The Art of Outdoor Living with Three Californian Architects
Three Californian architecture studios share how they design elevated outdoor spaces for living, dining and cooking.
Outdoor living is synonymous with Californian design. Known for its temperate climate, the golden state’s residential architecture has a long-held reputation for its ability to dissolve boundaries between indoors and outdoors.
In recent years, a home’s relationship to the outdoors has taken precedence as we appreciate its resounding impact on how we live. Never before has the outdoor kitchen – to cook and entertain open-air – played such a part in the residential design conversation.
Taking the premium culinary experience from inside to outside is something Kalamazoo has led for more than 25 years – since they invented the highest-performance gas grill on the market. Kalamazoo’s expertise is founded on several firsts: releasing the world’s first gas, wood and charcoal hybrid grill, the first countertop outdoor pizza oven, the first weather-tight outdoor kitchen cabinetry and Argentinian-style grill with gas starters and integrated rotisserie. The brand is also responsible for designing the first complete outdoor kitchen collection in marine-grade stainless steel.
According to Noah, the difference between an outdoor living space and a garden is the amount of time one can comfortably spend in each. “Thinking about this, we set out to design all outdoor spaces with carefully placed comforts that inhabitants eventually need,” he says.
Walker Workshop’s portfolio of homes reflects their consideration for outdoor layouts and adjacencies. Walker Workshop president Noah Walker maintains well-programmed outdoor spaces should be seen as extensions, attune to the relationship between the inhabitants and nature. “We want to promote, encourage, and foster that connection, which is organic and mutually beneficial,” Noah says. “We do this by looking at spaces not traditionally thought of as usable space. For instance, we’ve placed walkable herb gardens on roofs, buried parts of the house in the ground, and used pocketed doors to bridge independent wings of a home through a shared central outdoor space.”
When it comes to designing an outdoor kitchen, Noah says they design to include the same ‘creature comforts’ offered inside the home. “In fact, in some cases, the outdoor space has fewer limitations. The outdoor pizza oven is a prime example of function. It can create the perfect communal activity in a generously sized, refined outdoor area as warm and inviting as an intimate restaurant.”
Kalamazoo’s artisan pizza oven reflects Walker Workshop’s push for high-performance cooking options outdoors. Its gas-powered flame and dual burners that heat from above and below replicate the characteristics of a wood-fired oven with far greater control over heating time and temperature.
A marine-grade stainless steel outdoor kitchen was a key component of Feldman Architecture’s most recent project, the Surf House, on the edge of what’s described as one of the state’s best surf breaks. “Architecture that not only respects the site but also reacts to its features fosters a stronger sense of connection to the natural world,” Feldman Architecture partner Chris Kurrie says.
Feldman Architecture partner Chris Kurrle says the natural features of the land guide their designs – championing architecture that responds sensitively to the site itself. Flush floor transitions underpin what Chris describes as a “thoughtful blend of indoor and outdoor environments”; “using a consistent materiality on the floor such as concrete, stone or tiles to foster a sense of visual harmony,” Chris adds.
Feldman Architecture’s portfolio of outdoor living spaces prioritises solar exposure, orientation towards views and natural protection from the elements. When designing an outdoor kitchen, they work intimately with the client to understand the type of cooking they envision happening outside; “Will they be grilling, smoking, cooking, or simply hosting and entertaining? This allows us to craft a customised floor plan, as well as source the most appropriate and highest-quality appliances,” Chris says. “Often, these spaces act as outdoor catering kitchens and hosting spaces, focused heavily on larger events,” he adds.
For entertaining, Kalamazoo’s Hybrid Fire Grill is their most well-known offering. Combining gas, wood and charcoal in a grill saw them invent the category they’ve been dedicated to perfecting ever since. The Hybrid Fire Grill features heavy, cast stainless steel burners and uniform heat for smoking, roasting and baking.
Located in a pine forest near Truckee, California, CAMPout House by Faulkner Architects is designed to last in the face of nature’s extemes – wildfire. While glazing is limited around the exterior, it is taken full advantage of with the courtyard space.
Giving an outdoor space the same consideration as its indoor counterpart, including multiple seating options and planning for children, is critical to what Faulkner Architects director Greg Faulkner believes makes a well-resolved outdoor area. Material continuity – not only on the floors but walls and ceilings – together with large glass doors are what he sees as the “most potent devices” in ensuring a fluid design dialogue with the interiors. For the outdoor space alone, Faulkner Architects’ design is driven by human comfort – for both prospect and refuge – and responsive to the weather, particularly sun exposure.
Put simply, Greg says when designing an outdoor kitchen, they should be easy to clean and maintain and built with minimal materials – most favourably, stainless steel. “Build only what is needed – a place to prepare food and a cooking method. Open wood grills are best.”
Kalamazoo’s open wood grill takes the form of their Gaucho Grill – featuring an Argentinian-style Gaucho and height-adjustable cooking surface. Modelled on the traditional Argentinian barbeque, the multi-purpose grill features gas-powered starter burners for wood or charcoal cooking.