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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

They’re Coming! Part Two: Outfitting the Outdoor Kitchen

I did the math until I ran out of fingers. DC’s three grown kids were coming to town for a week bringing with them two spouses, an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn, whose baptism was behind all this. That makes nine, plus DC and me and I’m out of fingers. That’s a lot of trips to the refrigerator.

Our blended family of five grown children are doing what grown children do, finding partners, marrying, proliferating. Did I mention proliferating? Good grief.

“You wanted a family home,” said DC.

“A home, not a compound,” I said. DC knows I’m kidding. I am happiest when in the eye of a family hurricane.

Nonetheless, in my plentiful experience, I have found that the key to surviving the extended family staycation is having a built-in getaway. As much as I love having my family together, too much togetherness is what got us all into this mess.

Which is why, all of a sudden, the covered terrace off the upstairs landing was getting my full attention.

The upstairs, where everyone but us (thank God for downstairs masters) would be staying, has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a TV area. All it needs to make folks feel self-sufficient is a small kitchen. The terrace was the perfect place.

“Outfitting the outdoors is a huge trend,” said my friend and colleague Kathryn Emery, a lifestyle and home improvement consultant based in Laguna Beach, Calif. According to the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey of 2017, two-thirds of architects reported an uptick in homeowners wanting to upgrade their outdoor living spaces. We’re there.

Memorial Day typically kicks off the push for plusher patios. “Furnishing the outdoors is getting more popular,” Emery said, “because companies are figuring out how to design better quality outdoor products for less.”

I am tuned in. “For less?”

“Look at what’s happened with outdoor cabinets,” she said. I pretend like I’ve been keeping up.

“They’re being made out of these super durable marine-grade polymers,” she continued, “so they take every kind of weather.”

I’m trying to picture a modular system of polymer cabinets and am picturing something that looks like stacked ice chests. Though we’re on the phone, Emery can tell I’m wrinkling my nose. She sends me a link with photos.

“Wow!” That was unexpected. I do some web surfing and see that indeed, good-looking cabinets are coming out of the house and into the yard, and they don’t have to cost as much as a car.

One leader in this category is Weatherstrong. Based in Bartow, Fla., the company launched a line of weatherproof outdoor cabinets two years ago that now sell nationwide, said Jennifer Hargrove, head designer for the company.

“When people think of outdoor cabinets, they think of brick and mortar, and of custom builders making the cabinets on site,” said Hargrove. “But that isn’t always practical.”

“Or affordable,” I add. Plus stone and brick seemed too heavy for an upstairs terrace. Hargrove agreed her outdoor polymer cabinet product would fit my terrace and budget.

After we exchanged a few sketches, we dialed in a nine-foot wall of upper cabinets with some open shelving, lower cabinets with a counter, several drawers and a niche for a small refrigerator. With an approved design, her company builds and ships fully assembled cabinets within 10 business days.

“We’ll get busy building, so they’ll be there before your guests,” she said. “Then all you have to do is mount them to the wall or floor.”

“All? … Just?’” I say.

“On a scale of one to 10,” she said, “where 10 is most difficult, this is a three to four.”

We’ll soon find out.

When looking to create an outdoor kitchen, bar, snack station or storage area, whether in the backyard, the garage or an upstairs oasis, here are some factors Hargrove says to consider:

  • Longevity. Choose cabinet materials that have been weather tested and proven to withstand the elements in the extreme. When subjected to driving rain, freezing temperatures, or blazing heat, finished cabinets should not warp, melt, leak, fade or rust. Brick and stone have been the long-standing favorites. However, marine-grade polymer and marine-grade stainless steel hardware, both weatherproof and rustproof, are on the rise.

  • Style. Shop around for a product that is not only made of tough stuff but is also aesthetically pleasing. The polymer cabinets I chose, come in three colors – white, sand and grey – and four door styles. I chose white with Key West doors. They are textured to look like wood.

  • Customization. Custom-built cabinetry that is made on site is, of course, the Rolls Royce of outdoor cabinets, but you pay for them. Readymade outdoor cabinets offer a much more affordable storage solution. This semi-custom option, where you design a system (with their professional help) to fit your space is a nice compromise.

  • Cost. An outdoor cabinet system from Weatherstrong ranges from $2500 for a basic, one-wall set up, to up to $7,000 for more elaborate outdoor kitchens, said Hargrove. While readymade, freestanding cabinet components cost less, built-on-site custom cabinets will cost two to three times more.

Join me next week as we shop for outdoor furniture.

CAPTION: Looks and brains – Made of marine-grade polymer, these handsome, weatherproof outdoor cabinets offer a smart and affordable alternative to custom-made stone or brick cabinets. Photo courtesy of

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