Transforming an outdoor space is no easy feat, and creating an outdoor kitchen oasis is nothing to be scoffed at. With so many factors to consider, we’ve narrowed down some of the essentials for designing an amazing outdoor kitchen.
1. Start with the Obvious
The stage of planning involves you hanging out in your own backyard and observing your surroundings. This may seem like a simple step, but it’s so important to take several walks around your space and ask yourself a few questions:
- How much space do you have to play with?
- Is there a pool to work around?
- How about an easy spot to access power?
- What structures are already in place? (decks, gardens, sheds, etc.)
Look at the area you are considering for your outdoor kitchen as if you are looking at it for the very first time. Not only will you gain fresh, critical insight into your space, but also you will likely feel inspired to do something new and exciting. Evaluate the amount of sun you get. Look for large trees for possible shade. Consider color schemes that would work with the home and the surrounding landscape.
Also, consider hosting a party in the backyard to observe the flow of guest traffic. This will help you strategically place eating and cooking areas for easy mobility and an open feel.
2. Location, Location, Location
After taking a look around your outside area and noting any potential restrictions, consider how far you want the kitchen space to be from the house. If you plan on having a cooking space close to an indoor entryway, you'll need to look into overhead ventilation for the stove. If there’s a good distance between the house and outdoor kitchen, you have more flexibility with exciting add-ons, like wood burning stoves and smokers. However, you'll have less flexibility with power options.
Try to strike a good balance of distance from the house for the best of both worlds. This can also help you determine which appliances are necessary. If you feel like your outdoor kitchen space is close enough to the indoor kitchen, perhaps you can resist purchasing an outdoor refrigerator and sink, so you can splurge elsewhere. This will make issues like pipes for plumbing less of an obstacle, as well.
3. Size It Up
If you’re looking to host a large group of guests, you’ll want a larger work space and dining area. If you the space to serve as an outdoor family area for relaxing and bonding, you’ll want an intimate, cozy space where the family can feel close. If you have a large backyard but want a cozy feel, you can consider making a smaller cooking area, and a larger lounge and play area right off the kitchen.
It’s important to note here that regardless of the type of hosting you’re looking to provide, always have sufficient space to place cooked food next to the work areas.
Reflect on what your indoor kitchen is lacking. Now is the time to right the wrongs of your indoor space and let your new investment be a truly enjoyable place to be. This will play a large role in determining the size of your area.
4. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall…
Think about each and every season. Your exposure to the elements is one of the largest factors to consider while designing. The intensity of your seasonal changes will affect how you choose to light the area, if you want to introduce heating and cooling elements, as well as what kind of overhead structure would best suit your new outdoor kitchen.
Also, the elements essentially determine the lifespan of your outdoor space. If you’re in an especially rainy area, you’ll want outdoor furniture that is sturdy, easy to clean, and weatherproof. If you’re in an especially hot location, you’ll want great shade cover, open airways for breezes to blow through, and UV-protected working surfaces.
5. A Room with a View
For those who have a particularly scenic yard area, it’s important to structure your outdoor kitchen around the view. Take advantage of orienting the kitchen to soak in nearby beauty, which will leave your guests impressed when they come to enjoy the newly constructed area.
If you're yard doesn't have a natural view, consider making one yourself by planting a fragrant pollinator garden where you and your guests can delight in watching hummingbirds, butterflies, and other natural wonders.
6. Carefully Consider Countertops
It’s pretty standard to stick with stainless steel for outdoor kitchen appliances and working surfaces because it’s easy to sanitize and erosion-free. However, if you don’t like the steel look, other options are available, but it’s important to avoid porous surfaces. Granite or natural stone can work, but you need to look for blocks that are UV-stabilized. Also, these natural rocks may require some regular maintenance to keep countertops clean and long-lasting.
7. Put a Rug on It
The integrity of your outdoor kitchen really relies on your foundation. Making this decision smartly will absolutely determine how tidy your space looks, as well as how well it functions. For example, like your appliances and furniture, your flooring will be subject to the elements, spills, and splatters. Using wood or brick for your flooring will mean difficult cleanup unless you put on several coats of sealant. Putting inexpensive, easy-to-replace rugs over the areas that are in the splash zones is a good way to keep your flooring clean and protected, not to mention, it gives you an opportunity to add a bit of flair to the area!
8. Fresh, Consistent Color and Style
It’s important to note that creating an outdoor kitchen does not mean it’s time to reinvent the wheel. If you have a charming bungalow and create an outdoor kitchen with a stark modern look, it won’t make sense. Be consistent with what style your house already has going on.
If you feel like your exterior home looks drab, don’t hesitate to throw in colorful pillows and pops of colorful outdoor paint to your outdoor kitchen. Consider growing vibrant vines on your pergola or throw in smatterings of bright pottery with fun annual flowers around the dining area. This will keep the area always feeling new and fresh.
9. Dream Big
Sure, this space is meant to bring your family outdoors and entertain your friends, but it’s also for YOU. Go wild!
The possibilities for designs are endless, but don’t rush into doing every single thing at once. You can allow the area to be a work-in-progress, changing with the seasons and your tastes. You’ll likely get the area going and discover something new you want to add.