigerators add convenience. Image: Ozgur Coskun/Shutterstock

“I’m being called on by developers of luxury condominiums to add summer kitchens on each unit – including an electric grill, ice maker, and sink,” says Gaubeka. That comes as no surprise to Germani.  “A sink and a refrigerator are must-have items, and I like to include 2 fridges in my outdoor kitchens — one for food and one for beverages,’ he says.

In fact, if you want to maximize time with guests by avoiding trips indoors, Slater recommends duplicating your indoor kitchen. “In addition to a sink and refrigerator, you could also include trash cabinets, and even dishwashers manufactured for outdoor use.”

However, in lieu of an actual refrigerator, Gaubeka says some homeowners are installing refrigerated drawers.

Shade

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Be sure to provide shelter from the heat.

Be sure to provide shelter from the heat. Image courtesy of Belgard

When the sun is beaming down, you’ll need to protect your friends and family members from those damaging rays. “Cantilevered overhangs provide lots of shade while cooking/lounging outdoors,” according to Miami-based architect Choeff Levy Fischman. But that’s not your only option. Slater recommends using fans, misters, and light-colored furniture as additional cooling sources.

Lighting

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Lighting provides safety and highlights design features.

Lighting provides safety and highlights design features. Image courtesy of Belgard

“Having good lighting allows you to create a mood, grill and entertain far after the sun goes down and the martinis start to flow,” says Germani. In addition to being an entertainment element, lights also create a safe environment, so you won’t get sued because someone tripped and fell in the dark. HGTV/DIY host Matt Blashaw’s outdoor lighting tips are a good guide for using light strips, spotlights, etc. Also, Duane Draughon, owner and lead designer at VizX Design Studios in Lisle, IL, recommends an overhead structure trellis pergola with lighting. 

Entertainment

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Cheer for your favorite team with an outdoor TV.

Cheer for your favorite team with an outdoor TV. Image courtesy of Belgard

“As we navigate from the inside to the outdoor kitchen, entertainment will also transform these spaces with additions like outdoor speakers and big screen TVs,” says Wendy Hammerman, Founder & Lead Designer at WLH Interiors, a full-service interior design studio in New City, NY.

But as popular as TVs are, Patti Wynkoop, VP of Product Development and Purchasing for Miller & Smith, which builds new homes and develops real estate in the Washington D.C. metro area, believes that music is even more popular as an outdoor entertainment feature. “Outdoor ceiling speakers make it easy to enjoy your favorite music while you cook or entertain guests,” she says.

However, when incorporating technology, consider the needs of your guests. “Be sure to include several usable power outlets for cell phone charging,” advises Draughon.

Seating/Furniture

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Multiple seating options.

Provide multiple seating options. Image courtesy of Miller & Smith

Seating is an important choice as it will determine your entertaining options. “While outdoor wicker furniture has been popular in the past, we see a lot more built-in bench seating styled with throw pillows and cushions for a casual, comfortable feel that’s able to accommodate more people,” according to Hammerman.

You’ll probably prefer to have guests sitting upright at tables to reduce spills when they’re eating. However, consider mixing this type of seating with more relaxing options. “Sunken seating areas provide depth and additional space for entertaining,” according to Fischman.

And there’s something else you should keep in mind when choosing furniture. “Composite furniture such as sofas, lounge chairs and end tables are maintenance free, fade resistant and easy on the eyes,” says Wynkoop.

Flooring and ceiling considerations

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Your flooring should be durable. I

Your flooring should be durable. Image courtesy of Dekton Nilium Flooring

Flooring should be durable, yet stylish. “Beadboard is a solid choice in flooring materials for an entertainment space and it is often used to seamlessly merge indoor and outdoor living areas,” Wynkoop says. For decks, she recommends Duadek outdoor waterproof flooring. “The suede color is often the best neutral choice for entertainment spaces as it provides flexibility with decor and rugs.”

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Maintain the flow between your interior and exterior places.

Maintain the flow between your interior and exterior areas. Image courtesy of Miller & Smith

Just as the connection in flooring is important for flow, Wynkoop says consistency in ceiling height and material will also marry indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces. “If you have a ceiling in your outdoor entertainment space, adding tongue & groove planks or panels gives the appearance of a plank installation – painted or stained – and is perceived as a more refined level of detail.”

Planning for colder weather

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You can entertain outdoors at least 3 seasons of the year.

With the right setup, you can entertain outdoors at least 3 seasons of the year. Image: TimAbramowitz/Getty Images

Summer will be over before you know it, but by planning wisely, you can continue to entertain outdoors well into the fall months. “Just like indoor furniture, you can add cushions, throw blankets and pillows to your outdoor furniture for comfort and enjoyability throughout the year,” Wynkoop says.  Firepits and outdoor fireplaces can also keep you warm and toasty when the weather turns colder.