Open For Winter: An Outdoor Kitchen is Year-Round in Southern California

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(Mike Van Tassell)

Ah, winter in Southern California. We may break out blankets and crank up the firepit or the radiant heater, but it’s never cold enough, rainy enough or (gasp) snowy enough to force us inside. In fact, it’s often warm enough to go jacketless, even during the evening. This makes the concept of outdoor meals a reality year-round.

Outdoor cooking and dining can be yours to expand on in the L.A. region from October to April as easily as May to September - unlike wearing white, you don’t have to stop grilling after Labor Day. And, taking advantage of unique backyard designs, view lots and terrain, a humble charcoal cooker can evolve into a true outdoor kitchen, complete with amenities you could find in an elevated chophouse or barbecue restaurant. Two companies leading the path in outdoor living, custom barbecue outfitter Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and patio experts Summit Furniture, offer forward-thinking, design-focused takes on the traditional greet-and-grill.

Cooking with Gas (and More)
“The outdoor cooking area is no longer an afterthought,” said Gina Armetta, Director of Sales at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. Thoughtful design has caught up to the grill game, so you can own an outdoor cooker, large or small, without spoiling the tranquility of your outdoor space. Grills with natural design elements are popular, as are multi-fuel setups, said Armetta. “This ability to cook with gas, charcoal and even wood in a single appliance is the ultimate convenience factor when cooking a quick weeknight dinner using gas and entertaining family and guests with an impressive wood-fired meal on the weekend,” she said. Integrating the outdoor cooking space to mirror or complement the home’s existing kitchen is also part of the larger trend of intentionality and flow. “All trades are getting involved in the space to ensure a seamless design for their clients; the architect, landscape architect, interior designer, the contractor - everyone can, and should be, involved in the barbecue area,” Armetta said.

Beyond the Barbecue
While the grill may be the star of an outdoor setup, keeping guests (and yourself) comfortable is a huge part of creating a complete outdoor experience. Hilary Gustafsson, President of West Hollywood-based Summit Furniture, said that current trends in outdoor design mirror the contemporary home’s thoughtful and flexible interiors. “Designs that adapt to multiple uses and settings are vital, whether a campaign-style director’s chair that functions as a mobile resting or working spot for one, or multiple pieces that work together to form inviting gathering spaces ... are back into vogue,” she said. Outdoor furniture is also becoming increasingly sustainable, something that is on the mind of anyone building or decorating a home. “Sustainability is crucial to everything we do at Summit. Beyond the eco-conscious ethos that we espouse or the teak that speaks to material conservation and appreciation, we think of sustainability as a larger, broader mission,” said Gustafsson.

Overall, thoughtful outdoor design is based in fluidity and adaptability without compromising luxury or style. Gustafsson says this is “giving people the freedom to create experiences that suit the moment and speak to the way we all live now.”

This flexibility finds a place in both the layout of the outdoor cooking area and its components, creating an outdoor kitchen and gathering place Armetta calls “seamlessly incorporated into a well-designed space for maximum use year-round in the Los Angeles area.”