Let’s Eat Outside
Fancy grills and outdoor kitchens make dining on a porch or patio even more fun
Dinner on the Porch
When Laura and Keith Hoffman started planning their custom home in Potomac, they knew they wanted space outside to enjoy the beauty of their 2.3-acre wooded lot. In their previous house, they used their screened porch all the time. What they didn’t use much was the adjacent deck—except when they were grilling.
With their new house, built by R&R Custom Homes in Bethesda, the couple opted for a 21-by- 21-foot screened porch with a kitchen for all seasons. “It’s nice to have the grill and stuff on the porch, where there [is] some cover so you don’t have to go out in the rain,” says Keith, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer.
Since moving into their home in January 2016, the Hoffmans hang out on the porch more nights than not and grill there at least once a week, often fresh salmon or tuna. The kitchen area, which runs along one side wall, features a gas grill, commercial-grade burner, finishing oven, cabinets, drawers and a sink, all in durable stainless steel. The burner is good for cooking crabs and clams; the oven can heat up pizzas or broil lobsters. The Hoffmans have hosted a couple of low-country boils, where they put everything in a pot—seafood, corn and sausage—and serve it on brown paper covering the tables.
The granite countertop on the porch was built a few inches higher than usual to accommodate Keith and Laura—he’s 6 feet 2 inches; she’s 5 feet 9 inches—and a custom-built hood directs the cooking fumes outside. There’s a rack along the back wall with shelves for storing plates and cooking items.
With the woods nearby, it can get buggy in the backyard—where the family has spotted deer, foxes, woodpeckers and bluebirds—but the porch is enclosed with giant screen panels that help keep it insect-free. A fan hangs from the vaulted pine ceiling, and gas heaters warm the room in the winter.
The couple decided on casual all-weather sofas and chairs from Janus et Cie in Georgetown, which they arranged to face a fireplace along the back wall. The colors of the furnishings complement the blues in the saltwater aquarium in the Hoffmans’ foyer. The wall in the outdoor kitchen features backsplash tile with a wave design to tie into the water theme, as well.
The lounging area is a popular spot for the Hoffmans’ three sons—ages 12, 16 and 19—who like to watch Redskins or Capitals games on the flat-screen TV above the mantel. When friends and family get together, the porch is often a magnet. “We don’t have a formal living room. No one would want to sit in there,” says Laura, a former elementary school science teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom. “We have Super Bowl parties, and people sit out here in February with the heaters on, blankets, watching TV.”