When we hit the end of April and we get more than just a few warm days in a row, that’s when we know it’s time to get our outdoor patio and grills ready for the season. Leaves may be piled, grills may be covered and outdoor furniture may still be in the basement. We chatted with Laura O’Brien of home design store Fez & Ivy in Southold, and Brendan McCarthy of North Fork Ironworks to get their professional opinions on getting that backyard ready for the barbecue.
First things first, clean.
Assess the situation and figure out what prep work has to be done before any of the fun starts.
“The first things I tend to do are a good hose down and weeding before I break out the furniture,” O’Brien said. “Depending on the type of patio, you may also need to tidy up and replace or add to your stonework.” For the grill, McCarthy follows suit. “The first thing I do is sweep out all the old ash and coals that may be in my grills,” he said. “I will take a wire brush to anything that looks potentially rusty, then take a stainless wire brush to the grill tops until it looks completely new. Then, with warm soapy water and a sponge, I clean all surfaces and apply a light layer of oil to all metal parts.”
Brighten up the space with decor and lighting.
“Adding color, whether in your decor or the plants you choose, can instantly brighten your outdoor space,” O’Brien said. “Some items might require a fresh coat of paint, including furniture pieces or trim on your home.” Throw in some pillows and a basket of blankets to add coziness to chilly nights, she added. Even consider a new configuration of your furniture for a fresh look. And when in doubt, add a little lighting. “I always love candle light in the evenings,” she said. “Choose lanterns with glass sleeve inserts to protect against the wind. Hanging a string of lights can be festive and romantic.”
Last, but not least, get out there and use your space! Light the candles, cozy up in the chairs and fire up the grill. McCarthy’s favorite first meal to grill? “Based on the farm stands and fish docks, I like to grill eggplant and top with goat cheese and balsamic reduction,” he said. “Asparagus on the Plancha with lots of oil and garlic and Fluke on the flat grill with lemon, butter, capers and white wine.”
Try something different this year like cooking over a live fire, McCarthy said. “The smell of a smokey, incredibly hot fire and a little more work always combines for a much more flavorful meal than cooking with gas,” he said. “Historically, it is old as time itself. Throw your veggies directly into the fire — you won’t regret it.” McCarthy said using charcoal works, but oak, apple or cherry wood are even better. To bring that same experimental energy to your decor, O’Brien said to bring in plants. “Lush planters can be used as centerpieces,” she added. “Get creative with the vessels and mix of plantings. I love to mix them in with lanterns and candle light. Depending on your location when choosing plants remember to think about your local wildlife and ask your nursery experts for recommendations. I don’t like to plant a buffet for my frenemies — deer.”