Grillin’ in the Great Outdoors

It’s official, it’s fall! While South Mississippi may never appear on a “Top 10 Places to see Fall Foliage” list, October is certainly colorful here. Vintage cars in every hue imaginable rumble across the coastline when Cruisin’ the Coast comes to town. Bright orange pumpkins and yellow mums begin appearing on porches everywhere you look. And football fans in bright colored jerseys crowd into bars to watch games each weekend with a side of wings and beer. The flavors of fall are savored in the foods we eat, the coffee we drink, and in the spirited hot sauces we put on just about everything.

  As the summer heat begins to wane, grills light up offering mouthwatering barbecue, steaks, and local seafood. Even before there’s a chill in the air, it feels like fall when the aromas from your neighborhood grill master hit your nose. We immediately wonder who’s cooking, like an invitation to join them will magically appear if we get it right! 

  Far more sophisticated than the old grill on the back patio, the outdoor kitchen is becoming a major home addition for family gatherings and elegant entertaining. And while prayers for cooler weather go unanswered, we do enjoy being able to be outside deep into the fall months. We can use outdoor living spaces a lot longer than our northern cousins, making them attractive for homeowner’s looking to expand their living space and add value to their home.

  We have some ideas to consider if you decide to build your own cathedral of backyard cooking. Start by building enough space under roof to protect your fun and furnishings from rain and damp weather. Don’t plan to use the last three to six feet from each edge or think about creating an old-fashioned rain porch by having your roof extend out three to six feet beyond your flooring with gravel or another permeable surface bordering your usable floor space to absorb rain falling from your eaves. Everything under your roof will stay drier but you know how it is here, you must make plans for moisture and occasional mildew. We’re used to it. Avoid using glazed tile, porous tiles, or stone for your floors, as they can get very slippery. Concrete, brick, and natural stone are safer choices.

  Plan your permanent counters, built-ins, and cooking spaces for your personal needs depending on how you like to entertain. A designer can help you figure out what you need and how to best lay out your space to maximize the square footage. Purchase only outdoor rated appliances and wet rated lighting fixtures. Anything less will not last long in South Mississippi.

  Decorate your outdoor space like it’s a room in your home. Start with comfortable seating. Spend your money on high end durable furniture that will last in our hot and humid climate. Aluminum, cast aluminum, teak, and resin wicker are materials that can stand up to our damp weather without rusting. Choose fabrics that are made for outdoor use and removable cushions are a must. Rugs specifically manufactured for outdoor use can add color and a designer touch. Install a nice fan and you may want custom shades or shutters for privacy and to help mitigate sun exposure. We see lots of fireplaces in outdoor spaces with televisions mounted over them. Be sure you divert the heat from the fireplace with a mantle or efficient fireplace screen, so you don’t melt the tv! It happens. Accessorize your outdoor kitchen with attractive linens, candles, and art. 

  Men tend to be the kings of the outdoor kitchen. It appears to be an extension of their authority over the grill. We aren’t sure why they think they are born with superior grilling skills. Maybe it’s a man and fire thing. It doesn’t matter – it works for us. The women folk will relax, have a drink, and watch the football game in the new outdoor kitchen until dinner is ready.

Holly Harrison has been a licensed interior designer for over 35 years. Shannon Stage has spent nearly 20 years in the giftware industry. Together they own Sassy Bird Interiors in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

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