South Africans have been braaiing outdoors for centuries, but for the past thirty years or so, indoor braais have become all the rage. The braai room is now an almost indispensable part of the home, and property professionals agree that the addition of a well-designed braai room - even with limited space - will add value to your property.
More and more architects are designing houses with a braai room as an integral part of the floor plan. Open-plan layouts allow braai spaces to flow from living areas, as well as patios and balconies.
A braai room can be big or small, luxurious or cosy – depending on your personal choices and the style of your home.
The style of braai room you choose will depend on several factors:
Your lifestyle – Do you entertain on a grand scale, or prefer small get-togethers?
Available space – Does your house allow for the addition of a dedicated braai room?
Décor likes and dislikes – Do you prefer modern, rustic or something in between
To ensure flexibility of use, a braai room should be a well-thought-out addition to a home with space for family and friends to sit, eat, chat and make memories.
A comfortable seating area is essential. Consider second-hand sofas and armchairs with leather or washable covers for easy cleaning. Different textures and patterns create a cosy atmosphere.
Throws can be stored in a large basket, for snuggling into when temperatures plummet.
Ensure there is enough storage space for all the braai essentials - wood, charcoal as well as all the equipment required for a good quality braai, including crockery and cutlery.
Marble, granite and tiled countertops are easy to clean and maintain.
Warm-toned ceiling-mounted downlights create an inviting atmosphere. Wall-mounted task lighting ensures enough light is available for a great cooking experience.
A ceiling fan will keep the braai room comfortably cool in summer.
The addition of a TV ensures that guests and chef can all enjoy some sports or listen to music while the meal is being prepared.
A small sink in the food preparation area makes fast work of cleaning up and rinsing salad ingredients.
An undercounter fridge for drinks minimises trips to the kitchen.
What doesn't work
Indoor braai units come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be wood- or charcoal-burning or gas fired and could include a smoker for added flavour.
Taste tests show there's no significant flavour difference between them, but most people have a preference for one or the other. Whichever type of braai you choose, though, this is the one item in the braai room that you shouldn't be tempted to skimp on.
Interior designer, Hendrik Weideman of HW Studios says that unless you have personal experience it generally pays to have your built-in braai unit installed by professionals.
"Professional braai and fireplace installers know what works and what doesn't," says Weideman. "They know how to avoid problems like cracks in chimneys and smoking flues. And if you do experience problems, you will be able to call them in to remedy these."
When choosing a braai unit, keep in mind the following:
Good braais light effortlessly, easily control heat, and have handles that stay cool to the touch, as well as added safety features.
One burner gas braais don't allow you to control heat as well as braais with multiple burners.
Good braais are easy to clean and maintain. Long life is assured by easy access to replacement parts and service through a well-established servicing dealer network.
"Also, keep in mind that although mild steel braai units and chimneys may be cheaper initially, stainless steel will last far longer which means they will cost you less in the long run," says Weideman.
Whatever type of braai room you create, make sure it is an attractive and functional space that you will be happy with for many years. And be sure to take all safety precautions in case of fire.