5 Tips for Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

Life moves outdoors in the summer: beach days, walks in the park and an endless whirl of barbecues. No host with the most should be stuck in a steaming kitchen on a cloud-free day. Bring the functionality of your kitchenette and solace of your living room to your favorite spot in the backyard. Go as basic as a grill, table and chairs or turn your yard into an entertainment hub with built-in appliances, counter stools and a surround stereo system. I phoned a pair of interior and exterior designers to get expert tips on designing your floor plan.

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Start with location

Take your measurements and consider the ideal area for preparing, cooking, serving and cleaning. Outdoor cooking and entertaining frequently means carrying heavy platters to and from the yard. “You don’t want to be in a confined space where the air won’t flow freely because of the smoke from the barbecue,” said interior and exterior designer Marlaina Teich. “And you want to be close enough to the house for easy access and still feel like you are a part of the party.” Make sure the grill is not creating gridlock on the lawn, and be sure to place it in a spot away from the children’s playground for safety.

Choose your appliances wisely

Your appliances will determine your kitchen size, so consider how they will fit within the design plan, how much room to a lot for each and how they will work together. Interior designer Gale Sitomer recommends all stainless steel machines to prevent rusting from the weather, and having outdoor trash and recycling bins built under the counter so you can get rid of waste pronto.

“We generally like to have a double height counter at 42 inches, so it can hide some of the mess while you are cooking and it is also a nice place to pull up bar stools to chat on the other side.” Electrical outlets are also often overlooked. When you are at the grill for a while, it is always good to be able to plug in your cell phone or other kitchen tools to speed up production.

Outdoor kitchen with a stainless gas grill. image: eirasophie

Outdoor kitchen with a stainless gas grill. image: eirasophie

Include a bar top

This brings the party to the chef. Many guests enjoy being part of the action and with a bar top they can watch and socialize, while still staying out of the main kitchen space. A counter top is one of the most important selections because it is going be involved in a lot of wear and tear with the sun. “Granite is the best for an outdoor kitchen because as a natural material that is eco friendly, it is built to last,” said Teich. Granite is not as porous as marble or bluestone so BBQ grease spatters won’t leave a stain. It does absorb the heat from the sunshine and can get hot to the touch—a nice way to counteract the strong sun exposure is to build a pergola over the kitchen area.

And you can’t forget about a beer tap at the end of the bar. This will allow people to gather without interfering with the cook. Proper placement of the mini fridge is also important. Positioning these features at the end of the bar will control where people congregate.

Add some entertainment features

Incorporate your speaker system of choice around the kitchen to create a more enjoyable dining experience or put a TV above the counter to create a sports bar vibe. Pizza ovens are also a new trend, which you saw in the June issue of Pulse. “[They add] a wow moment to the outdoor entertaining/dining experience since plain grilling is so basic and amateur grill masters are getting more sophisticated,” said Teich.

Make it your own

Your outdoor dining space should be an extension of your kitchen, incorporating similar tile patterns and natural stones. It’s also nice to customize your lighting. “Imitation candles are very realistic looking and sit on a timer, so even when you are inside they can light up the backyard,” said Teich. Select materials, colors and textures that are interesting and combine to create the vibe you like. Add appliances and gadgets that are functional and fun to use. Try defining the kitchen area with a gazebo or pergola surrounding it. Or you can even create a living wall as the accent behind the chef.