Outdoor Living: The Art of Barbecue

Featured in Houston House & Home

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John and Nancy Davis first discovered the pleasures of outdoor cooking and dining on family vacations in Tuscany and the South of France.

“In those parts of Europe, the process is very simple and natural yet the results are extremely satisfying,” says Nancy Davis. “We wanted to create that same feeling at home.”

For help creating their outdoor kitchen and dining area the Davises turned to Wayne Ball of Lone Star Building and Construction Services Inc., whom they have worked with many times before.

“The challenge was to bring gas, water and electricity into a relatively small area and have it all work together,” says Ball. “Fortunately, the Davises have very good taste, so the final results are extremely practical and attractive, tying in very well with the overall style of their home.”

The Art Of Barbecue

The Davises’ original idea was to limit their outdoor kitchen to a grill and an adjacent sink. However, as they planned, their vision grew more elaborate until it became what they half-jokingly call “a shrine to the art of barbecue.” The kitchen includes a built-in ice chest, a set of separate gas burners and a large grill surface with its own burner and rotisserie.

There is also an abundance of adjacent, useable workspace as well as a sink, disposal, and underneath storage. In the dining area, the Davises envisioned a deep, earthy terra cotta tile with a distinctive Mediterranean look. That kind of tile turned out to be surprisingly difficult to find.

“I guess it’s just not ‘in’ style,” says Nancy. “In the entire Houston area, we found only one store, Marazzi Tile, that had what we wanted. As an added bonus, the tile has a non-skid surface that makes it perfect for any area exposed to moisture. And it’s even made in Texas which also pleased us.”

For their dining furniture and décor, the Davises wanted a comfortable, relaxed look that would encourage guests to sit back and enjoy themselves. They began the process of mixing and matching styles by purchasing an antique Irish table and a chest from Collin Gibbons Antiques in Houston. To help them find chairs for the table and decorative wall accessories, the Davises turned to Meg Caldwell of Caldwell Interiors. The wooden chairs they selected have a bright, jewel-toned finish and are each painted a different color, including purple, black, blue, green and red. A large pottery plate supplies an additional decorative touch. The plate sits on a double-tiered, dark wood shelf and is decorated on Tuscany green and gold and features a colorful, stylized rooster. A hanging light to the right of the grill provides a final touch of fun. The light, based on an antique Moroccan design, is a semi-circle of pounded copper with cutouts and colored stones that create interesting patterns and lighting effects.

Fresh, Tasty and Close to Nature

Nancy delights in using fresh vegetables and herbs in her cooking. To accommodate that enthusiasm, the outdoor kitchen includes two five-foot long by three foot wide beds, located along the back of the house.

“I chose the spot because it has the best sun exposure in the yard,” she explains. “It’s a small area, so I decided to experiment with an intensive gardening method used by the French. My fall tomatoes were eight feet high, and we are enjoying a steady supply of fresh green beans, lettuce, peppers, carrots, radishes, and herbs.”

For seasonal color the Davises also added two planters. The planters which have wide brick-lined tops, doubled as extra poolside seating. The Davises originally planned to pave the area around the pool with slate or flagstone. However Ball raised concerns about the roughness of these surfaces, and their effect on bare, wet feet. He suggested Bominate instead, a stamped, textured concrete that resembles natural stone without the abrasiveness. This solution worked so well that the Davises decided to extend the Bominate, so it wraps around the side of the house and connects with an existing sitting area on the front of the property.

“A lot of people think you can’t find much use for an outdoor kitchen in Houston,” says Nancy. “But this last winter, the weather was so mild we could eat outdoors virtually anytime we wanted. Even in the summer, John grills at least once a week. And in the evening when we’re entertaining friends and neighbors, we just seem to naturally gravitate outdoors.”