This post was originally published on Feb. 23, 2018 and updated on May 14, 2020.
First off, what is an outdoor kitchen?
An outdoor kitchen is a place outside of the home where you can entertain, cook and prepare meals while enjoying the open-air. It expands your living room to the outdoor space. Your outdoor kitchen is the centerpiece of an outdoor entertaining area which lets you entertain family, friends and guests beyond the summer months’ outdoors. Our expert design team turns outdoor kitchen ideas into reality.
Planning a home enhancement project requires research, planning, creativity, knowledge and a good amount of patience. While some homeowners hire designers, others may prefer the DIY approach. Either way, there are many things to keep in mind during a home enhancement project, particularly when designing outdoor kitchens. Outdoor kitchens greatly expand the value of a home and they are perfect for outdoor entertaining. They offer a great place to entertain, provide more storage space and the opportunity to be more adventurous when cooking.
Recently, I sat down with Danver’s in-house designer, Denise Litchfield, and identified 10 key things to consider when designing an outdoor kitchen:
– Location, Location Location
– Design Options
It is important to determine an affordable budget and stick to it. Otherwise, spending has a way of getting out of hand. Be sure there is a line item for each element of the kitchen – cabinets, countertops, seating, lighting, utilities, appliances, etc.
Budget items to keep in mind:
- Material Quality: Higher quality finishes and materials may cost more, but they also tend to last longer.
- Utilities: More than likely, utilities such as electricity, gas and running water will need to be added to the area. Planning for this extra expense is important as it will include additional trades, materials and may be subject to local permitting/inspections.
- Technology: If internet or cable will be in demand in the new space, be sure to include additional WiFi and network installation line items.
2. Location, Location, Location
Consider the climate and environment where the home is located. Both will have a significant impact on the design, materials and the length of open-season for the kitchen outdoors. Each climate has its own unique challenges and solutions including:
- Every climate experiences temperature changes, some may have drastic changes throughout the year. Areas with this potential should avoid tile and natural stone countertops and building materials as they risk cracking. Weather extremes may also wreak havoc on your outdoor kitchen cabinets depending on the materials used. This includes PVC and other non-stainless steel materials as they tend to warp and bend in extreme temperatures.
- Adding outdoor heaters, fans, pergolas or a roof to the plan will extend the usable amount of space usage. These additions extend the usable amount time for the outdoor space.
- Creating a transitional exterior room, also known as a Florida or California room, will provide shade and shelter from less desirable weather while still allowing access to an outdoor kitchen/grilling area.
- Despite the great views, salt water and sea air can be destructive to certain kitchen cabinet materials. In coastal regions, marine grade stainless, known as 316, is best for cabinet construction since it is more resistant to corrosion than 304 stainless steel.
- Powder coat finishes (colors or realistic wood grains) add a layer of protection to cabinets, regardless of the stainless steel grade.
Most indoor kitchen layouts can be configured for the outdoors, as well. From a L-shaped kitchen design to galley style, there is a layout that can complement various areas outside of the home including the backyard, patio, deck or rooftop. Examine the available space and use this as inspiration for the layout. If there is a lack of space, a simple run of a cabinet or two and grill will work nicely. With a little more space, an island with a sink, a few cabinets and a built-in grill can be added. If space is not an issue, a full-sized kitchen that offers a variety of options for cooking, prep, bartending and refrigeration will enhance the space.
Related – The ABCs of Outdoor Kitchen Layouts
Consider the functionality of your backyard kitchen. All professional kitchens have four distinct functional zones, and an outdoor kitchen should, too. Each of the cold, hot, wet and dry zones should be easily accessible to one another. A designated cold area is for refrigeration and ice makers while the hot area is for cooking appliances. The wet area serves as a sink and/or bartending station. Lastly, the dry area is for meal prep and extra counter space. When considering zone placement, don’t forget to plan for utilities. Make sure there is access to gas, electric and water.
5. Design Options
With outdoor living spaces becoming increasingly popular, many homeowners are looking to duplicate their indoor kitchen color, style and design. Others want to create a separate living space making it unique to the outdoors. Either way, there are plenty of options available. Fully-functional stainless-steel cabinets that house appliances and provide storage have become the focal point of the outdoor living area. Available with powder coating that reduces corrosion and staining, these cabinets serve a dual purpose. They allow for additional opportunities to incorporate design through colors and finishes, while also adding to the lifespan of the investment.
Outdoor kitchen countertops are also important for food prep and more. Depending on the climate, certain materials work better in an outdoor setting and include stone tile, granite, glazed ceramic tile and concrete. These options provide strength and durability while still being decorative. However, it is critical to note these materials need to be maintained and are subject to damage by extreme temperatures. Man-made options such as Dekton® by Cosentino® offer an alternative since they are created for outdoor applications.
Appliances increase the value of outdoor kitchens. Gas, electric, charcoal, infrared and teppanyaki grills along with smokers, pizza ovens and burners support the creativity of any chef – amateur or pro. Based on the preference of cooking styles and levels of entertainment, consideration should be given to purchasing appliances that are versatile. For example, a grill that can smoke, grill, roast and bake will save space, extend the budget and still highlight the chef’s skills!
Refrigerators and ice makers deserve as much attention during the selection process as their heated counterparts. Geography and climate have an impact on the efficiency of refrigerated appliances. Therefore, choosing high-performing models for the location ensures the best value for the investment.
Stand-alone or add-on bars can be added to create a fully-functional kitchen. A sink, garnish area, glassware station, kegerator, wine cooler and ice maker round out a bartending center and elevate the wow-factor.
To transition the outdoor kitchen and living space from day to evening, lighting options should be considered. Meal prep, cooking, cleaning and eating zones should be well lit. Including a light over the dining area and sconces over the bar add to the functionality and an element of design. If there is a ceiling, overhead fans with lights make an excellent dual-purpose choice. Also, consider task lighting around or beneath counters. Many grills come with LED lights that are activated when the lid is lifted.
No outdoor kitchen is complete without a place to enjoy your delicious creations and entertain friends and family. Popular in today’s design is low seating away from the outdoor cooking areas. Consider a large, low table for guests to place drinks and plates while socializing. Place a counter with bar stools near the cooking and bartending work areas for informal gathering. Create multiple areas to eat and drink throughout the outdoor space wherever space permits.
Consider which items will require storage within the outdoor kitchen area. Most outdoor kitchens are not critter-proof and are subject to dust and pollen as well as temperature fluctuations, humidity and precipitation. Therefore, utensils, glasses, plates and other non-food items are best stored in plastic containers within the cabinetry.
Convenience and food safety warrant a plan for an outdoor refrigerator and air-tight storage bins. Air-tight bins can be found in a myriad of sizes and help to keep pests out while offering accessibility. Danver’s custom-designed cabinets easily accommodate this type of storage containment.
It is also helpful to have a designated space for cleaning products, making clean up happen sooner rather than later. Proper maintenance extends the life of stainless steel kitchens so ridding surfaces of food stuffs and other debris are strongly encouraged.
All in all, designing an outdoor kitchen as part of an outdoor living space can be a fun, creative, albeit a challenging project that will present endless possibilities. Outdoor kitchens can be as intricate as their indoor counterpart. Therefore, we encourage a partnership between homeowner and design professional or architect to guarantee the perfect outdoor living space. We also suggest revisiting the budget frequently throughout all stages of the project to avoid miscalculations and subsequent surprises.
Need help bringing an outdoor kitchen design idea to fruition? Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens has a talented in-house design team, a nation-wide network of knowledgeable sales representatives and an extensive roster of local dealers available to assist you in learning how to design an outdoor kitchen.