For at least 4 months of the year, and sometimes even less, Southeastern Wisconsin is a virtual paradise. With such a tight window to take advantage of being outside, particularly when it comes to entertaining in a new luxury custom built home, the home’s exterior space should have as many entertaining options as possible. A custom outdoor kitchen and grill area is a great place to start. And when it comes to lake living, this outdoor cooking area becomes something of a sacred space in the summer months.

A natural beginning to designing an outdoor kitchen is to start with the actual cooking area and build out from there. Starting with the grilling space, the options today are endless, from sophisticated, high-end grills, ovens and ranges, to a simple yet functional gas grill. Yet if the goal is to maximize functionality and beauty of this space and encourage more time spent outdoors, built-in grills and outdoor fireplaces that can double as pizza ovens or additional roasting or baking vessels are worthy investments. What’s more, built in grills and ovens can provide an architectural flow with the home’s exterior, rather than appearing as stand-alone additions.

The beauty of customizing the outdoor space in step with the main living space is allowing for a natural flow from indoors to outdoors, both design-wise and for entertaining. Incorporating natural material design elements from the home, such as stone, brick and tile work achieves the architectural and design flow, while the layout of the space dictates the personal flow. Prep area and storage should be considerations for the cooking space, as well as potential outdoor sinks for easy cleaning options. Whether built-in or complimentary furniture pieces, prep areas and serving spaces are more functional with shelves and drawers to store cooking tools and supplies, preferably artfully hidden from plain view.

Once the space is mastered for the ritual of preparing the outdoor meal, the layout for the enjoyment of the feast, the company and the outdoors can be refined. Ideally one should consider more than one space as an extension of the cooking area, for pre-and post meal gatherings as well as the actual dining area. Many creative arrangements achieve both with their layout, which also factors in the entertaining goals for the luxury home-owner. The flexibility to comfortably entertain 20+ guests for an outdoor gathering creates the need for a larger eating space, yet an intimate space should also be carved out for family meals or a couple’s solitude.

As the concept of kitchen space has evolved over the decades into creating a larger gathering space for friends and family, so should the concept of the outdoor cooking space. Looking beyond the simple grill and dining table, allow for creative ways to extend the enjoyment and ease of cooking, dining and entertaining outdoors in your luxury custom built home. Check out our Pinterest board on outdoor cooking for a few ideas.