FIREPLACE - SMALL BUDGET
Carl and Lynne Steffens loved spending time in their Northern California backyard, so the desire for a built-in barbecue area was natural. They couldn't find a premade model to meet their needs, though, so they built an outdoor kitchen
themselves and made it a family project by including their four young daughters--Sophia, Helena, Isabel, and Caroline--in the process.
Carl and Lynne, both of whom had minimal building experience, researched and planned the project, incorporating the girls' ideas about the barbecue area's look and features. When construction began, the girls--then ages 4 through 8--helped shop for supplies, assisted Carl while he built ("He always needed at least one assistant to hold things," says Lynne), and photographed the project's progress.
The barbecue area took two months of mostly weekend and evening work. It includes a barbecue, sink, bar, and storage space along with gas, electricity, and plumbing lines. The area shares a wall with the kitchen
, making it easy to talk and pass food and dishes through a connecting window.
Now the built-in barbecue is family central. "We have a rotisserie, a vegetable cooker, and a griddle," says Lynne. "With the warmer weather, we use the barbecue about four nights a week. The girls like to sit outside for breakfast on the weekends."
Barbecue unit: $750
Sink and fixtures (including cabinets): $500
Water/electric/gas lines: $75
Framing (concrete blocks, wood framing, backerboard): $750
How the family built it
The Steffenses had a perfect place to install an outdoor kitchen: up against the house on their rear patio, where there was ample room for a simple L-shaped counter. A trellis provides partial shade.
1 Carl Steffens built the basic framework for the cooking center--where the stainless steel built-in barbecue would be installed--out of fire-safe concrete blocks. Wood framing, including 2-by-4s and 4-by-4s, forms the tablelike support for the base of the sink and bar.
2 After the concrete blocks were set in place for both the grilling counter and the small buffet, they were covered with backerboard.
3 Waterproof tile backing covers the sink counter and the buffet to form a base for the slate tile.
4 After Carl laid out the tiles to check for fit, he set them in tile mortar. Then he covered the backerboard with a light coat of stucco painted to match the wall of the house.
5 Carl's overall advice is to consult with professionals: "Draw up your plans and walk through the steps with an expert," he says. "It can save a lot of backtracking. The expert can also help with material choices.
"Plan a completion celebration," Carl continues. "It helps you finish those last few things, then allows you to enjoy all your efforts.
"I learned how easy it was to build," he adds. "People shouldn't be intimidated. Anyone could take this on. I felt encouraged. It took time but wasn't complex."
Restaurants and cafes are clad in marble, their tables marble-topped. Even the area's culinary specialty, Colonnata lard, is salt-cured between slabs of Carrara white marble.
When you choose your countertop, select a color and texture that compliments your cabinetry, floor or paint selection. Don't be afraid to combine two or more countertop materials in one kitchen.