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Beyond the fire

The outdoor kitchen; the outdoor living room; the room to work; the room to breathe. Never before has the outside space in all its functions been more popular, says Rupert Bates

 Rupert Bates   Spring 2021

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It might not be the hero of the house just yet, but the outside space is definitely the rising star, with options on how to furnish and finesse the outdoors emerging as exciting new design trends.

The people have spoken and are being heard. Nearly 50% of respondents to a recent survey by Redrow Homes, building more than 4,000 houses a year, said the amount of outside space was now the biggest priority when moving home, with rising interest not just in the health and wellbeing aspect of outdoor living, but in the opportunity to have a well-equipped outdoor kitchen and entertaining area.

Richard Hill, sales director of tile supplier Nicholls & Clarke (N&C), says: “There is a growing trend for adding more value by making better use of the outdoor space. The continental trend of rolling internal living spaces out into the garden has been gaining substantial traction.”

Aluminium bifold doors, for example, allow the internal kitchen or breakfast room with a N&C porcelain floor to continue out to the patio – a seamless connection, bringing the inside out and the outside in.

Hill says more patio space is being given to gardens, with N&C pioneering its Alfresco Porcelain Paving collection, which offers the added value of a patio area matching or coordinating with the tiled finish leading to the patio doors. The strong, thick porcelain tiles come with an anti-slip finish, easy to clean and simple to install, with an adhesive such as the Nicobond Rapidflex providing bond strength.

 “Our N&C Terra Level pedestal system, which is self-draining, negates the need for any wet trades and allows for infinite adjustment. The pedestals offer the potential of fitting an entire patio in a day as the system is quick and easy to use, with services running under the porcelain patio, so water pipes and electrical wiring, feeding external lighting, heating, fridges or outdoor kitchens, can be easily laid,” says Hill, with a balcony system also available and the tiles coming in stone, marble and wood-plank-effect finishes.

With the rise in popularity in outdoor cooking and entertaining, it is even more important to focus on what lies beneath your BBQ equipment and furniture.

“It’s another room within the boundaries of a property. The concept of adding significant value to a house with the inclusion of a quality outdoor living space has never been easier,” says Hill.

Since its formation in 1980, housebuilder Octagon has believed in the garden being the ‘bonus room’.

“We have built several unusual garden extras. One included a Russian-style timber-clad bath house, adjoining an al fresco kitchen with fridges, running water, charcoal and electric barbecues, turning spit and pizza oven. Another Octagon client had, alongside his BBQ range, a wine and beer fridge and specially treated glare-resistant TV,” says Tim Banks, CEO of Octagon.

“It’s a rare occurrence to discover an Octagon homeowner without a passion for outdoor cooking and this essential ‘ingredient’ is now factored into garden designs for every home.”



Banks says gardens and outdoor areas are equally as important as the inside, with gardens ready for buyers the day they move in.

He sees an aspiration to acquire the ultimate ‘outdoor room’ which is much easier to deliver with a new-build property where the garden is a blank canvas.

Banks could see Octagon including a barbecue as a sales incentive, as well as hosting an outdoor cooking event as part of a marketing launch.

Banks is a budding pit-master himself frequently cooking outside and last Christmas Day cooked the turkey for the family on the barbecue.

“It is not just barbecues and the food and cooking. More people are embracing outdoor living in a wider sense in terms of relaxing and entertaining. Outdoor living is not only here to stay but is becoming multi-seasonal, with decking, outdoor furniture, lighting, heating and multimedia increasingly in the mix.”

Weber is seeing a huge rise in the popularity of outdoor cooking in the UK. “People are looking to spend more time in their outdoor spaces and seeing them as an extension of their homes. The trend is here to stay with people investing significant amounts in barbecues, accessories and outdoor furniture,” says Weber marketing director Chris Trewhitt.

“More people are also creating covered spaces so that they can not only be outside in all weathers but can also be sheltered from the elements when they cook outside.”

Trewhitt sees a big opportunity for housebuilders, in the face of this rising interest, to create outdoor cooking spaces in new homes. 

“Our product range offers options whatever the nature of the outdoor space. We’d love to speak to any housebuilders who see synergy with our brand and an opportunity to work in partnership,” says Trewhitt.

BBQ Kitchens offers a range of top-quality outdoor cooking equipment, such as barbecue grills, smokers and pizza ovens, as well as all the accessories.

“We combine revolutionary framing systems with best-in-class outdoor cooking equipment. Choose the components that suit your lifestyle, cooking and entertaining requirements and we’ll design and install your perfect outdoor kitchen,” says Sinead Turnbull, director of BBQ Kitchens.

“This is a very specialised industry that requires an in-depth knowledge of products and brands. Builders and landscape gardeners need to create the platform for

an outdoor kitchen area, but they are not necessarily geared up to provide the design and consulting required for what are very specialised products for outdoor kitchens and appliances, as well as canopies and louvered roofs.”

Frank Spencer, managing director of Lifestyle Appliances, says outdoor heating solutions in particular are proving popular, be it gas patio heaters, log burners or fire pits.

“By heating your outdoor space, you unlock your garden’s true leisure potential.

It can be enjoyed throughout the year. The question is no longer ‘should I optimise my outdoor space?’ It’s ‘how will I optimise my outdoor space?’” says Spencer.

“Today the garden is seen very much as an additional room for a house. A room to decorate, furnish and upkeep and can be evolved and adapted. A garden is a blank canvas, just waiting to be painted with a mix of facilities and decorative pieces.”

Spencer says it is important to focus on the technical details, such as exterior mains gas and electrical access, and to collaborate with outdoor leisure suppliers, be it for barbecues, fire pits or heaters.

“The garden is another room; furnish it.”

There is no limit, budget permitting, to what you can add to the outdoor space. Spiral Cellars can install its products underground in garages, sheds or summer houses, removing the wine storage from the main property.

“This creates more of a separate statement, rather than a feature of the

main living area. It’s one of the luxuries of upsizing – a huge trend in the last year – that you can spread out, and with more people finding they now have space for a spiral cellar, there also comes the option of choosing to install it outside the house to really make the entire plot feel used and lived in,” says Lucy Hargreaves, managing director of Spiral Cellars.

Leading hard landscaping business Marshalls carried out a survey last year with 97% of respondents saying that the extra time they had to spend in their outdoor space at home inspired them to make changes, with the vast majority enjoying cooking and eating al fresco and therefore wanting to create dedicated entertainment spaces.

“Built-in seating and dining areas are among the most sought-after garden additions for 2021, while adding a pergola with a canopy is a popular choice for all-weather entertaining,” says Anna Hampshire, head of domestic marketing at Marshalls.

“While people are keen to spend time in their gardens, they’re not looking to increase the maintenance of it. We’re seeing an upwards trend for more porcelain patio paving. Porcelain is the most low-maintenance option when it comes to patios because it absorbs much less water than alternatives, meaning less staining, less algae and it’s frost-resistant too.”

Graham Barton, key account manager at ACO, has seen a surge in demand for the company’s water management products.

“Driveways, patios and outdoor garden spaces are the most popular and we expect this trend to continue.  Drainage plays an important role when delivering aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces. Drainage is integral to prevent flooding and we are also seeing more designers realise the role drainage can play in complementing the finish,” says Barton.

Novara Kitchens, a specialist luxury outdoor kitchen company based in Barcelona, Spain, has also seen the move towards a seamless indoor-outdoor home environment.

“Outdoor kitchens have to be functional; a space for entertainment and socialising, but also need to have the same aesthetics as internal kitchens,” says James Bust of Deseo, exclusive agent for Novara in the UK.

 “Customers are looking not only at the internal kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, but also how much attention has gone into the outside space too.”

Stone specialist Haddonstone has seen an increase in the demand for its cast-stone firepits, outdoor furniture, outdoor lighting, contemporary planters and water features.

“Permanent entertainment areas have become increasingly popular this year. Outdoor kitchen zones with all the mod cons, sunken seating areas and roofed outside lounges for entertaining and outdoor living when the weather is warm enough are popular. For smaller spaces and budgets, a fire pit or chiminea will provide a great alternative and instantly create a designated focal point,” says Haddonstone marketing manager Nicola Clements.

Composite Prime provides sustainable decking made of wood flour (waste from hardwood production) and recycled plastics, with a range of nine products, including decking, flooring and cladding.

“Each square metre of composite decking contains the equivalent of more than 280 plastic bottles. In our six years of operation, we have saved the equivalent of 110 million plastic milk bottles from landfill,” says sales director Charles Taylor, a third-generation timber merchant.

“The overall look and feel of a garden design starts with its foundations and the chosen material is essential for creating a personal design that remains in harmony with the rest of the furnishings. Balconies, roof terraces and raised decks can serve to create that extra room without an increased spend on a larger plot size.”

The potential for developing the outside space in all its forms and functions to add both lifestyle benefits and value is enormous. You will always find us in in the outdoor kitchen at parties.


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