Making the Great Outdoors Better:

the outdoor kitchen and the changing design of American luxury


  • Beverley Grindstaff San José State University



Interior design, Outdoor Kitchen, Spatial design


The credit-rich late-twentieth and early-twenty first centuries allowed for the rise of a broad spectrum of new consumer habits. In suburban America, homeowners realized their individual dreams and newly enabled profligate tastes in lavish professional and do-it-yourself (DIY) remodelling projects. Chief among their architectural and interior design modifications is the so-called ‘outdoor kitchen,’ installed in over a million American households and projected to become a stock feature of all upscale housing by 2015. In definition, it is an amorphous, wall-less room with individually determined dimensions, appliances and functionalities sited in what one owner-designer identifies as the previously underutilised space of the backyard. Currently free of restricting code or traditions, the outdoor kitchen is determined by and gives form to diverse but intersecting discourses of Do-It-Yourself home projects, home spas and meditative spaces, the yearning for resorts left unvisited in the wake of 9/11, changing gender relations, televised food programs that fuse celebrity and the act of cooking, the ‘obesity epidemic’ and the elevation of food itself from mere nutrition to a source of novelty and entertainment. Thus the outdoor kitchen is a new arena of socio-domestic performance, the built environment of the contemporary ‘American Dream.’


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Author Biography

Beverley Grindstaff, San José State University

Beverly K. Grindstaff, PhD. is assistant professor of design history at san José state University. her areas of specialization are critical theory and nineteenth- and twentieth-century art and design. Themes unifying her work include formal theories of aesthetics and the construction of identity through the fine arts, design, popular culture, and the museum. Her research interests are represented by ‘Designing the Mensch als Kunstwerk: Kant, hygiene and the Aesthetics of health in Wilhelmine germany’ (UCLA dissertation, 2004);‘The Origins of unsustainable luxury: becoming “slaves to objects”,’ in Design Philosophy Papers 3 (2009); and a forthcoming work on mid-century interior design.





How to Cite

Grindstaff, Beverley. 2018. “Making the Great Outdoors Better:: The Outdoor Kitchen and the Changing Design of American Luxury”. Idea Journal 9 (1):122-33.



Design Research Paper