Eleven years ago, my husband, Tim, and I got our hands dirty tearing down our house to build our dream home.

With lots of help from my father-in-law, we rebuilt the entire home ourselves. When it was almost finished, we started thinking about what to do with the rest of our half-acre lot.

We loved the existing pool but wanted to create a family-oriented backyard for ourselves and our three children — twins Anne Marie and Michael, 7, and Kate, 6. It had to be something they could grow into, a place where they could entertain friends — and we could, too.

Lots of people in our area have outdoor barbecues, but we decided to take it to the next level and build an outdoor kitchen, complete with a refrigerator, grill, sink, lots of storage and counter space, and a beverage basin low enough for the kids to help themselves.

The modular units we saw in stores just didn't have enough room for us. So, like everything else, we built it ourselves!

The spacious patio has two levels. Our outdoor kitchen is built into the sunken patio. A bistro bar on the upper level allows guests to look down over the barbecue area and still be part of the party.

I love how everything is in close proximity — the fridge, sink and grill are all at my fingertips. The grill is tapped into the natural gas of the house, so we never worry about running out of propane. Plus, there's room to store the pool toys under the sink.

We're active, outdoor people, so we use the kitchen daily and barbecue at least once a week. Our hard work really paid off, and we're thrilled!

Catherine's Tip: If you have a smaller yard, there's no reason you can't have an outdoor kitchen, too. Maximize your space by installing a smaller sink and fridge. Don't underestimate the importance of storage space, and don't sacrifice counter space; you'll need it!






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