Image Courtesy: John Michael Kitchens

Under all of the glitz and glamour of being an interior designer, outdoor spaces still beckon. As you may know, Jon and I frequent Alaska every year. In fact, we have two summer trips planned and I never tire of going. How could I with our yearly adventures of spending weeks on the choppy waters where we can fish, catch crabs and spot whales, sea otters and sea lions? When we do voyage back to land, hiking is always fun because the views are absolutely stunning! Last summer we happened upon a bald eagle swooping down to catch a fish and a brown bear that stumbled across our path!

I believe the outdoors can bring out the best in people! I just returned from a weeklong trip to Panama where I spent most of my time outdoors making new friends. We bonded through various adventures, including sweating and entomology as we embraced a largely outdoor lifestyle. We practiced yoga in an open-air palapa and island hopped throughout the region. We created friendships as we supported each other as we swam in the open ocean, mounted our surfboards, snorkeled and paddle boarded.

This is why I believe it is so important to have a functional outdoor space at home. Since most of us cannot live outdoors, we need an exterior space where we can make memories of our own with family and friends. Here are some of my favorite ideas to create outdoor areas more inviting and appealing for year-round enjoyment.

Image Courtesy: AJ Madison & Lynx

Summer Kitchens:
A summer kitchen will provide a great way to spend more time outside. They can be larger than your indoor kitchen which is great for entertaining large crowds. With summer kitchens, you have the freedom to be able to cook and entertain in a more relaxed setting. Plus, heat and cooking odors dissipate quickly. Remember from your childhood camping trips when everything seemed to taste better outdoors?

Here are some appliances that you may want to consider for your summer kitchen:

  1. Grill – I know the first item on this list is a no brainer. Of course, a grill would be a perfect addition to your summer kitchen! Grills are very easy to maintain and perfect for year-round use.
  2. Outdoor Pizza Oven – For those who tire of eating barbeque at every outdoor outing, a pizza oven would be a perfect addition. Pizza ovens are also great for baking bread and fish.
  3. Outdoor sink and faucet – A sink and faucet in your summer kitchen can make food prep, washing your hands and cleaning up a breeze.
  4. Refrigerator – A fridge will allow you to keep ready to cook foods at a safe temperature and keep your drinks cold too. No more running in and out of the house to grab a drink!

One of the most important features of a highly functional summer kitchen is to have enough counterspace. Too often I see a grill and sink taking up the whole counter. You need space to prepare, stage and set out food as well. Try to include some surface area for those tasks.

ample counterspace in an outdoor kitchen

Décor by Pamela Hope Designs

Fully functional, built-in summer kitchens can be a major investment. Happily, you can easily create an outdoor cooking space on a more modest budget. The grill does not have to be built in. There are many excellent grills that only need a small area with good ventilation. If you don’t have room or the budget for a long counter, you can use a table or a bar cart to hold food and utensils while you grill. You can always use a cooler on the patio for drinks and cold storage.

outdoor pool and fireplace

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

Pools: Who doesn’t love going to a great pool party? Pools can promote health and wellbeing. I think it is safe to say that stress has gone up for the average American in the last year. With a pool you can jump in and drown your worries for a bit, all while getting some exercise! Pools help transform your backyard into your own personal oasis! With a custom designed pool, you will be the talk of the town just like our Richmond clients shown here! Besides having an in-home theatre, spa with sauna, exercise room and two-story man complex, our clients also wanted a stunning outdoor area with an unbelievable pool. Our client has not one, but THREE waterfalls, including one that flows from the second floor of the mancave. This waterfall is remote controlled and can be turned on or off via an app. He can also play music and create light shows, all with a few taps on his cell phone. We put a large screen under the waterfall so the client can enjoy movies or a game while swimming! The second waterfall is at the end of the pool and cascades over bricks into three small fountains that spray water into the main pool. The third waterfall spills over the main pool by the stairs. There is also a hot tub, perfect for year-round use.

outdoor seating

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

Who says that fireplaces have to stay indoors? Exterior fireplaces are amazing for multi-seasonal use. In the summer, you can gather by the fire and drink the night away. In the fall a fireplace is the perfect setting for your ghost stories! We recently finished a four-story townhome in Montrose. The fourth floor has a lively, colorful game room with a bar and small outdoor patio area. I can imagine game nights at our client’s home. Playing a game of poker, enjoying great cocktails, and not wanting the night to end, you head out to the patio to talk the night away. The warm hue from the fire creates a perfect ambiance of relaxation and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

A big advantage to Houston’s suburbs is large backyards. In this Kingwood new construction project there was ample room for a large summer kitchen, two outdoor dining areas and an outdoor living room complete with fireplace and television. Plus, there was still room for a large pool and they later installed a playhouse once the grandkids started to arrive.

outdoor pool and seating area

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

Outdoor adventures and outdoor living always inspire me. Until next time, find your inspiration or call us and we’ll help you discover it!

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