Long gone are the days of a cheap Weber grill and a couple of folding chairs. Today, outdoor living spaces are looking more and more like indoor living spaces. We’re talking full kitchens that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Gas fireplaces. Sectional sofas. TVs.
It’s almost like adding an extra couple of rooms onto the house — just without walls.
“A lot of people are taking ‘staycations,’ and making their backyards their vacation spot,” said Kurt Nelson, sales manager at Anniston Fireplace & Patio.
Outdoor kitchen options now include weatherproof grills, ovens, refrigerators, sinks, even dishwashers. Start with a gas grill, then add in a ceramic grill (such as Big Green Egg or Kamado) for charcoal grilling or smoking.
Many outdoor kitchens are custom built and installed by contractors, but Anniston Fireplace & Patio also carries a massive standalone grill they call “the mothership.” Manufactured by Fire Magic, it features a wide grilling surface that can convert to a griddle, two side burners and a small refrigerator. There are lights inside the grill hood so you can see what you are cooking in the dark. It’s priced at $13,353.
“Our products are on the higher end, but they should last a lifetime,” Nelson said. Company owner James Malone installed a Fire Magic grill in his yard 20 years ago, and it looks as good as the day it was installed, Nelson said.
“Once you start cooking in an outdoor kitchen, you get creative,” Nelson said. “You discover that everything tastes better outside.”
A WARM GLOW
Being outdoors calls for a crackling fire. Options range from a simple fire pit (basically a fireproof bowl for a campfire) to a fire table (typically fueled by propane) with the flame surrounded by decorative rocks, to a full fireplace, either wood-burning or gas.
Anniston Fireplace builds custom fire pits that run on either natural gas or propane, with reflective glass in a wide variety of colors.
This is Alabama. You will need shade in your outdoor living space. This could be as simple as setting up a large patio umbrella, or as fancy as a remote-controlled retractable awning anchored to the house.
The trends for this year include sectional sofas and teak furniture in a weathered gray finish. Rocking chairs and swivel chairs are popular, Nelson said.
Weatherproofing is especially important for outdoor furniture. Look for cushions covered in a weatherproof fabric such as Sunbrella, which will inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.
Look for rust-proof metal.
Wicker chairs made from resin will last longer than those made from plastic.
Nelson said the bestselling chair at Anniston Fireplace is the Meadowcraft Vinings wrought iron swivel chair. It’s huge, proportioned rather like a La-Z-Boy, and it is remarkably comfortable.
“Put your TV outside, and you never have to go back in the house,” Nelson said.
Just be sure it’s an outdoor television, from a company such as SunBrite. It will be more expensive than a regular TV, but will be designed to work outdoors in the heat and humidity.