Outdoor Grill by Shady Lane GreenhousesJust like building a home’s foundation one brick at a time, I start designing outdoor, built-in grills one question at a time.  There are the standards you might expect: How big is your family?  How often do you entertain? How large are your gatherings? The answers are quick, with little hesitation.

However, there’s one question that’s sure to give some clients pause: Do you want to face your guests while grilling?  It is, after all, a very social activity (even though some pitmasters get very focused when searing their grill marks).  If you thrive on all the camaraderie that grilling attracts, the answer is obvious.  That leads to yet another question: What about a bar?

While a bar, especially one that provides seating, might be considered a luxury item to some, to those who entertain frequently and for large groups, it’s a necessity.  It’s an efficient use of space and time to be able to serve beverages while keeping one eye on the kabobs.  It’s also pure pleasure for your guests to be afforded such attention.

Outdoor Grill by Shady Lane GreenhousesWith or without a beverage area, I ask my clients to think about circulation.  That means “people flow.”  While the grill invites conviviality, laughter, and relaxation, it still has to serve a highly functioning purpose: the preparation and dispensing of food.  A poorly thought out traffic pattern does not lend itself to great parties, so I like to spend a substantial amount of time with clients discussing this element of their grill.

As important as all the rest are grill aesthetics.  I’m usually asked to design a grill that blends with the home (but not always).  If the built-in grill is meant to be a showpiece, I make sure it doesn’t overpower any building or landscaping elements.  While it might be nice to have the grill just drop from the sky, you don’t want it to look like it did.

There’s one last tip I’d like to share.  When asking clients what they wish they would have done differently with their built-in grill, there was just this one comment: “I wish I would have included a warming drawer.”

About the Author:Heidi Hornung of Shady Lane Greenhouses

Heidi Hornung, a Bartelt partner for many years, is a landscape architect and retail manager at Shady Lane Greenhouses in Menomonee Falls, Wis.  Growing up in the gardening industry and with over 20 years of landscaping experience, Heidi is a self-described “flower freak.”  She earned her bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and spent time in Germany on a landscaping crew before graduation.  If you’d like to learn more about Heidi and Shady Lane Greenhouses, visit www.shadylanegreenhouse.com or call 262.251.1660.