Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen
Adding an Outdoor Kitchen
The owners of this Eastern Shore summer home decided that they needed a better spot for entertaining their far-flung kids, grandkids, and friends. They enlisted Washington, D.C., architect and friend Merle Thorpe to build an open-air addition where everyone gets together to cook, mingle, and catch the fabulous views and breezes on their Chesapeake Bay creek.
Architect Merle Thorpe designed the 40- by 19-foot addition (right) to nestle into the existing trees.
Capturing the View
As a frequent guest at their gatherings, Merle knew how much the family enjoys walking across the back lawn to the water where they set sail for the bay every chance they get. Until they built the addition, the long, beautiful view of the water wasn’t visible from where they entertained. “Rooms inside the house had been renovated before,” Merle says, “but not in a way to cater to their lifestyle on the water.” So he designed a single, enormous room that’s multipurpose. “It’s a 40- by 19-foot, one-room-deep, floor-to-ceiling screened addition to the main house,” he says. “And except for where it’s attached by double doors to the main house sunroom, it is entirely separate to facilitate air circulation.”
Designed to Stay Cool
Merle engineered natural cooling with a raised roof structure of operable clerestory windows for ventilation. “An internal thermal effect created by those venting windows pulls warm air up from below and cool air in through screening on four sides,” he says. Stainless steel mesh screening has a black anodized finish that looks nearly invisible, so the four sides of the room feel magically open to the outdoors.
Outdoor-rated appliances and a low-maintenance paint finish on the cabinets combat saltwater corrosion.
Planning the Interior Space
First priority for the open-air room’s layout was a grilling kitchen. Merle placed it so the chef could see straight to the creek while serving guests at the dining table. Good thing, too, because the stainless steel grill, exhaust hood, side burners for big pots of corn and crabs, and twin under-counter refrigerators generate constant conversation. Great care was taken to choose weather-resistant teak dining furniture, upholstery fabrics, appliances, and cabinet paint finishes that are impervious to the corrosive marine environment.
Tip: The brick-paved floor is pitched slightly in all directions so it can be hosed off as needed. Kitchen cabinets elevated on stainless steel legs let the water wash beneath.
When the meal ends and evening comes, everyone moves to a seating area of wicker furniture before the fireplace. The natural ventilation of the big room has proved so comfortable in summer that family members often chat into the wee hours and inflate air mattresses to convert the spacious area into a sleeping porch.
Tip: Columns are grounded in the thick foundation, so all four sides of the room can be left completely open without the need for diagonal bracing.
The owners selected a gas insert instead of burning wood because of its lower maintenance. In cool months, they set beach stones that have been warmed by the fire around the room to act as heaters.
Tip: The fireplace hearth is composed of bricks that match the house foundation. Raising the firebox enables it to be seen from around the room.
Wall stain: semitransparent custom color blend, alkyd-oil; cabotstain.com.
The outdoor dining table and cafe-like chairs are made of sustainable teak.
Tip: Strong steel columns support walls of screened panels and a roof with ventilating windows to move air through the room below.
Dining chairs & Table: Jardin Classic Side Chairs with curved slats, teak and powder-coated steel, Jardin Classic Rectangular Table, teak and powder-coated steel; janusetcie.com.