Sizzling in the Great Outdoors

Three designers cook up some awesome outside kitchen designs




WHO: Traven Pelletier, left, is owner and lead designer of Dexter-based Lotus Gardenscapes & BLOOM! Garden Center. He studied sculpture and environmental science at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., graduating with high honors from the studio art department. A Michigan Licensed Builder and Certified Green Professional, Pelletier has a strong appreciation for his natural surroundings and considers himself an “environmental artist.” The brushwork of Pelletier’s landscape architecture, outdoor construction, and environmental art combine to create the picturesque spaces he is known for.

THE GOAL: With a beautiful home overlooking a private lake in Fenton, Joe and Debi Smulsky wanted to retire their dated and failing propane grill from the 1970s and replace it and the surrounding area with a beautiful outdoor dining area. (The results are shown above.) “A corner of the lower deck provided a perfect spot adjacent to both upper and lower deck areas for an extensive outdoor kitchen,” designer Traven Pelletier explains. “The design was open and expansive, with plenty of space for both cooking and serving food.” With his artistic eye, Pelletier and his wife, Kristy, who occasionally collaborates with him on select projects, created a unique feature for Debi, who is a wine enthusiast: “We came up with a special accent for the backsplash in the form of wine alcoves,” Pelletier says. “Kristy created a custom mosaic grapevine design to hold the wine Debi serves her guests.”   

INFORMATION:  734-426-6600,

(LEFT) Napoleon Subzero 24-inch under-counter refrigerator, $2,350, Big George’s, Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield, and Harbor Springs. (CENTER) Napoleon flat stainless steel built-in triple drawer set, $1,099, Big George’s, Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield, and Harbor Springs, (RIGHT) Kristy Pelletier custom-made mosaic grapevine tilework, price varies, 734-426-6600.


Designer Traven Pelletier Shares Outdoor Kitchen Planning Tips:

  • For added protection, consider locating the kitchen in an outdoor room or under a pergola.
  • Establish the location for utilities and proper circuits and supplies for the fixtures. This is technically a first step, but is often left for last due to poor planning.
  • An outdoor kitchen should be located close to serving or kitchen areas in the home, for convenient entertaining.




WHO: Patrick Widing, left, is a third-generation builder who, at the age of 10, learned to construct the wooden framing of a building with his brother. Then, after many years as a full-time framer, Fenton-based Widing began his own building company. Now, for more than 22 years, the Michigan Licensed Builder has become known for his state-of-the-art construction techniques and creative finishing touches. Such excellence has garnered him many Detroit Home Design Awards.

THE GOAL: Builder Patrick Widing and his wife, Toni, worked together on the design of the outdoor space, shown above, at their home on Silver Lake in Fenton. “Since I live on a lake, I wanted a nautical feel, like an old Chris Craft boat, with the dark wood combined with polished stainless steel accents,” Widing says.

INFORMATION: 810-750-8855,

(LEFT) Under-counter refrigerator by Fire Magic Premium, $939, Fireplace & Grill Shoppe, Kalamazoo, (CENTER) Artisan Fire pizza oven, $8,295, by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, available through Bekins, Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, (TOP RIGHT) Marlowe bronze nautical outdoor wall light, $100, (BOTTOM RIGHT) Aluminum barstool designed by Philippe Starck, $1,030, Emeco, “These barstools are light and durable,” says Patrick Widing. “The shiny stainless does not rust and is a perfect match for the other shiny aluminum fixtures.”


Builder Patrick Widing Shares Outdoor Kitchen Planning Tips:

  • Approach the design with the same forethought as your indoor kitchen, in relation to form and function.
  • Buy the best outdoor-rated equipment and appliances you can afford.
  • Set up your outdoor kitchen so it can be winterized.
  • Build it to last. Make sure to back prime, caulk, and use weather-resistant wood. Also, upkeep is essential in prolonging the life of your outdoor kitchen.




WHO: Troy-based Ruth Casper, left, who won a 2016 Detroit Home Design Award, developed an interest in and passion for design while attending Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills. This led her to study interior architecture at Syracuse University; she received her degree in 1995 and began her professional career in 1997. “Interior design is more than a job — it’s a passion. I connect with people to elevate their space by personalizing it and infusing it with joy and balance, so it becomes a reflection of them.”

THE GOAL: Organization and function played major roles in the design of this outdoor kitchen, shown above. “The original purpose was to remove the dark granite, which absorbed too much heat and became unproductive for the client,” designer Ruth Casper says. “This opened the opportunity to redesign the layout into four functional areas: seating for lounging; island (eating, serving, and entertaining); kitchen (food prep, cooking, and serving); and fireplace.” Casper says the key focal point of the kitchen is the connection between the island and the grill backsplash: “It was intentional for the pattern to flow in the same direction. It’s the attention to details that makes design feel effortless.”

INFORMATION:  248-321-7000,

(TOP LEFT) Lynx Grills under-counter trash can, price upon request, (BOTTOM LEFT) Lynx Grills 16-inch double drawers, price upon request, (CENTER) Blanco Precision 16-inch undermount sink, price upon request, (RIGHT) Hyde Park barstool, price upon request,


Designer Ruth Casper Shares Outdoor Kitchen Planning Tips:

  • Find out whether the materials are able to withstand temperature changes from the heat of summer months to freezing winter weather. Covers and storage can be built into the design.
  • Consider the movement of the sun. The direction of the morning sun and evening sunset affects the function of the space. This could make all the difference in where you locate seating, the kitchen, the refrigerator, and the TV viewing area.
  • Consider a fireplace to enjoy in the cooler summer nights or for roasting marshmallows in the winter.
  • Determine how ceiling fans will best circulate air flow, and how outdoor heaters can be used for winter months.
  • Be aware of the appropriate pitch for drainage so you can enjoy the space even when weather elements aren’t ideal.


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