Back when I was first getting into the pool/spa industry, I clearly remember trying to find books that would help me get started. Boy, were the pickings slim. At that time 15 or so years ago, there were only a couple of books that focused on pool design, and neither one was particularly helpful (so I’ll resist naming names).
Fortunately, those days are long gone, and now we find ourselves with a good supply of periodicals and books that offer watershapers a wide array of great ideas.
Recently, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu: I’d set out looking for information on outdoor kitchens and fireplaces and could find only a handful of basic and not entirely helpful publications – this despite the fact that it’s no secret that outdoor cooking/dining areas (and their cousins, outdoor fire amenities) have become more and more popular in the last few years.
It came as no surprise that the few books I did find had all been published in the past year, nor was I too surprised that none of them, pardon the pun, set my mind ablaze. Just the same, if you’re new to the area of providing “hot” outdoor amenities, these four books are probably worth a look.
The first, published by the folks at Better Homes & Gardens, is the only one that pertains exclusively to exterior installations. Entitled Outdoor Kitchens (Meredith Books, 2004), it was written by Bill Lattay and edited by Ken Sidney and serves as a useful introduction to the challenge of creating outdoor cooking and dining areas.
Written mostly for do-it-yourselfers, the well-organized, 174-page book provides a good overview – advising us to take weather and the elements into account, for example, and to consider amenities and covers as well as the number of people who will be trying to use the facility at any one time. What’s most helpful here are the constant reminders to factor in such basics as storage, cleanup and disposal.
The text also provides great advice on layout and even offers some theoretical discussion of ergonomics and the need for transferring the indoor kitchen’s “Golden Triangle” to the great outdoors. There’s also a well-illustrated design gallery featuring a dozen outdoor kitchens in various styles and settings. Best of all, they’re finished with a range of materials.
The section on construction techniques, however, is far too basic for experienced contractors. I’m not so sure the same thing can be said of the final section of outdoor recipes, which at the very least gives you something to try on your own. (It certainly can’t be a bad idea to have a favorite outdoor recipe or two up your sleeve when the subject of outdoor cooking comes up with a client.)
Publications about outdoor fire effects are only slightly more plentiful than those on outdoor kitchens – and probably not quite as useful. The best I found, Fireplaces by Encarna Castillo (Harper Collins, 2004), is mostly about indoor fireplaces but has a generous section on outdoor installations that includes details on basic design considerations. As a plus, there are inspiring photographs of outdoor fire systems alongside gorgeous vanishing-edge pools.
Ideas for Great Fireplaces comes from Cynthia Bix and the editors of Sunset Books (Sunset Publishing, 2004). The text focuses entirely on indoor systems, but it provides excellent consideration of the basic functionality of fireplaces and has a comprehensive resource list. Last and perhaps least, Fireplace and Mantel Ideas by John Lewman (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2004) has construction and product information and all sorts of ideas for creative indoor mantels – some of which might be transferable to outdoor settings.
I have the feeling that this is only the starting point with books like these: With the growing popularity of outdoor kitchens and fire effects, my suspicion is that better focused and more comprehensive volumes will be coming soon to bookstores near you.
Mike Farley is a landscape designer with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.