When you think of an outdoor kitchen, what do you envision? Maybe lazy summer days relaxing with snacks and refreshing beverages. Or perhaps summer evenings spent dining outside. Do you imagine using it year-round and hosting a movie night in early spring or a football viewing party late in the fall? Outdoor kitchens offer opportunities to spend more time outside, and they don’t have to be a far-fetched dream.
Outdoor kitchens can range from a fully functional kitchen to something much simpler, like a grill cooking station. Several factors go into designing your dream outdoor kitchen, including your budget, available space, and overall lifestyle. Here are seven things you should think about when designing an outdoor kitchen.
1. Your Space
How much room do you have, and what different sections of a kitchen can your outdoor space accommodate? Assessing your available space determines the footprint of your outdoor kitchen. A simple cooking station takes up less space than an area with a cooking station, sink, refrigerator, and bar area. How these amenities integrate with an outdoor dining set and other seating areas are all part of your design, so you need to know what you’re working with.
2. Your Menu
What are you planning to cook? Your cooking style is another important factor to consider when designing an outdoor kitchen. Are you looking to just grill? Or do you want other cooking appliances such as a brick oven for pizza, or maybe even a smoker or Tandoor oven? There’s a lot of versatility in cooking appliances for outdoor kitchens that go far beyond what’s in your traditional indoor kitchen.
You also need to think about whether you want to include a refrigerator or an ice maker. When you have easy access to these appliances, you can stay outside rather than continually running inside for drinks and refreshments on those hot summer days. You can also add wine chillers and kegerators, depending on your taste, space, and budget.
4. Your Counter and Storage Space
Ideally, you should be thinking about food prep, tools, and clean-up needs when you’re creating your design as well. Do you want to prepare your food inside, or do you need counter space outdoors? If you have a grill, you’ll have various tools that come with it. Will you store them inside or outside? And do you want to quickly clean-up once you’re done cooking and dining? If so, you might want an outdoor sink, which would also require plumbing.
5. Your Structural Elements
Use the exterior of your home to inspire the design of your outdoor dining area. Unlike an indoor kitchen, an outdoor kitchen is not defined by any walls. This means the layout of the kitchen, including the different sections you are planning, is what will determine the structure of your outdoor kitchen. Bob Gasper, an expert in custom hardscaping in Bucks County, says to “consider your house’s details like brick and concrete, along with the metal of your appliances and any tile you may use. You want the space to complement your home’s exterior and should aim to have a cohesive look that flows naturally.”
6. Your Climate
Outdoor kitchens aren’t just for people who live in warmer climates. Shade awnings, outdoor heaters, and protection from the rain all increase your outdoor kitchen usage beyond the traditional summer months. Also, you should include lighting in your design plan, so you don’t have to go inside once it gets dark. Extending the use of your outdoor kitchen to nearly year-round makes it a worthwhile home renovation project.
7. Your Traffic Flow
What amount of entertaining do you plan to do? Or is this more about you and the family spending more time together at home? The amount of parties you have and the number of people you plan to host at any given time affect the layout of your outdoor dining area. You may only need a simple dining table next to the outdoor kitchen. Or you may want an additional seating area that you can utilize for other activities, such as a projection screen for movie night. It’s easy to integrate dining and lounge areas along with your existing pool or lawn into your outdoor kitchen concept.
When you thoughtfully design your outdoor seating and dining areas, an outdoor kitchen can be used all year-long. Knowing how you plan to use your kitchen, in addition to your available space and budget, will help you create the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. An outdoor kitchen is a worthwhile project that you will enjoy for years to come.