Create a Fun and Budget-Friendly Outdoor Room
Outdoor cooking is more enjoyable in a kitchenlike environment. However, most kitchen countertop materials don't weather well. Consider natural materials such as stone, granite, or slate. On a tight budget, make forms and pour concrete countertops (shown here) -- you can get creative and set in small stones or other embellishments for detail. Seal concrete twice yearly.
An outdoor sink is easy to install. Unless you plan to wash dishes, you need only a cold-water connection. This sink is fed by a garden hose (or you can connect directly to the house's water supply) and drains in a bucket. The gray water is then used for the surrounding plants.
Avoid the price tag of built-in cabinetry for cooking and dining utensils by using watertight, airtight plastic storage bins that tuck under the counter. Conceal a storage area or a garbage can with a pretty fabric curtain attached with hook-and-loop tape (shown here). Also, use stainless-steel fixtures, which don't expand and contract with weather changes.
Keep beverages cold without buying an outdoor refrigerator. This wood container looks much better than a standard plastic cooler, and it matches its surrounding decor. The box offers storage space for additional beverages and dinnerware in shelves below, and it can roll into the adjacent sitting area or inside for a refill or during cold weather.
When space allows, add a countertop or island next to the grill to make food prep and service easier. A peninsula works well in this outdoor kitchen. It provides additional seating for outdoor dining that's close enough for the cook to chat with guests, but it keeps people away from a hot grill.
DIY: Beverage Table
Keep your favorite summertime drinks cold and conveniently located in an outdoor sitting area with this beverage table. Directions: Turn a metal bucket upside down and trace its opening in the center of an all-weather table. Measure in about 1/2 inch so the bucket won't fall through. Cut out the circle with a jigsaw. Sand inside and around the hole to dull sharp edges. Insert the bucket and fill with ice and drinks.
Pick Plants Carefully
If your outdoor room is in the sun, be sure to choose low-maintenance (and drought-tolerant) plants so you can spend your time relaxing instead of having to tend to the plants that surround the space.
DIY: Bottle Chandelier
Create an instant conversation piece and ambience after the sun goes down with this bottle chandelier.
Directions: Drill holes around the side of a galvanized-steel feed pan (available at a farm supply store). Also, drill holes in the bottom so rain won't collect and near the top edge to suspend the chandelier. Feed plastic zip ties through the side holes and tighten around the bottles (choose bottles with a good curve to prevent them from slipping). Directions continue on the next slide.
DIY: Bottle Chandelier
Directions (continued): Loop four pieces of braided framing wire through the upper holes in the feed pan and secure with a stainless-steel quick link. Measure carefully so that all the wires are equal length. Feed the wire loops through S hooks and hang with an eye hook. Fill the feed pan with candles.
For any outdoor room, you should always install outdoor lighting, but that doesn't need to be an expensive endeavor. These candleholders are actually heavy-gauge feed scoops from a farm-supply store (they also can be purchased online). Screw them directly into a stud or use an anchor to attach them to a wall.
Make your outdoor room comfortable and cool by providing protection from the elements. A pergola adds shade without blocking all sunlight in the sitting area, and fabric panels, along with a roof over the kitchen area, protect the space and its contents from sun and rain without blocking breezes.
DIY: Outdoor Checkerboard
Create an interesting landscape feature and keep guests of all ages entertained with an outdoor checkerboard. Directions: Rent a sod cutter from a local hardware store and clear the area of grass where you'll create the checkerboard design. Lay out concrete outdoor pavers in the desired pattern. Lay sod between the pavers and use a knife to cut the sod as needed. Fill in with extra dirt so the sod is even with the pavers. You want the sod to be equal with the pavers so you can mow right over them. Once the sod is laid, water the area frequently for the first two weeks.