Dinner’s made, the grill is cooling, everyone’s fed. You’re lounging on the patio. Kids are laughing. They run by and grab their drinks from the outdoor fridge. Everyone’s happy. It’s a great summer night.
Then there’s another kind of night. Yelling at the kids to stay away from the grill. A singed finger. A slip, skid and fall. And the crying.
What makes one night on the patio great and the other an evening of infamy? Design. Specifically, outdoor kitchen design. For a safer, kid-friendly environment and more peace of mind, you need to think about the outdoor cooking space differently.
SLIP AND SLIDE
Slip-resistant flooring. It's a design rule that takes on even more importance with children around. Kids don’t think about invisible grease that might be on the ground near a grill.
Textured flooring keeps kids and adults alike from slipping.
Maybe the flooring gets wet because their feet carried in water from a nearby pool, the patio just got washed, or it recently rained. Little ones could slip on the wet, greasy surface and slide into a hot grill.
Use texturized flooring materials such as flag stone, brick pavers or unglazed porcelain. They offer increased surface area that helps reduce the possibility of slips and falls.
Grills and pizza ovens are hot. Kids still manage to get close to them despite warnings to stay away. Build the outdoor kitchen so the hot areas aren't near those most used by kids.
The refrigeration is placed away from the "hot zone" in this kitchen.
Say you’re designing an outdoor kitchen that has an ice maker, some refrigerated drawers and a freezer, as well as a grill, a pizza oven and some cabinetry. Place the appliances that keep things cold together at the end of the counter run and put a sink near them. This gives kids the chance to grab some ice, water, cheese sticks, maybe a popsicle, without ever having to go near a hot appliance.
The other added benefit to this kind of design is that it creates a dry work zone, giving you room to prepare food and place glasses and plates for guests.
Kids aren't always aware of their surroundings. They’re chasing after the dog, cat, their friends or playing some kind of game. Keep that in mind when designing outdoor kitchen counter tops. They're often set at the same height as some little eyebrows and ears. By rounding the corners and edges of counter tops you turn what could have been a cut into a bump. And that kind of hurt goes away pretty quickly with a kiss and a “you’re OK.”
Rounded countertops hurt a whole lot less than sharp corners.
Remember sitting at the kids table during the holidays? It was there for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it was a good spot and size for kids. The same holds true in outdoor kitchen design.
When you think about seating for the outdoor kitchen, you generally find bar stools arranged around a counter. Which is a great option for adults. Easy to get in and out of. Some of them swivel to make talking to friends easy.
When smaller children are around, the height and movement of bar stools might be a little much.
So give them a kid-sized place of their own and set a little table and chairs near the outdoor kitchen. It's at their height. And it ups the cuteness factor of your outdoor space.
Kids change everything, even the design of an outdoor kitchen. A tweak here and there will make things safer for them and easier for you. Listen. Hear that? Crickets. It's a going to be a good night.