White vinyl sided house, with solar panels on the roof, and a large outdoor kitchen nearby

In early 2019, Gene and Gerri Surdi faced a familiar problem: another precious New York summer spent staring out at a backyard they didn’t like. The AZEK plastic deck they installed about 7 years prior had long since warped and discolored, morphing into an eyesore that detracted from the welcoming outdoor living space the Surdis hoped to create. But the Long Island couple weighed the costs of a replacement patio — not to mention the original price of the decking — and ultimately decided to sit tight with what they had. Still, Gene began wondering how their backyard would look with an outdoor kitchen better suited to their brand of entertaining.

So that winter, after a few years of wondering, the homeowners finally stopped putting off their backyard facelift. Up came the AZEK deck and down went taupe Cambridge pavers that set the tone for the space’s inviting palette. Then came a detached covering, a U-shaped BBQ island beneath, and 4 distinct seating areas to fit large crowds and ensure the perfect lounging option is available for smaller ones. Gene, an electrical contractor, even took certain matters into his own hands with DIY work on the gas and electrical connections.

In just a few short months, the Surdis’ backyard became the go-to gathering place for horse races, the Yankees’ playoff run, and nights of music under the stars. Now their outdoor space stands as a monument to a simple concept: If you’re unhappy with your backyard, why wait to change it?

The Backyard Brief:

  • Homeowners:
    Gene and Gerri Surdi

  • Contractor:
    Southpaw Construction

  • Year Built:
    Completed in 2019

  • Location:
    Suffolk County, Long Island, New York

  • Island Layout:

  • Island Finish:
    Rough Marble

  • Frame Materials:
    Treated lumber with Durock

  • Countertops:

  • Primary Fuel:

  • Placement:

  • Shelter:

  • Water:

Outdoor table surrounded by black wicker chairs with blue cushions and an umbrella above

Holding Court

The remodeling process involved converting an outdoor basketball court into a spacious seating area next to the outdoor kitchen. Taupe touches everything in this outdoor living room, from the pavers to the Malibu resin wicker dining set, sectional, and lounge chairs. Gerri put her interior design skills to work by coordinating a few blue throw pillows, which provide a colorful contrast to the taupe background and impart coastal vibes in this home about 10 minutes from the shores of Fire Island. Between the patio furniture and bar stools surrounding the grill island, the homeowners can accommodate about 25 people for their largest get-togethers.

Open cabinet door with hot and cold water connections built in

Wash & Winterize

Lights aren’t the only cleverly placed feature here — hot and cold water connections with collapsible hoses are stashed in the access door below the power burner. This means the homeowners don’t have to drag a backyard hose over the outdoor kitchen counter for deep-cleaning sessions, and the space is even slightly angled toward a drain line in the pavers for proper drainage into the yard. This keeps cleanup running smoothly and stops excess water from seeping into the pavers, which could then cave in over time. To winterize the outdoor kitchen, the homeowners clear out the underground water lines with an air compressor before disconnecting them.

Storage cabinet doors built into a stone sided outdoor kitchen

Never Enough Storage

The grill island is decked out with BBQGuys Signature Collection outdoor kitchen storage: a triple drawer, 2 enclosed cabinets, multiple access doors, and a roll-out trash bin in addition to floor-level vent panels that prevent dangerous propane buildups. The homeowners also proved that access doors can be used for much more than necessary access to gas and water connections, building shelves inside each opening for even more storage space. This gives them enough room to keep useful items like a cable box and waffle maker outdoors, but their storage masterstroke might be taping TV and sound system remotes to the inside of a cabinet door so they never get lost again.

Stone sided cabinet with plugs installed on the side

Plug & Play

To fully modernize this space, the homeowners turned to Gene’s electrical experience yet again. The electrical outlets at one end of the BBQ island come in handy for household appliances like a blender or food processor, but Gene also included USB charging ports to accommodate smartphone-toting guests (the closest bar stool must be the most coveted seat in the house). There’s also some heavy-duty hardwiring throughout the space, most notably for the ceiling-mounted Bromic electric heater that helps extend the outdoor season into chillier evenings. Whether it’s a simple phone charger or a large space heater, you can always find ways to bring the comforts of home outdoors.

Stainless steel grill, power burner, and other products built into a stone sided outdoor kitchen

More Than the Grill

The homeowners get plenty of use from their 32-inch Blaze propane grill — it’s hard not to — but the side burner and power burner are where their culinary creative skills really get a chance to shine. Lower-heat food items like polenta, ragu, risottos, seafood dishes, and wine reductions are a common sight in this outdoor kitchen, showing that cooking outdoors doesn’t have to be all burgers and steaks. The homeowners had another reason for including 3 cooking appliances in their outdoor kitchen: Gerri has severe allergies, meaning they have to crack a window when making just about anything with spices indoors. All the more reason to finally remake their backyard.