June 5, 2017
This custom-built kitchen by Outdoor Luxury has become the new heart of a happy homeowner’s home.

Dear Debbie;
We are selling our summer cottage this year as the weekend commute has become crazy. Our backyard has enough space for a small pool and an entertainment area. We’re wondering what’s new in grilling?

Dear Tomas;

There has been a definite shift toward building a backyard oasis over the past 10 to 15 years. Increased fuel costs and traffic congestion as well as more work hours for both parents have caused many of us to re-evaluate how and where we spend our down time. With this change has come a surge of interest in building outdoor fire pits, super grills and pizza ovens. Now is the time for you to make your dream list of what you would like to see outside your back door. Exterior buildings and pools require permits; you want to be sure to meet your area building codes for electricity, fuel, and water. In my experience, it’s best to hire a professional designer/contractor to ensure you are making the best long-term decisions.

I conferred with Joanne Bloye, head designer at Outdoor Luxury, about what today’s outdoor kitchens are looking like, and how best to plan your own space. They create fabulous outdoor kitchens from the design stage to the final set-up and have the inside track on the best product lines and add-ons that make cooking and entertaining outside a treat. Learn what’s available, from the grills, side burners, infrared burners, ovens and warmer drawers to sinks, fridges, and drop-in coolers built in to your counter. Be aware of the importance of quality; invest in the best you can afford, and look for excellent warantees on grills.

You may choose to build a kitchen or cabana away from the house, beside a pool or water feature. The location of the kitchen is the first consideration as all the plumbing and electricals have to be built in. Your outdoor kitchen walls can be stone, wood, stucco or a combination of materials that complement your home’s exterior. Bloye notes that the waterfall countertop style is very popular as is granite for facing. Include some seating, such as a bar on the far side of the counter. This is a glamourous new room where you and your friends and family will gather, just like your indoor kitchen.

Dear Debbie;
Have you any ideas for setting up a divider between front porches? The houses on our street are very close together. I’d like it to look good from both sides. Thanks,

Dear Arthur;

Think about building a live divide. It can be a wall of ivy or flowering vines growing up a lattice framework. Or line up a row of slender bamboo trees planted in containers. They grow quickly, are easy to manage and can be enjoyed from all angles. Space between trees allow the summer breezes to drift through. If you prefer to have a solid divide, look for bamboo screens. They are flexible and can stand on their own or propped up behind a bench. If wind is an issue, hook the screen to the top and side of the porch. Talk to your neighbours and see what ideas they have. It’s for everyone’s benefit.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to You can follow Debbie on Twitter at, and visit Debbie’s new website,