Outdoor Kitchen Profile - Bright and Breezy Outdoor Living in Northern Michigan
It all started in childhood, on a trip to northern Michigan. It became a memory he just couldn’t shake. And no matter how far away he went, that feeling, that longing was always there: To return to a place with a rhythm of its own, a place where cares and pain melt away. He promised himself that he would be back.
He made good on the promise, building a house and outdoor living space that serves as a retreat from the brutality of playing in the National Football League. It’s where he trades the jet-set lifestyle of bright lights, big cities and screaming fans for the smells of a perfectly cooked meal on the grill, the laughter of friends and family, a night sky full of stars and the gentle song of the loon.
Dawn Whyte, CKBD and owner of Designs by Dawn in Petoskey, MI, was tasked with creating an outdoor cooking and entertaining space that brought together the serenity of the sky, a lake, tall trees, stream and all the amenities needed for a fully functional cooking and entertaining space.
“This is their secondary home with the intention that someday it would be their permanent home,” Whyte said. “They wanted a space for alfresco cooking and dining where their family would be comfortable. The outdoor kitchen is a part of a large outdoor living space with dining, a wood-burning fireplace and a small pool.“
The kitchen had to integrate seamlessly with and serve the other spaces and the fire place focal point while taking advantage of the natural surroundings. “We put the fire place in a location so that when the homeowners and their guests were sitting in the outdoor living room’s chairs, they could see the sun setting over it and the lake,” Whyte said.
In designing the outdoor kitchen, she used a linear design because it best suited the overall design goals and the homeowners’ outdoor living style.
“When the homeowner gets the entire family together, there are about 20 people,” Whyte said. The linear design allowed her “to create a space that’s as open as possible.” It also serves as a natural border, separating the living space from the woods and wetlands beyond.
“There is such a focus on preserving natural spaces in this area of Michigan. The wetlands near the kitchen area contained a couple of natural flowing artesian streams we had to work around,” she said.
Whyte said the outdoor kitchen has a couple of functions: “It is sometimes used very utilitarian. The precision of the grill makes it very simple to prepare the main course for dinner during any of the four seasons. Although it is used mainly during the warmer months as a family gathering place to eat, drink and enjoy their precious time together, it is also used as a wonderful entertainment area. There is ample seating for a very large group. Some linger as they are coming off the lake from a long day of boating, jet skiing, and playing. Others meander over after a long deep soak in the spa. Some come just to eat!”
Whyte chose custom-poured concrete for the kitchen’s countertop. Texas Blue Stone limestone makes up the deck and was chosen for its color and texture. It is an earthy natural stone that blended flawlessly into the wooded setting, she said. The fireplace and the kitchen structure is the same as the home's interior fireplaces and kitchen hood, which carries the home’s interior design theme to the outdoors, tying the two spaces together.
“This space is definitely one with nature,” said Whyte.