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  • Stephen Crafti

Barbie Land

Grilling some snags in full sun simply doesn’t cut it anymore, as architects serve up ever more elaborate and impressive alfresco kitchen areas. By Stephen Crafti

The open kitchen at a Melbourne home by FGR Architects shares high-end finishes with the main indoor kitchen, including Roman travertine on the splashback and cabinetry. Photography by Peter Bennetts.

The barbecue is integral to the Australian lifestyle, with the pleasure that comes from informal alfresco dining, often by a swimming pool. But over the past few years, the ubiquitous barbecue has been elevated several notches, incorporated into full outdoor kitchens featuring custom joinery, heating and more than sufficient capacity to cater for family and friends under the protection of a pavilion. 

FGR Architects has designed a number of substantial homes in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, many of them having large outdoor kitchens that effortlessly connect to indoor kitchen and living areas. One Toorak home sprawls some 1,000 square metres, and while the outdoor kitchen is a fraction of this, about five by six metres, it’s equally well-appointed in terms of both finishes and appliances. Architect and director of FGR Architects Feras Raffoul says, “We used a Roman travertine for both the kitchen benches and splashbacks in the main kitchen, and also for the outdoor kitchen pavilion.”

The outdoor kitchen is adjacent to the main indoor dining area, accessed via large bi-fold glass doors, and is set close to a swimming pool. It accommodates up to 12 people around the dining table, and there’s a built-in barbecue, fridge and wine fridge, all from Wolf, a Qasair rangehood and a separate ice-maker. And although this is a secondary kitchen, the finish is in line with the main kitchen, including travertine-clad drawers.

Raffoul has observed a boom in the popularity of outdoor kitchens. “The barbecue is perfect for the meats and foods that generate more smoke, rather than having the odours linger inside for days,” he reasons. However, says Raffoul, outdoor kitchens are best located close by, not “buried” at the furthest point of the back garden.

Pepper & Well designed an outdoor kitchen for a Melbourne home complete with a smoker and draft beer lines. Photography by Monika Berry.

An outdoor kitchen in Melbourne’s Geelong West designed by Pepper & Well is more modest in both scale and finish. Nevertheless, it was a key part of the clients’ brief to renovate and extend their south-facing Victorian period home. An old studio in the back garden was transformed into a pool house to accompany a new swimming pool.

The outdoor kitchen is orientated to the west of the living space and is open to the sky on three sides, only partially covered by a spotted gum pergola. The kitchen is built from recycled bricks and is equipped with a fireplace, a smoker barbecue, a wine fridge set under a concrete bench and even draft beer lines. “We always like to create a seamless connection between the main kitchen and living areas and the outdoor kitchen, without people being conscious of moving across that threshold between the indoors and out,” says architect Andy Dal Pozzo, a director at Pepper & Well. 

An outdoor benchtop and sink in a Brisbane home by Vokes and Peters. Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones.

Given Brisbane’s balmy climate, eating outdoors is standard, but the Queensland summer sun forces many to take shelter at lunchtime. For a new inner-suburban home designed by Vokes and Peters, a simple concrete kitchen was installed in one of the house’s undercrofts, a few steps below the main kitchen and adjacent to the swimming pool.

With a benchtop, sink and fridge, it’s a lovely place to have a drink and find respite from the summer afternoon heat. “There has to be a reason to include an outdoor kitchen,” says architect Aaron Peters, co-director of the practice. “In this instance, it was also important for passive surveillance [of] grandchildren swimming in the pool,” he adds. And for days when the sun isn’t so strong, there’s also a built-in concrete bench and courtyard directly above the outdoor kitchen area. 

Unobstructed flow between the media room and outdoor kitchen at Curve House in Tamarama, Sydney, by Porebski Architects. Photography by Justin Alexander.

Porebski Architects responds to Sydney’s climate by often including outdoor kitchens. Their “Curve House”, as it’s referred to, is a multilevel home set on a steep site in the beachside suburb of Tamarama. Next to the outdoor dining area and swimming pool is an outdoor kitchen set a couple of levels above the street. Accessed from a games/media room, this kitchen, directly below the main indoor kitchen, features a built-in barbecue within joinery capped by a black granite benchtop. There’s also a fridge and an exhaust fan. “Our climate is ideal to entertain outdoors, particularly when you’re fortunate enough to have these views over the Pacific Ocean,” says architect Alex Porebski, a director of the eponymous firm. 

At another house designed by Porebski in nearby Queens Park, there’s no view of the ocean, but the extended two-storey house has a lap pool running along its northern edge, complete with a protected outdoor kitchen flowing directly from the home’s internal kitchen and living area. The concrete kitchen area comes complete with a built-in heater and ceiling fan, meaning the space is comfortable year-round. Timber battens above the bench create a “veil” that grants privacy from the neighbours. 

Breathe Architecture used recycled bricks to build their clients their dream pizza oven. Photography by Tom Ross.

Breathe Architecture also made the most of the outdoors with a house in Northcote, Melbourne, owned by a family who love to cook roasts and pizzas. The architects built them a substantial pizza oven made from recycled bricks. “There was previously a small pizza oven that was knocked up by our clients,” recalls project architect Emily McBain. “This one reused those bricks and made the oven considerably larger.” To ensure the outdoor kitchen, with its built-in barbecue, can be used in all seasons, the architects covered the entire area with a polycarbonate roof. A sizeable herb garden and a green wall mean the outdoor cook can easily pick fresh ingredients as they go.

Whether it’s a lavish, fully specced-up outdoor kitchen or something as simple as an alfresco pizza oven, outdoor cooking has well and truly become the new focal point of the Australian backyard. The days of the freestanding barbecue on its shadeless patch of lawn would seem to be numbered. 

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our tenth edition, Page 98 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Barbie Land”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  


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