Fashioning an outdoor entertainment area doesn’t have to be a confusing maze. A local expert shows us how to make the process a walk in the garden.
Written by Bud Russo
Photography courtesy Western Stoves and Fireplace
You’ve just moved into your new house with a sizable patio and a great view of the mountains. You think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to entertain friends here?” The setting is so natural. So perfect.
What you need is an outdoor entertainment area—something beyond just your basic grilling area. You envision a fire pit, some kind of water feature, perhaps even a hot tub. And because this is New Mexico, shade would be nice. But, where do you begin? How do you transform your visions of enjoying evenings with friends into a reality?
Patrick Henry, vice president of Las Cruces’ Western Stoves and Fireplaces, is up to the challenge. “We’ve been in the business of helping people achieve their dream entertainment areas for years,” he says. “It’s a matter of defining what you want and matching that with what you want to spend.”
DON’T SKIP THESE STEPS!
3 Easy Ways to Ensure Dream = Reality
Step One: Invite an expert like Patrick to your home and get to know each other. Western Stoves and Fireplaces has a contractor’s license, so there’s no outdoor living project that’s too big or too small. The more the expert knows about your tastes and your lifestyle, the easier it will be to create a design that meets your expectations. Audree Smith-Banks, Patrick’s assistant, says, “It’s really important for us to get to know our customers. We always ensure they are satisfied and that the end product matches the image in their mind.”
Step Two: Visit the dealer’s showroom. While the Internet is a great resource for ideas, there’s no substitute for seeing amenities first hand and being able to ask questions. No two grills are exactly alike, and the same goes for all the other bells and whistles you may want to incorporate. Being able to look things over in person can go a long way in helping you refine the image in your mind.
Step Three: Be frank about what you want—and perhaps a bit daring. Remember, you’ll be living with this investment long after you’ve paid the bills. If you can’t have it all immediately, work on a plan so you can build it in phases. Patrick says, “Entertainment areas can get to be quite expensive, depending on exactly what the homeowner wants. We work with our customers to help them get value for their investment and enjoy their entertainment areas for years to come.”
IT’S MORE THAN A GRILL. IT’S AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN
Most people begin with the grill. That, in itself, can be a major decision. Today’s grills run the gamut from traditional gas-fired versions, to outdoor griddles and wood pellet versions that smoke, grill, and bake. And outdoor cookers also come with a long line of special features: thermometers, lighting, ovens, smokers. Bottom line: they’re meant to allow you to prepare meals outside exactly as you would in your kitchen. In fact, Patrick frequently refers to them as outdoor kitchens.
Some of our favorite grills on the market right now include the:
Louisiana Grills Wood Pellet Grill
Melding the ease of gas grilling with the flavor imparted by wood-fired cooking, this grill may be the best of both worlds. Just pour in the 100% wood pellets and set the temperature via the digital controls. It literally lights up with a push of a button for grilling, searing, smoking, and baking.
Evo Tabletop Grill
The flat, circular, nonstick cook surface on this innovative grill opens up a multitude of cooking possibilities. Throw on some shrimp and veggies for a tasty stir-fry, sear your steak to perfection, or toast up the ultimate grilled cheese.
When designing your outdoor kitchen, remember that location really matters. You should have easy access to gas lines and water pipes, and ideally, only a short walk to your indoor kitchen. (Look for spots that are sheltered from wind. It only matters during certain seasons, but it can make a big difference in enjoying your space all year round.) And don’t forget: a big part of the fun in entertaining, is enjoying conversation with guests, so make sure the grill-master can still interact with everyone while cooking.
Just as your indoor kitchen is much more than the stove, pack your outdoor kitchen with similar tools. Entertainer must-haves include a small refrigerator, a wine cooler, a “Kegerator” (basically a cooler that accepts a keg of beer with its own tap tower), a sink, and an ice maker. If your budget allows, incorporate appliances into built-in cabinetry with storage shelves and drawers. Trim it out with an attractive granite or tile countertop, decorative edgings, and backsplashes.
“You might also want a bar where guests can sit and visit while enjoying their beverages,” Patrick adds, “or serving areas suitable to buffet-style meals.”
“Entertainment areas are a lot more than a grill and an intimate bar area,” Audree explains. “Most people like the mesmerizing effect of flickering fires and opt to include a fire pit in their areas.”
Modern fire pits are fueled by natural gas and offer a host of options and features, from the more traditional log-burning fire to flame emerging from jewel-like fire-glass. “Elongated fire pits are the trend today,” Audree says, “But you can have one in whatever shape you prefer.”
If you really want to go that extra ambiance mile, install water features, such as small fountains that replicate the sound of burbling brooks, or consider a hot tub to accommodate a small group for “relaxation therapy.”
Throw In Some Shade
As every desert dweller knows, protection from the summer sun is essential for a successful outdoor fiesta. Think about including a pergola that will provide a structure to install additional sun screens as well as shade. It’s also a very Southwestern architectural highlight to round out the look of your project.
Western Stoves & Fireplaces
1103 E. Lohman Ave. | 575-526-5380