Southern California-based landscape architect Heather Lenkin took an old driveway and mound of dirt behind one of the Los Angeles area’s oldest homes and transformed it into an outdoor living area complete with a trellised dining space, living room with fireplace, Jacuzzi, playhouse (for the homeowner’s 5-year-old twins), cutting garden and a fully stocked outdoor kitchen perfect for year-round entertaining. Using stainless-steel appliances, blue-stone floors and stone-faced cabinets, the kitchen’s romantic charm perfectly complements the character of the family’s Victorian farmhouse.

Kitchen, dining and living room: trellises provide much needed shade, and soft greys integrate the areas. A single-counter kitchen provides area for cooking, serving and storage. Photo by: Mark Lohman.


Q: What were your clients’ objectives?

A: This busy family of five wanted to have an outdoor dining and kitchen space where they could entertain indoors or out year-round. We determined they needed a barbecue, cook top, refrigerator, sink and serving area, plus a bar-height spot next to the barbecue where visiting friends can hang out with the cook.

Q: What are the kitchen’s main features?

A: The kitchen has two different height bars for serving, a large barbecue and a small cook top. Serving counters, a sink and refrigerator were located to the right to keep traffic flow away from the barbecue. The silver color of easy-care stainless-steel appliances blends beautifully with the blue-stone floor and concrete countertops. Shrubs to the west and a trellis high above the countertops shade the area.

Different counter heights provide spaces for different functions. To the left, a bar height next to the barbeque allows friends to sit and enjoy time with the chef. Far right height allows for placement of cappuccinos and desert. Photo by: Mark Lohman.


Q: Where is the kitchen placed within the context of the garden?

A: The kitchen is at one end of the garden (on the west side). Placing the kitchen along one side of the outdoor living area organized the space without making the appliances and kitchen the focal point.

Q: Were there any issues or factors that helped inform the placement of the kitchen?

A: We wanted to locate the kitchen and dining space close to the home’s dining room and kitchen, as there is always a flow between the two. New double doors (which allow for easy flow between indoors and out) were put in to replace an existing window to the area.

Q: Were there any challenges with space or installation?

A: Space was a challenge for this project. We had a long narrow space for the kitchen and took advantage of that by using a single counter layout.

The living room, just steps above the kitchen and dining area, offers a warm invitation to relax after dinner. Low stone walls are capped with stone wide enough for seating. Photo by: Mark Lohman.


Q: What brand of appliances did you use?

A: A 38" Grand Turbo Built In Gas BBQ, Grand Turbo Double Burner Cook Top, BBQ Galore 3 Drawer Cabinet and an Avanti refrigerator.

Q: Were there any additional elements that you customized or retrofitted to work for this outdoor-kitchen design?

A: We customized the concrete countertops to be a similar color to the blue-stone floors. The owner’s monogram, a letter B, was stained into the concrete countertops. The concrete backsplash tiles also incorporate the Victorian character of the home. Lighting was carefully considered, and a system of underground and overhead lighting was carefully incorporated into the design.

Q: How does the outdoor kitchen relate to the overall garden and house?

A: This Victorian home is one of the oldest homes in Los Angeles. We wanted to be sure that the personality of the outdoor space reflected the architecture of the home. Careful attention was paid to using woodworking details, color and finishes that were related to the Victorian home. We used an ashlar-pattern-cut blue stone for the flooring and stone for the facing of the kitchen cabinets.

Q: Were there any other furnishings/décor used to complete the space?

A: We created a trellised dining area adjacent to the kitchen and used a zinc table top, which is easy care and blends in well with the other finishes. We made a living room across from the dining room, in which we placed a fireplace and built in low stone walls that are capped with stone wide enough for seating. The space feels equally comfortable for a family of five or a group of 40.

For more information about Heather’s work, visit

Lenkin’s Advice for Building an Outdoor Kitchen:

  • Locate your outdoor kitchen as close as possible to your indoor kitchen. There’s always something that needs to be brought back and forth between the two, and it’s easier if there is a good flow between the two. For cleanup after large parties, this is especially true.
  • Running gas, electricity and water lines is less expensive if you locate them close to your existing home. If you don’t want to install a dishwasher, you won’t need to run a hot-water line, which reduces expense.
  • Carefully consider the lighting of the space — lighting is as important to the cook as it is to the guests.

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