Whilst chatting with our best friends in St Louis a few weeks ago, they mentioned reorganizing their kitchen ahead of the arrival of their baby. They planned to store some of their seasonal kitchen items in totes in their basement, like their grilling gear. And, not kidding, my brain short circuited for a full second as I processed the concept of not being able to cook outside ALL of the time. Creating a space for outdoor cookery has been high on our list of improvements for this house. When the pandemic sent us into lockdown last spring, finishing the outdoor kitchen sprung to the top of Aaron’s list. Let’s dive in with a throwback “before” photo… which is actually a photo of Hank, but because I’m so off my blogging game that this is legitimately the best “before” shot of the area that would become the kitchen. He’s a handsome boy 🙂 When Aaron laid the deck for the outdoor dining room, he also built the platform and deck for the kitchen. And, yes, this is another picture of Hank, which happens to be a decent “before” shot. This is essentially our view when we walk from the living room out to the backyard. For those playing along, you might remember that we reconfigured the backside of the house with this in mind during the interior reno. Let’s get into the details. We knew we needed space for the smoker and grill, storage for our new commercial style vacuum sealer, and lots of countertop. My general opinion is that you can’t have too much countertop in a kitchen. Plus we’ve taken to occasionally frying things and there’s no better place to do that than outside. Ditto for cooking up stir fry dishes in a wok. We mapped out a few possible configurations, but kept getting tripped up on the size of the smoker. It’s a Yoder that we planned to remove from its attached cart. Ultimately, after lots of research by Aaron, we opted to sell the Yoder and invest in a Memphis Elite pellet smoker and wood-fired grill with a much smaller footprint. And after much deliberation, Aaron nixed his charcoal grill in favor of a small, built-in gas unit. That gave us ample room for a fry station when needed and even space for a small sink. Construction started with the base cabinets and setting the Toja grid for the overhang. We opted for a smaller version than we used on the outdoor dining room, which was much easier to maneuver. An aside about cabinet building. I am constantly amazed at Aaron’s abilities. At one point in the last few years, I walked into the garage and he had built a cabinet – seemingly out of thin air. If I had to build a cabinet it would assuredly end in tears and at least one, (hopefully) non-fatal injury. I’m blown away that he can design and build things. It’s like this amazing super power that I get to witness. I digress… With the structure in place, he was ready to start tiling the counter. We opted for absolute black granite, the same material we used in the indoor kitchen, except in large scale tiles. The large opening will house the smoker, leaving ample counter space to the left. On the right side of the kitchen, there’s space for a small sink and the small gas grill. The cabinet on the far right will house the vacuum sealer on a slide out shelf for easy access. The back and top are lined with strips of ipe, the same material as the deck, which adds some nice natural texture above the black stone. After that I seem to remember basically walking outside one day to a finished kitchen… and my photo album seems to support that memory. But I know Aaron spent some time installing the smoker and grill AND a fair bit of time creating the front cabinet panels. The slats were meticulously designed to ensure a completely seamless look. Four doors are hidden within, offering access to the cabinets and clipping in place with magnets. So I’m sure there were hours of cutting, nailing, and painting… but we’ll just pretend his super powers let him snap his fingers and arrive at this. Amongst the kitchen build, we finally decided on a planter arrangement to fill the gap between the kitchen and dining area. We opted for Mexican river rock as a base, which ties into other planters in the backyard and is one of our favorite stone options. We topped these with pots we gathered from HomeGoods for an herb garden, but which worked better here. Then we added lavender and trailing rosemary, irrigation and some uplights. And, yes, you may notice that two of the lavender plants succumbed to lack of water between purchase and planting. We replaced them with greener versions, which adds some nice contrast against the silvery ones that survived. The shot below gives you a better view of the dining room, planter and kitchen all together. I love how the avocado tree encroaches a bit. Ok. Are you ready for some before/after goodness? That is one sexy kitchen… and (fair warning)… it might be sexier at night. If you stop by and we don’t answer the door right away, it’s because we’re outside… Can you blame us?