Designing an outdoor kitchen that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing takes careful planning and consideration. An outdoor kitchen expands your living space and allows you to enjoy cooking and entertaining outdoors. With the right design, your outdoor kitchen can be a beautiful and convenient addition to your backyard. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the key steps for designing your perfect outdoor kitchen.
Choose the Right Location
The location of your outdoor kitchen is one of the most important decisions you will make during the design process. Consider the following factors when picking the spot:
Proximity to the Home
Ideally, the outdoor kitchen should be located near the home’s rear entry doors for easy access. Situate it close enough so you can easily carry food and supplies from the indoor kitchen.
Access to Utilities
You will need access to electricity and gas lines (if including a grill or stove). Factor in where these utility lines are and the costs of hooking them up to your outdoor kitchen.
Make sure there is adequate sunlight and shade. Avoid excessive heat by positioning the kitchen out of direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. Consider installing a shade structure.
Pick a spot where the chef can engage with family and guests. It should also have nice views of the yard or garden.
Consider prevailing winds so smoke and smells do not blow directly into the house.
Ensure proper drainage away from the kitchen and home’s foundation. Slight elevations or grading may help avoid pooling water.
The kitchen space should feel comfortable and secluded without being totally isolated. Fencing, screens, or landscaping can help create privacy.
Design the Layout
The layout and work triangle of your outdoor kitchen will significantly impact functionality. Follow similar principles used for indoor kitchens:
The grill, sink, and fridge should form an efficient triangular workspace. Place items you use most often closest together.
Kitchen Work Zone
Allow adequate room for food prep, cooking, and plating. At least 15-20 sq ft of counter space is recommended. Include outlets for appliances.
Storage and Pantry
Incorporate cabinets, drawers, and pantries for storing cookware, dishes, utensils, pantry items, and more. Stainless steel is a durable option.
Seating and Dining Area
Allow space for stools at the counter as well as a table and chairs for outdoor dining. Defining this area creates a welcoming atmosphere.
Design the space so multiple cooks can work together without crossing paths. Have clearly delineated prepping, cooking, and plating zones.
Your grill is the hearth of the outdoor kitchen. Make sure it has proper ventilation and clearance from counters and combustible surfaces.
Outfit with Essential Cooking Equipment
Having the right outdoor kitchen equipment will allow you to cook entire meals al fresco. Consider including:
- Grill – A gas or charcoal grill is essential for outdoor cooking. Built-in models are ideal for permanent outdoor kitchens.
- Refrigerator – An outdoor fridge keeps food chilled and prevents frequent trips indoors. Look for models with high insulation and UV protection.
- Sink and Faucet – A sink allows for cleaning produce, washing hands, and more. Get a faucet with a pull-down sprayer.
- Counter Surface – Choose a counter material that is durable and weather/stain resistant like granite, marble, or stainless steel.
- Storage – Cabinets, drawers, and pantries keep essentials organized yet out of the way. Stainless steel is recommended.
- Cooking Equipment – Round out your cooking setup with a burner, pizza oven, smoker, griddle etc.
- Serving Items – Include counters/tables for setting down cooked food, shelves for spices, and serving utensils.
- Lighting – Task lighting ensures you can prep and cook when it gets dark. Use LED lights.
- Sound System – Music and podcasts make cooking more enjoyable. Install speakers that are resistant to weather.
Choose Materials Wisely
The materials used for counters, cabinets, flooring etc. need to hold up to the elements while looking great. Consider:
Granite, marble, stainless steel, and high-grade laminates like Corian® resist heat, stains, and damage. Avoid natural stone like limestone that absorbs liquids.
Use marine-grade stainless steel or laminate for cabinetry. It won’t warp from moisture like wood. Make sure it includes tight-sealing doors.
Pick outdoor-friendly materials like stone, tile, pavers, or bricks sealed with exterior grout. Use slip-resistant options.
Stainless steel or solid surface materials like Corian® are good sink options since they are waterproof and durable.
Choose lighting rated for outdoor use with weatherproof electrical boxes. LED is energy efficient and long-lasting.
Look for marine-grade stainless steel paper towel holders, soap dispensers, and trash cans.
Incorporate Ventilation and Plumbing
Proper ventilation and plumbing are essential for keeping your outdoor kitchen comfortable:
- Install a stainless steel vent hood to remove smoke, grease, odors etc. Vent it outside.
- Have adequate electrical outlets to power appliances. Use GFCI outlets and weatherproof boxes.
- Run gas lines to fuel your grill, stove, etc. Ensure proper permits and safety shut-offs.
- Add hot and cold water lines to your sink. Insulate lines so water doesn’t freeze in winter.
- Include a drain line and grey water system to handle wastewater and sewer access.
- Add receptacles for garbage/recycling with regular collection.
- Install ceiling fans or utilitarian HVAC systems if designing an enclosed outdoor kitchen.
Incorporate Fire Safety
Follow all fire codes and safety precautions:
- Keep grills, smokers, and ignite sources away from combustible surfaces.
- Have easily accessible fire extinguishers rated for grease and electrical fires.
- Choose sprinklers and fire suppression systems if constructing an enclosed outdoor kitchen.
- Use non-combustible materials like stone and metals around heat sources.
- Clean grease regularly from hoods, vents, and grills to prevent buildup.
- Ensure adequate ventilation to remove hot air, smoke, and fumes.
- Install emergency gas and power shut-offs. Show all household members how to use them.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit available in case of burns, cuts, or other injuries.
Design for Low Maintenance
Simpler design choices will reduce future upkeep:
- Opt for durable and weather-resistant materials like stainless steel, stone, and outdoor-rated composite wood.
- Choose appliances with long warranties designed specifically for outdoor use.
- Install a sink cover and use appliance covers when not in use to protect from elements.
- Use sealants and caulking on counters, cabinets, and surfaces to prevent water intrusion.
- Ensure adequate drainage and slope so water drains away from the foundation.
- Select outdoor-friendly fabrics like performance synthetics for curtains or shade cloths.
- Design the space so it’s easy to access all areas for periodic deep cleaning.
- Group plants wisely so falling leaves, debris, and watering don’t damage the kitchen.
Add Personal Touches
Personalize your outdoor kitchen so it showcases your style:
- Add decorative tile or stone backsplash. Use heat-safe materials behind the grill/stove.
- Include under-cabinet or toe kick lighting for visual flair at night.
- Select appliances and fixtures in your favorite colors like a retro mint green fridge.
- Incorporate artwork or wall decor like painted murals, decorative metal panels, or framed prints using materials able to withstand sun and moisture.
- Add planters, flower boxes, pots, or herb gardens to infuse your own greenery.
- Use accent lighting like pendant lights or lanterns to create ambiance.
- Infuse eclectic flea market finds or antiques like a restored vintage patio set with fun cushions.
- Install a water feature like a bubbling fountain for pleasant background noise.
- Personalize with handmade ceramic tiles or commissioned art for counters or backsplash.
Design for Accessibility
Making your outdoor kitchen wheelchair accessible ensures everyone can participate. Consider:
- At least 5-6 feet of clearance for knees under counters, stoves, grills etc.
- Lowered counters or variable height sections to accommodate wheelchairs.
- Open under-counter space for comfortable leg/foot room.
- Lever faucets and D-shaped cabinet pulls that are easy to grip and turn.
- A raised floor to bring person closer to counter height.
- A separate entrance without steps/thresholds if kitchen floor is raised.
- Sturdy and smooth flooring that won’t impede mobility.
- Seating areas with ample room to approach and comfortable table heights.
- Keeping cooking tools within easy reach. Install pull-out shelves, racks, and organizers.
Inspiring Design Ideas
Need a spark of inspiration? Here are some stylish outdoor kitchen design ideas to consider:
Built-In Grill and Pizza Oven Station
Design a dedicated grilling area with counter space on both sides, exterior wall ovens, ventilation, and fun grill accessories.
Freestanding Cabinetry Island
Create flexible prep space with a large central island on locking casters. Incorporate a sink, fridge, storage, and removable side trays.
Stylish Pergola Cover
Install a permanent pergola roof with hanging pendant lights to keep the space shaded. Add an outdoor rug for texture.
Include seating like a counter-height bar area or inviting bistro table perfect for outdoor dining morning to night.
Use whites, blues, and breezy fabrics. Include a seaside driftwood sign, shells in glass jars, and a weathered console drink fridge.
Add a vintage feel with a reclaimed wood dining table, galvanized bucket planters, and chalkboard menu. Display shiny copper pots.
Go for an edgy modern aesthetic with colorful concrete countertops, retro metallic barstools, eclectic artwork, and sleek finishes.
Rustic and Woodsy
Use rustic elements like cedar planks, stone, and natural edges paired with wrought iron, distressed wood cabinets, and outdoor lanterns.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an outdoor kitchen cost?
The cost of an outdoor kitchen varies greatly based on size, materials, appliances, and more. Budget $2,000-$4,000 for a basic portable setup. More extensive built-in kitchens average $10,000-$30,000. High-end custom kitchens can cost $50,000 and beyond.
What are the best materials to use?
Choose weather-resistant materials like powder coated metals, exterior-rated composite woods, concrete, stone, stainless steel, tile, and high-grade laminates. Avoid real wood. Select appliances rated for outdoor use.
How do I run plumbing and gas outside?
Hire a qualified contractor to run water, drain, gas, and electrical lines to your outdoor kitchen area. Make sure all hook ups meet local building codes and safety standards. Installing lines underground keeps them protected.
Should I build a roof or cover for shade?
Adding a roof or pergola cover is highly recommended. It provides necessary shade and protects your kitchen from rain, snow, and other weather. Make sure the structure meets local codes.
What permits do I need?
If doing significant construction, you will likely need building, electrical, plumbing, gas line, and fire permits. Check with your local permit office to understand requirements before starting your project.
How can I decorate my outdoor kitchen?
There are endless options for infusing style like fun colors, pendant lighting, artwork, fabrics, accessories, unique backsplashes, and more. Look on design sites like Pinterest or Houzz for inspirational images of outdoor kitchens to get ideas.
Designing and building your perfect outdoor kitchen takes careful planning but is worth the investment. Follow the tips in this guide regarding layout, appliances, materials, personal flair, and more. Proper construction techniques and adhering to codes are also critical. The end result will be an amazing outdoor cooking and entertaining space you and your guests can enjoy for years to come. With your newfound knowledge, it’s time to start designing your dream outdoor culinary oasis.