When Dylan and Gemma Laing decided to transform their garden into the ultimate entertainment space, they wanted it to be welcoming, comfortable and flexible enough to work for a full range of events – from intimate suppers, family barbeques and hosting small parties for friends when the situation allows.

What was the motivation behind the project?

Having an outdoor bar and kitchen is something that I’ve wanted for a some time, so that was a very persuasive starting point. we are very social people whilst also enjoying family time.

For my wife and I, the garden has always been our sanctuary. It has always been very nice, but we could see the potential to transform it into a truly outstanding space. Before the pandemic, we were big on entertaining at home so we knew an outdoor kitchen would get a lot of use and enhance our lifestyle.

The idea really started to take shape when my wife and I visited the Sanipex Gallery in Dubai. The showroom features a lot of brands that you can’t find anywhere else in the region, and the offer is incredible. Walking through the displays really inspired us, not only in terms of our choice of products but also in informing the ultimate design aesthetic.

What was your starting point for the design?

We took a human-centric design approach based on our needs, so the design process was driven by practicality and convenience. The bar and kitchen are the heart of the space, which echoes how we live and how we entertain. It also solves a problem: invariably, when we have guests over either my wife or I are stuck indoors in the kitchen getting everything ready while the other is entertaining guests. Having a fully-equipped kitchen outdoors allows us to cook and socialise at the same time.

 

What were the key principles that informed the outdoor kitchen layout?

Again, practicality and convenience were at the fore. While aesthetics are incredibly important, if you don’t get the basics right then it wall invariably have a negative impact on the end result.

To avoid having to go back and forth to the house, we added two integrated fridges under the bar, one for food and one for drink. Investing in a Boretti built-in gas barbeque means we can cook a wide range of dishes quickly and easily; it also has a large capacity so we can cater for a crowd at some point in the future. I love outdoor cooking and have tried many brands over the years, but even the most expensive branded barbeques doesn’t compare with how impressed I am with the Boretti.

In the meantime, we are enjoying the small intimate family dinners that we cook together with our daughter. She loves using the Terzo smaller barbeque to cook steaks and is waiting for pandemic restrictions to lift so she can use it to host a cookout for her friends. The Forno II Grill by Morso can also be used a barbeque; as I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to the barbeque so I did use the Forno to cook steaks on for that authentic chargrilled flavour, but we prefer to use it as a firepit. The Morso really is an outstanding example of Danish design. We all also love homemade pizza, so the finishing touch had to be a DeliVita outdoor oven  – cooking a pizza in ninety seconds means food can be enjoyed without a wait.

The overall design is in line with the biophilic aesthetic. What appeals about this look?

We spend as much time as we can outdoors, so we wanted to amplify our connection to the natural environment. Organic materials and natural finishes add warmth and depth, and work in perfect harmony with the rest of the garden. It is a very contemporary, on-trend look that won’t date.

How did you apply the biophilic look across the space?

The consistent use of organic materials and textures is central to pulling the look together, resulting in a cohesive and harmonious feel that flows through the entire space.

The focal point is the kitchen area, so we chose a striking terrazzo tile, I Cocci tile for the bar really draws the eye and adds an element of playfulness; being made of reconstituted stone, the material is sustainable and its earth-toned palette blends well with the overall neutral colour scheme. For the floor, we wanted a natural texture that complemented the terrazzo without being distracting; Orto Botanico were the perfect choice, with the added benefit that the tiles come in a large format for a seamless, modern effect.

The furniture in the dining and sitting areas all feature a teak finish, which brings in the natural, organic element, with each design distinguished by clean, flowing lines. We chose IXQ Barstools for convenient and comfortable bar seating, and the Zenhit upholstered in soft grey for the sitting area. The outdoor dining area is dominated by the stunning bespoke dining table from Sanipex which, at a sizeable 2800 x 1200 mm, will comfortably seat a large crowd once we can entertain again. The Endless Chair in teak and soft grey rope adds aesthetic impact whilst being comfortable enough to lounge in for hours; the ideal blend of form and function.

Lighting can pose a real challenge for outdoor spaces. How did you tackle the issue?

Lighting can make or break a design, so we spent a lot of time researching and considering all the options. We gave a lot of thought as to how and when the space would be used, and for what, which informed the specific lighting requirements for each zone. We started with practical considerations – what level of brightness would we need for cooking? How could we balance this while maintaining a relaxed ambience across the rest of the space? Flexibility was also an important consideration.

In the end, we decided on fixed task lighting in the kitchen area, with dimmers to dial down the brightness once we’ve finished cooking. For the dining area, a timeless pendant light in weathered brass from iconic British lighting manufacturer Original BTC hangs over the table, with lantern floor lights for extra illumination. We’ve used Royal Botania wall lights in the kitchen and dining areas and one of my favourite pieces, is the Club floor lamp in a warm teak finish, which looks great and is perfect for atmospheric task lighting in the sitting area; I like to relax on the sofa with a good book in the evening, so it works very well for that. We also added a dose of drama in our entryway with a line of solar lanterns, again with teak detailing to ensure continuity.

The Cosi lanterns are a perfect ambient addition. My favourite is the Olive finish as it works so well with the Nest furniture, which we had recovered in our own fabric to bring in an extra pop of colour.

You extended the transformation to the pool area. Was this part of the original plan?

No, it wasn’t, but once we had seen the transformation to the rest of the space, we had to give the pool area an uplift too. We wanted to continue the biophilic theme but ensure some kind of demarcation without disrupting the overall flow.

We continued the organic theme by opting for the Nest two-seater sofa and the Nest Round chair in natural rattan – the retro-inspired styling of this design injects a sense of playfulness that echoes the optimistic vibe of the terrazzo tile of the outdoor kitchen area – while Ritz sunbeds echo the teak finish used across the dining and sitting area. We upholstered the pool area furniture with a selection of Designers Guild fabrics for an individualistic touch.

How do you feel about the end result?

The space has turned out better than I’d ever imagined. It has exceeded all of our expectations.

We’re all really looking forward to being able to invite all of our friends over and entertain. This is a space designed to be shared and it will truly come into its own hosting out nearest and dearest. When we aren’t hosting, we will continue to cook outside and dine al-fresco every night and make the most of what has turned out to be a truly outstanding outdoor space for entertaining.

Designed for functionality as well as aesthetic appeal, a fully equipped outdoor kitchen and distinct zones for dining and lounging flow together effortlessly to form one cohesive space. The result showcases stylish surfaces, organic materials and state-of-the-art appliances combined for the ultimate in contemporary outdoor entertaining.