Open-Air Kitchen

Southern-style living in a Northern backyard: Jim and Debbi Diggs enjoy a luxurious outdoor kitchen.



Photos by Laura Petrilla

Debbi Diggs loves cooking in her kitchen. She describes gourmet meals to die for—leg of lamb, herb-stuffed turkey and a 15-pound suckling pig rotisserie-roasted to perfection.

Picture it: granite countertops, gleaming stainless-steel sink, fridge stocked with essentials. What’s the best part? This well-appointed kitchen is in Jim and Debbi Diggs’ backyard, the centerpiece of a sun-dappled courtyard, which also includes a dining area and cozy outdoor living room complete with a gas fire and a hot tub.

Lovely as her indoor kitchen may be, this outdoor cooking area has won her heart.

It wasn’t always this way. When the family bought its Fox Chapel house in 1997, the backyard consisted of a small concrete patio slab surrounded by a bit of grass. From there, the yard sloped sharply downward into what was an “unpleasant” tangle of trees and underbrush.

“It was probably one of the worst backyards … absolutely crummy,” Debbi laughs. “We never really went outside the first few years.”

In 2002, the couple decided to change that. They interviewed a half-dozen landscape designers, finally settling on a proposal from Blue Fox Landscape Design, based in Gibsonia. Diggs says she was struck by the plans because Blue Fox’s owner “saw the space as different rooms” and completely re-imagined what the yard could be.

The plan was to extend the level area of the yard, paving it with stones to create the courtyard with a full outdoor kitchen and surrounding that space with a low stone wall. Just beyond the wall, the yard falls very steeply away, and the property ends. But from the courtyard, the view is nothing but lush treetops. It gives the illusion that the property extends for miles.

A graceful Japanese maple with scarlet leaves was added for a dash of color. Beneath it? A trickling rock waterfall. The space feels intimate, but the cooking, dining and entertaining areas are distinctly defined.

At one end of the courtyard, stone steps lead to the lower portion of the yard, where brush was cleared to make room for a swimming pool and a putting green.

INVESTING IN THE OUTDOORS
Seven years after this redesign, Diggs says she still feels as if she’s on vacation when she steps outside. A full outdoor kitchen may seem more suited to Atlanta or Miami, but it’s possible to get nearly year-round use in Pittsburgh, she says.

“We use the patio through November, and then as soon as it warms up enough in April, we’re using it again.”

By summer, Diggs goes on to say, their family of four (son is in college and daughter just graduated from high school) is “barely cooking indoors,” even for breakfast. She lines a baking pan with Reynolds wrap, cooks sausage and bacon on the grill and fries eggs on a cast-iron skillet. In winter, “as long as there isn’t four feet of snow,” she’s out grilling. “I’ve made New Year’s Eve dinners out there.”

The space includes a refrigerator, full-size sink, ample counter space and a large gas grill with rotisserie, extra burners for sautéing and stir-frying, a warming drawer and storage area. A natural-gas line, rather than a propane tank, powers the grill.

Diggs loves pulling herbs directly from her garden, rinsing them in the outdoor sink and adding them immediately to dishes she’s cooking outdoors.

Her favorite outdoor bonus, though, is this one: “As much as I like cooking, I hate cleaning up. But I even like cleaning up the pans in the outside sink,” Diggs says. “Being outside even makes the undesirable jobs more fun.”
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Food Truck Park Coming To Millvale

Food Truck Park Coming To Millvale

The venue will feature food truck stalls, beer vendors and entertainment.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Feast Series Returns to Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland This September

Feast Series Returns to Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland This September

The third iteration of the series will feature chef J.J. Johnson, formerly of The Cecil and Minton's Supper Club in Harlem.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

The tacos-and-tequila bar and restaurant on the South Side doesn't do anything wrong, exactly, but has room to grow.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

As the team prepares the inaugural class of its Hall of Honor, Mike Prisuta selects the four members of the Steelers family most deserving of inclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

No. 14 Boutique in Lawrenceville put together this chic outfit for the tricky period when summer cools into autumn.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The Glass Castle Isn't Perfect, But It's Better Than a Creepy Doll

The Glass Castle Isn't Perfect, But It's Better Than a Creepy Doll

Reviews of "The Glass Castle" and "Annabelle: Creation," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Delicious Design: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner & Runners-Up

Delicious Design: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner & Runners-Up

These Pittsburgh couples certainly know how to bring the cookie table tradition to life.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Produced in Pittsburgh: MONMade Takes Local Crafters National

Produced in Pittsburgh: MONMade Takes Local Crafters National

Close to a half dozen local businesses, among them Savannah Hayes and Stak Ceramics, will make their debut next week at the mega interior design and home goods-focused show in New York City.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module