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The Fine Art of Outdoor Dining in Santa Barbara


This Captivating French Country-Style Hope Ranch Estate offers the perfect example of a well designed outdoor dining venue

We who are lucky enough to call Montecito and its surrounding communities home live in the perfect setting to experience the fine art of outdoor dining in Santa Barbara. An outdoor kitchen, like the image above featuring the expansive rear terrace with a built-in grill at my Captivating French Country-Style Hope Ranch Estate listing, is one of the things homebuyers are looking for today, especially in our sunny communities. If you’re thinking of remodeling the outside area of your home this summer, here are 10 tips to help you create the ultimate al fresco set up in your own backyard:

1. The Grill
Wondering what size grill you need? Just think about how often you entertain and how many guests attend outside soirées at your home. For most people, a 30″-36″ grill is the perfect size, accommodating anywhere between 2 to 20 guests. The Rolls Royce of BBQ Grills is from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. The company’s unique Hybrid Fire Grilling System features traditional gas, wood or coal grill choices, plus three heat settings.

READ: The State Street Promenade: Santa Barbara Al Fresco

2. The Flooring
Every outdoor dining area requires unique flooring. I recommend you choose a practical, durable surface that’s durable, level and even, and solid enough to prevent your furniture sinking into the ground. There are so many decking and paving options to choose from. Ideally, your outdoor flooring will mimic your indoor flooring in style, color and finish for that perfect indoor-outdoor blend that Santa Barbara has become synonymous with. Make the space even more inviting by adding an outdoor rug underneath your dining set.

3. The Shade
When it comes to enjoying the sunshine and open-air synonymous with outdoor dining in Santa Barbara, al fresco dining cannot be beaten. But what about when it gets too hot — especially during lunchtime when you might need a little more shelter? Create a natural roof by training climber plants, such as ivy or a vine to form an arbor. Then accessorize with pretty festive garden lights and enjoy outdoor dining without overheating.  

An arbor or pergola is not the only way to add shade to your outdoor dining area. Even though we get to enjoy year-round perfect Mediterranean weather, there are still times it gets rather hot here and you don’t want to get sunburned. To keep everyone comfortably cool – or protected from the elements – choose a dining set with a patio umbrella or add a freestanding or clip-on version to your existing dining ensemble. There are also cool area sunshade sails which are especially useful for exposed outdoor areas and terraces. 

READ: 20 Things to Love About Santa Barbara

4. The Furniture
From rattan to teak to wrought iron, there are many types and designs of patio or veranda chairs, tables and accessories. When selecting your outdoor furniture make sure it is appropriately scaled to the area where it’ll be used and that it will seat the number of people who will typically use it. The most important thing is to blend the style and color of your patio furniture with your home. Add cushions with colors as vivid or subdued as you like for a little personal touch. You can also arrange some matching furniture to create a seating space near your al fresco dining table like the owners of my Hope Ranch listing did. As you can see in the image above, the additional seating can create a separate area of a veranda while being ready to use for extra seating when your guest list grows.

A lovely outside seating area adjacent to the outside dining area

5. The Storage
Every outdoor dining area needs space for storage. You want to keep it tidy and clean, ready to fire up that grill. If your outdoor dining area is covered, you can keep all your utensils and table linens stored in a kitchen trolley, outdoor boxes, or crates or even build space under a counter with cupboards near the grill.

6. The Atmosphere
Music makes everything better, especially when it comes to dinner parties. You can, of course, simply have sound coming from the indoors, but for convenience’s sake, invest in an outdoor speaker. There are two types of speakers to choose from for an outdoor environment. You may want to permanently mount outdoor speakers, or there are plenty of Bluetooth-enabled speakers that are also suitable for outdoor use. Like the idea of permanently installed speakers, but want to use Bluetooth as your music source? You can power your outdoor speakers with a receiver that has Bluetooth built in. Voila! The best of both worlds!

7. The Countertop
When it comes to your outdoor countertop, I recommend you stick to natural stone because that look is durable and will last the longest. Think bluestone, limestone or granite. Definitely, seal countertops using a silicon-based impregnating sealer.

8. The Access Doors
Since gas shut-off values are typically placed below the grill, you need to build access doors. You can also hook the grill up to the gas service on your house.

READ: Who Says Fun Games to Play Outside Are Just for Kids?

9. The Accessories
Side burners, sinks, refrigerators, storage doors, lights, a strategically placed GCFI (outdoor power outlet), and perhaps a rotisserie or even a pizza oven. Basically, just think of everything you need inside, and make sure the same items are found outside.

10. The Location
Build your outdoor kitchen close to your indoor culinary center, like the al fresco dining area of my Hope Ranch listing pictured above. That way, you can easily utilize your indoor space for food prep.

If you’re considering moving to Montecito or Santa Barbara, check out the amazing properties on my website that feature the fine art of outdoor dining in Santa Barbara. You can trust me for all your real estate needs. In fact, I just got the news that I made the No. 1 spot among all 50,000-plus agents in the global Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network. Give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at I look forward to working with you and finding the best home where you can experience the fine art of outdoor dining in Santa Barbara.


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