An Uncommon Outdoor Kitchen
By Lisa Readie Mayer
The one thing all ultra-luxury outdoor kitchens have in common is that they are uncommon. No standard stucco islands, however large or well-configured, will suffice on the swanky porches, patios, decks or rooftop gardens of the well-heeled.
“High-end homeowners and their designers are looking for something different,” says Mitch Slater, president and founder of Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens. “They want an outdoor kitchen that is beautiful, often with contemporary styling, of extremely high quality and, most importantly, unique. They want a custom look that is equivalent to their indoor kitchen.”
|Photo: 2014© Caryn B. Davis.
A Danver employee working on a stainless drawer.
Slater should know. His Wallingford, Connecticut-based company’s stainless-steel outdoor kitchen cabinetry has been attracting the attention of designers, architects, luxury builders and discerning homeowners since it was introduced in 1997.
The company’s modular cabinets, drawers, appliance bases, trash cabinets and other storage components can be joined together just as indoor kitchen cabinets can be, or built into a masonry surround. Superior quality, functionality and low-maintenance benefits aside, what makes the products truly special are the multitude of unique finishes, colors, textures, door styles and other opportunities for customizing that sets them apart in the luxury outdoor kitchen marketplace.
The outdoor cabinetry is available in three-in. increments from nine-in. to 48-in. widths, and can be made to fit any manufacturer’s grills or appliances. Its standard cabinets are natural stainless steel, brushed-finished with a vertical grain to contrast the direction of the grain on most brands of stainless-steel grills and appliances.
But most popular are the company’s powder-coat finishes in 11 colors inspired by nature, such as pearl copper, Sudan brown, bronze matte metallic, and seashell white, or in an infinite selection of custom colors. Eight powder-coat wood-grain finishes are also available that look remarkably like teak, oak, cherry, walnut, Douglas fir and other woods, without the maintenance requirements of real wood. Another option, Danver’s Parapan solid acrylic doors, come in 20 bold, high-gloss colors.
Danver’s latest venture is its line of Brown Jordan outdoor kitchens, launched in 2012 under a licensing arrangement with the premium outdoor furniture maker. The line features exclusive colors, finishes and door styles to coordinate with Brown Jordan furniture palettes.
The company offers a variety of door- and drawer-front styles on both the Danver and Brown Jordan lines, reflecting some of the most popular indoor cabinet door designs. Solid-panel doors are standard, but customers often customize with one of the other options, such as a Shaker-style door with a picture-frame border around an inset panel.
These panels can be finished in the same color as the border, a contrasting color, a wood-grain finish, or even set with a glass panel or a texturized stainless panel with etched designs. Door and drawer pulls can also be customized.
Beyond the outdoor cabinetry it manufactures, the company is also a distributor of high-end brands of grills, kamados, pizza ovens, refrigerators, beverage stations, sinks, dishwashers, ice makers, outdoor heaters, insect control systems, pergolas, decorative fire features, and other products for the premium outdoor living space.
Danver’s in-house design staff works closely with builders, designers, architects and homeowners, advising them on outdoor kitchen configurations, appliances, amenities and finishes to create the one-of-a-kind projects their high-end clientele demands.
“We aim to be a one-stop resource for the premium outdoor living space,” says Slater.
Hearth & Home recently sat down with Mitch Slater to learn more about the company and the trends he’s seeing at the high end of the outdoor kitchen market.
Photo: 2014© Caryn B. Davis.
Mitch Slater preparing a meal on his Egg.
Photo: 2014© Caryn B. Davis.
Slater’s Outdoor Room boasts a large grill, a Big Green Egg and a power burner.
Hearth & Home: What sets your brands of modular, stainless-steel outdoor kitchens apart from others in the marketplace?
Mitch Slater: “Other companies that make modular stainless-steel outdoor kitchens are very food-centric. For them it’s all about the cooking. We’re about the cooking and the style and design. We can customize our cabinets to support any manufacturer’s grill, so if a customer is really into outdoor cooking and wants the best-in-class equipment, we can incorporate it.
“But we also appeal to the high-end consumer who is focused on the look and the lifestyle. Some people who own our outdoor kitchens will entertain in their Outdoor Room first and then go out to dinner.”
What’s your average sale for an outdoor kitchen?
Slater: “It’s typically about $12,000 - $30,000 in outdoor cabinetry and $8,000 to $15,000 in appliances, plus the countertop.”
How does this compare to a custom masonry island?
Slater: “Compared with a custom rock island, Danver outdoor kitchens cost about the same or less, but the labor is quicker on-site, so a dealer can do a lot more kitchens in one season. With a masonry island, they can’t get off the job, so they lose money. We average 40 percent margins, which is fairly significant.”
Is the trend moving away from custom masonry to more modular outdoor kitchens?
Slater: “Yes, but 90 percent of high-end outdoor kitchens are built into masonry islands, so we are fighting for the tiny piece that is the rest of the high-end market. Our islands are not something you’ll see on every patio. That’s why we target designers and builders who cater to up-scale customers who want something different.”
|A profusion of Danver’s outdoor kitchen cabinets on a hi-rise rooftop.|
Are most of your sales through builders and designers?
Slater: “Yes. The builder channel is working best for us right now, and our biggest source of business is from builders, architects and designers who specify our products. We’re also working with builders to put our outdoor kitchens in their model homes. In one new development, nearly everyone who saw the outdoor kitchen in the model ordered it.
“We also go to the HPBExpo and pool shows, but those retailers, in general, have not been the best market for our products. Kitchen designers should own this category because they know indoor kitchen design, but most don’t understand the outdoor kitchen market.”
How do you connect with your target audience?
Slater: “We offer accredited continuing education courses through AIA (American Institute of Architects) that we will teach at over a dozen seminars this year. We also have developed a 60-minute online continuing education course available to members of AIA, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, National Association of Home Builders, and the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The courses teach about current trends, designs and functionality of outdoor kitchens, and educate on alternative ways to create an outdoor kitchen and living space. We explain how these professionals can participate and profit with outdoor living spaces.”
Are you seeing any regional trends?
Slater: “Florida and Southern California are the strongest markets for us with a lot of new construction. Outdoor Rooms provide additional living space and become a profit center for the builder. They can make money on it as an upsell – it’s not a give-away anymore. Builders will now often offer several different Outdoor Room floor plans for new-construction homes of all sizes, from zero-lot-lines to mansions.
The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are mostly renovation projects. Nevada and Arizona are not as strong as they used to be.
“We’re selling a lot of outdoor kitchens for rooftop living spaces in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Miami. Big masonry islands are not possible in rooftop settings due to weight issues. Our outdoor kitchens are really light compared to rock islands, and more streamlined and compact. Urban outdoor living areas typically have a more contemporary look, and designers are looking for cabinetry to blend into that décor. Brown Jordan and Danver islands fit in well with contemporary design.”
What about trends in the kinds of appliances being incorporated into outdoor kitchens?
Slater: “The evolution of outdoor kitchens is following the same evolutionary path of indoor kitchens. Today, people buy best-in-class appliances for their indoor kitchens; all the appliances don’t need to match. That is starting to happen more outside, too.”
|Seafoam from Danvers.|
You offer a lot of options for color and other unique finishes on your outdoor cabinetry. Are those looks catching on?
Slater: “As roof shelters become more popular over Outdoor Rooms, we’re seeing better furniture and more color being incorporated with rugs, pillows and other decorative elements. Architects and designers started asking for color in outdoor kitchens to match the décor, so we introduced our painted cabinetry about eight years ago. Today it represents over 60 percent of our sales. Too much stainless-steel outdoors can produce a lot of glare and the surfaces can get very hot. Designers are looking for alternatives to stainless that are beautiful and unique.”
How has the new Brown Jordan line been doing?
Slater: “It’s been out about one year and we’re seeing good traction. The ‘endorsement’ of the Brown Jordan name, and our relationship with Brown Jordan and other partners like Walpole Pergolas, has been beneficial to us because they cater to the top end of the market.”
Are you expecting continued growth in outdoor kitchens?
Slater: “Yes, we expect steady growth in the category, and also for us as the shift toward modular outdoor kitchens continues and more people discover our unique outdoor kitchens. We take a different approach; the island doesn’t have to be bigger, just better aesthetically and efficiently.”
And also uncommon.