Jeff and Joy Stehney know quality. Whether it's a slab of meat or hand-cut stone, they want the best for their customers and themselves. So when they embarked on an outdoor kitchen addition to their 20-acre DeSoto ranch this spring, they were willing to put in the money to get it done right, they just didn't have the time. Having committed to hosting a party of 60 for his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, they had less than three months to get from design to installation. Topping it off, the end result would be far from what they first envisioned.
“They originally wanted a demure, basic grill island and pizza oven,” says outdoor living designer Maverick Pickering. “But Jeff kept talking about cooking with wood, specifically for Mediterranean dishes and dirty steaks, and the only way to do that is with a Tuscan grill.”
A Tuscan grill is basically a fireplace at waist height and allows one to cook comfortably over a flame. At first it took some persuading on Maverick's part. He was trying to lead Jeff toward what he thought he'd eventually want, so Maverick poured footings twice as big as discussed in case Jeff decided to go for it, and when he did, the proper support was already in place.
In the space plan, Maverick located the grill against a nine-foot concrete wall poured to hold back a hill he had excavated. He also included the requested “pizza” oven next to it, although it's built to cook much more than that. “Jeff wants to be able to make anything anytime,” Maverick notes. At 800 degrees, he can use it for pizza, flatbread and focaccia; at 400 degrees, he can put in pie, cobbler, bread and casseroles.
“I'm convinced that if you're going to cook great food, you need extremes in temperature,” Jeff says.
The duo are housed in a massive stone structure that serves as the focal point of the entire project. Individual stones were hand-cut and stacked on site not only on the chimney but on the surrounding wall and everything capped off with limestone. “The detail work is impeccable,” Jeff praises.
One wall intersects with the house and forms a covered patio underneath a sunroom. The structure above also gave Maverick a strong anchor for the Mission-style pergola covering the cooking area. In between these two spaces, a stairwell made of reclaimed timbers connects to an upper-level patio with pergola that hints at what is below, if the rising smoke didn't already give it away.
The other wall, housing the kitchen's many appliances, juts into the landscape, which gradually slopes down until it meets the walk-out basement level where the pool, patio and smoker reside.
Before the Stehneys added the outdoor kitchen, their reverse 1.5-story home made it inconvenient and unnecessary to go to the backyard. With Maverick's additions and adjustments, including a stone waterfall to the pool and a built-in stone bench against the house, the spaces complement and connect like never before.
Maverick worked steadily throughout the hottest months of the summer to meet the Stehneys' August deadline, even building a tent to protect him and his crew from the blistering sun and the flies that visited from the pasture. He is fueled by a passion to do things right to meet his clients' and his own expectations. “This project was a once-in-a-career opportunity. It really made me push my own envelope,” he says.
“Not only did he build it, he saw it as it should be,” Jeff adds.
The backyard now offers a complete collection of living, dining and cooking areas, including every amenity from charcoal and gas grills and burners to warming drawers and a fridge. Jeff also wanted a caterer's kitchen installed in an unfinished portion of the basement to help out with large gatherings like the anniversary party.
“We have everything we need here without having to run upstairs,” Jeff says.
With the exception of needing to leave the property to drive back to 47th and Mission Road to tend to their world-class barbecue establishment, the Stehneys are perfectly content to stoke the fire, whip up a batch of margaritas and relax with close friends.
Project Designer and Contractor, Masonry: Maverick Landscaping
Landscape Design: Richard Clayton Barrett
Decorating: Will Wyatt's Cowboy Couture
Limestone Rock, Counters and Chimney Cap: Sturgis Materials
Custom Oven and Grill: Maverick Landscaping
Mantel, Staircase, Custom Table and Benches: Seldom Found Architecturals
Cooking Equipment: The Kansas City BBQ Store
Lighting: Rensen House of Lights
Plumbing and Electrical: AJ Plumbing and Electrical
Fireplace Furnishings: Fireside Custom Hearth
Outdoor Furniture: Amini's Galleria
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