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trend alert: barbecues and outdoor cooking

Cooking outdoors isn't a trend that only comes along once a year - this one's here to stay. With the increasing popularity of outdoor kitchens and flash-looking barbecues, alfresco dining has become almost as much a design statement as a functional necessity of the Aussie summer.

Getting hot and bothered

Summer in Western Australia is a beautiful time of year, but we'd be lying if we said it isn't hot. Enjoying time cooking outside is the perfect excuse for taking in the breeze or a bit of shade under an umbrella or awning. Besides, a barbecue is always a good excuse to crack a cold one and unwind.

If you've just built a brand new double storey home with apg, you won't need to worry about getting too hot under the collar with the summer heat, as your intelligently designed home is built to be thermally efficient and maximise the flow of air. If you opted for an air conditioner, even better.

Tips for styling your outdoors

Creating an effective outdoor kitchen is about more than just buying the most expensive barbecue you find. Eight burners and a built-in wine cooler don't make a kitchen (although they do help).

Attention should be paid to maximising your outdoor space for entertaining and cooking. This means keeping the barbecue at a safe distance from walkways or kids' play areas, as well as planning out your seating arrangements and shade options.

For permanent shade solutions, look at gazebos or pergolas, while those that want less expensive options should look at shade sails, canter-levered umbrellas or benches with umbrellas built in.

Your barbecue, especially if you're looking at the top of the range, will likely be constructed of stainless steel, so make sure your exterior is nice and modern to match. Building stone surrounds with high-gloss wooden counter-tops can create a great bench-top area, as well as complementing your high-end barbecue.

Have you got flow?

One of the simplest mistakes made by outdoor entertainers is to make brilliant use of the alfresco area and have the indoor living area ready to rock, but make it hard to enjoy both at the same time.

Having a fully set up outdoor area but blocking access to your dining or living room with a bench or table can mean guests have to awkwardly walk around to join the party, creating a disconnect between the two areas of your home.

Increase flow by making sure doorways are unobstructed. Think of having your lounge furniture in a U-shape and mirroring it outside with your outdoor furniture in a U-shape as well. This creates the feeling of one big indoor/outdoor room.

Look at installing lighting and speakers outside as well to increase the synchronicity of your entertainment areas. Blaring music indoors in order to hear it outside can kill the mood in the living rooms.

Combine all of these tips with your personal style to create an outdoor kitchen to be proud of.