Design Recipes: Winter outdoor living spaces

Cathy Hobbs
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

As warm, balmy days give way to cool, fall nights, so comes the desire to continue to enjoy outdoor entertainment spaces year-round.

Bringing the indoors out has long been desirable for those looking to enjoy their outdoor spaces all year. An outdoor living space can be just that, a living space that serves as an additional room. Outdoor kitchens and fireplaces are often considered to be luxury, high-ticket items, but it is possible to incorporate them into your home in an affordable way. Outdoor spaces can also be done simply and successfully.

Outdoor kitchens: From outdoor grilling to full-blown kitchens, who doesn’t like to cook outside and dine alfresco? Outdoor kitchens — while often the standard in many luxury homes in areas where warm nights are more plentiful — can truly be an extension of any home, no matter the geographic location.

Outdoor kitchens have a lure and appeal on their own. Outdoor kitchens, just like in a home, can truly serve as the heart of any living environment. Some of the must-haves for an outdoor kitchen include a grilling surface and small refrigerator. Want to splurge? Why not add an oven, and a fixed seating area like an elevated bar or built-in bench seating?

Outdoor fireplaces: From residential homes in popular vacation and entertaining destinations like the Hamptons to outdoor nightclubs in destinations such as Ibiza, Spain, and Mykonos, Greece, I have experienced and appreciated outdoor fireplaces firsthand.

Whether it is for warmth or for aesthetic reasons, there is simply a certain amount of romanticism associated with fire. An outdoor fireplace can serve as not only the center of a dramatic and luxurious living space used for entertaining, but also a more subdued and rustic experience, perfect for quiet nights spent around the fire with loved ones.

Fire pits: The fire pit, unlike other outdoor projects, is relatively affordable, and depending on the desired size and look, can be a relatively straightforward outdoor project.

Additionally, a fire pit can be transportable and mobile, meaning that it does not have to be a permanent structure and can be moved around one’s property. Even so, fire pits can be quite elaborate, ranging from the rustic to ultra-modern, and can be executed in the form of built-in stone, concrete structures, those sunk into the ground or even above-ground fire pits such as dining tables and bowls.

Whether you are looking to purchase a fire pit or have one custom-made by a professional mason, incorporating one into your outdoor decor can provide the perfect addition for outdoor year- round enjoyment.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at, or visit her website at