How to create an outdoor eating space

An outdoor eating place with table and chair
ARTICLE Joanna Mathers

New Zealand summers are synonymous with outdoor eating. The Kiwi barbeque is a quintessential childhood memory for most of us – long lazy day on the beach, ending with the sizzle of sausages as the sun goes down.

But there’s far more to outdoor eating these days than just cheap and cheerful portable barbeques. A whole industry has sprung up around transforming home outdoor areas into elegant alfresco eateries; complete with ovens, fireplaces and sophisticated outdoor furniture.

Barbeques for your budget

Your choice of outdoor cooking appliances will depend on a number of factors – budget, the size of outdoor area, and the amount of people you wish to entertain.

Budget need not restrict your options when it comes to style, however – there are many products designed to inject a splash of sophistication into smaller areas for limited money.

The Big Green Egg charcoal cooker may have a slightly off-kilter name, but its cute and quirky design is based on the ancient art of ceramic cooking and works as a smoker, a pizza oven, a grill and a regular oven. The smallest model retails for around $649.

Weber Kettles are another small but stylish charcoal barbeque, the smallest in the range (the Compact Kettle) retails for around $250. The Warehouse, 4 Seasons, Mitre 10 and PlaceMarkers also stock a wide range of inexpensive barbeques, for both charcoal and gas. 

Larger barbeques and outdoor ovens can be pricey, but you will be rewarded with excellent quality and durability. The Outside offers a beautiful stainless steel, wood-fired outdoor oven designed and made in New Zealand.

The Electrolux four burner, which retails for $5,999, features high-powered burners that quickly heat the cooking service, and is finished in stainless steel.

DCS by Fisher and Paykel is also a top-of-the-line outdoor range – the commercial grade cookers retail for between $6,500 and $10,500. They are custom-made for perfect grilling, and designed to be built into architecturally designed outdoor kitchens.

Specialty cooking

Pizza ovens bring a little rustic charm into any outdoor eating area, and nothing compares to the taste of a freshly cooked wood-fired pizza.

Di Fiore wood-fired pizza ovens are imported from Cupra Marrittima in Italy, where they have been handcrafted for over 60 years. The single size pizza oven can hold up to four pizzas or three roasting pans at a time, which allows for feeding of large groups of people. 

The Di Fiore oven comes in kitset form and can be built into your choice of stone surround – this will require the use of a stonemason (from $2,950 for the oven).

PlaceMakers and Mitre 10 offer a wide range of outdoor ovens to suit from small to large budgets. Outdoor oven prices start from $249.

Heating up

New Zealand weather is notoriously fickle, even in summer, so fireplace is always a welcome addition to any outdoor room. Mitre 10 stock a number of outdoor fireplaces that will add interest in any eating area.

Rinnai offer a range of outdoor heating options, including the Rinnai Impression Outdoor Fire, which has a modular design and gas bottle connection. This needs to be fixed to a base and is suitable as a permanent outdoor fire (retails for $1,699).

Alfresco Home and Garden just introduced a stunning fire bowl to their range. It looks like a large concrete planter, and can be set up to be fuelled by either gas or wood. 

Floor to ceiling

If you want to create a year-round outdoor eating room, you will need to have suitable flooring and ceiling in place. Slate (from $65 a tile) is an excellent option outdoors as it is texture and slip-proof – it can get cold in winter but ideal for the warmer months. Porcelain is non-porous so it won’t absorb water, making it practical for outdoors as no sealing is required. Pricing starts from around $30 per m2 from Heritage Tiles

But let’s think outside the square, not just for floor application, but also walls! We love the idea of a funky tiled feature wall that goes right through a living room and carries all the way through to an outdoor BBQ area. It’s a great way to add a wow factor and make your room feel bigger. 

Or why not consider tiling an outdoor bench? Due to the non-porous surface, food prep is made easy and cleaning after a BBQ, simple! 

Wooden decking is a popular option in New Zealand – it works well for raised areas and by swimming pools. Vitex is a durable hardwood (from around $15 per lineal metre) suitable for this purpose, but make sure it has been sourced from a sustainable source. 

It’s also important not to put excessive weight on decking – some of the in-built kitchen appliances will be too heavy for this type of flooring. 

Shelter is also important, especially given the unpredictable nature of New Zealand summers. For outdoor rooms, opening roofs are an attractive option, as they offer shelter from the rain and sun and can be angled to make the most of the conditions. 

Johnson & Couzins have recently introduced a first to the New Zealand market - a retractable louvre roof. At the touch of a button the roof not only rotates to catch the most of the sun but can also slide back to expose the open sky. 

This new product really allows you to maximise the use of your outdoor area and can be teamed with outdoor screens for a full outdoor room solution. 

If you prefer a seamless look, your roof can be matched with your home’s existing roofing material. This is particularly effective when the entire roof is being replaced during a renovation. 

Furnishing your outdoors 

Outdoor furniture offers homeowners the opportunity to inject their unique aesthetic in outdoor living spaces. There is a wide range of outdoor furniture for those for when budget is no issue. Some of the highlights of the range include the Zidiz table and chair set, crafted from aluminium and teak; the Niniz Exterior glass table in a range of glass designs; and the circular Claydon table in cast aluminium. You will be looking at $3,000 plus for table and chair settings. 

For less expensive outdoor furnishings, visit PlaceMakers– small table and chair sets start from as low as $200. 4 Seasons also offer a range of wooden furniture that won’t break the bank – for a wooden table with four chairs, expect to pay around $1,100. 

You might be interested in reading: Covering outer space.


This article by Joanna Mathers featured on page 89 of Issue 013 of Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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