Five Questions to Ask When Planning an Outdoor Kitchen
Installing an outdoor kitchen can be a dream come true. Just imagine all the amazing cookouts you’ll enjoy all year long!
If only designing and customizing your outdoor kitchen was as simple as hosting your first BBQ. But, truthfully, there are many elements you have to take into consideration before you can create the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.
You’ve got to think carefully about its size, placement in your backyard, the equipment you’ll need, and design style. Everything has to come together exactly right if you want a kitchen that’s both functional and beautiful. That’s why it’s essential that you seek the advice of a landscape design professional. They can sit down with you and take you through everything you need to know to plan your outdoor kitchen, a kitchen that meets your needs without being “over-built.” Of course, you’ll share your ideas and ask lots of questions, but your landscape designer will make sure you answer these five practical questions:
1 Where is the best location for my outdoor kitchen?
You must be strategic about where you place the kitchen in your backyard. When it comes to design, you don’t want your grill station to be in direct view of your main window. However, proper placement also means that it must be easily accessible without being so close to your house that you have to worry about BBQ smoke blowing into your open windows and doors.
By taking note of wind direction, proximity to other structures, accessibility, and views, a landscape designer can make sure your outdoor kitchen ends up exactly where it needs to be.
2 What is the right size for my outdoor kitchen?
Think about how you expect to use your kitchen. Will it be primarily used for parties or weekends with the family? That will determine how many components and appliances you will need—and in turn how big or small your outdoor kitchen needs to be.
For example, if you expect to host large outdoor parties where everyone will congregate in the kitchen, then you’ll need to plan seating and circulation throughout the area. You might also need a bar area with seating and an adjacent area for sit-down dining. All of these decisions about size, amenities, and equipment stem from how you plan to use your kitchen–its functional requirements. And they, in turn, determine the kitchen layout. That is, the shape or “footprint” the kitchen delineates on the site. Outdoor kitchen layouts correspond to the style and functional requirements.
An outdoor kitchen is similar to an indoor kitchen. Everyone congregates there during a party and loves to hang out near the food and drinks. So you need to plan for enough counter space, seating, and work area to make it comfortable and functional. Your kitchen and dining areas must be designed together because their functions are intertwined. You want the two areas to flow naturally one into the other.
3 What accessories and equipment do I want?
Once again, the answer to this question depends on how you’ll use your kitchen. Will it be an “everyday” kitchen or one designed to accommodate big parties and catered affairs—or is it somewhere in between? A kitchen designed for big parties would need extra appliances such as a warming drawer for preparing meals for a large crowd, while an everyday outdoor kitchen might only need a nice-sized grill, counter space for food, a bar top for guests to perch and talk to the cook, and some storage.
You need to think through what you will need to comfortably serve the number of people you expect to entertain on most occasions. Some luxury accessories and equipment to consider, include:
- Refrigerator: Keep meat and drinks cold until you need them.
- Ice Maker: Offer ice-cold drinks to all your guests.
- Cabinets and drawers: Outdoor storage for utensils and nonperishables may spare you from having to lug essentials back and forth from the house.
- Sink: Make clean up a breeze with a sink that offers hot and cold running water.
- Dishwasher: If you’re planning on hosting a lot of parties, a dishwasher can be a lifesaver.
- Pizza Oven: Is there anything better than fresh, brick-oven pizza?
- Television and Audio System: If your kitchen is under a covered structure, a TV and audio system can really enhance the area.
4 How will your kitchen be lit after dark?
This one is too easy to overlook: outdoor lighting. As those summer evenings slide toward autumn and the days get shorter, you’ll be glad you planned for lighting the space. Aside from mood lighting, you’ll need, at the minimum, focused down-lighting to illuminate the grill and prep surfaces. You’ll also want strategically placed lights to gently illuminate the entire kitchen and dining area.
If you have a pergola or pavilion roof over your kitchen, it will be fairly easy to find places to hang lights. However, if your kitchen is out on an open patio, you’ll need to position lights on the house or in a tree to light up the area. In some installations, countertop lighting can be built into the kitchen structure. Talk to your landscape designer about all your lighting options, including portable (battery operated) outdoor lamps that can be placed wherever you need them.
5 What’s my style?
Finally, you need to keep in mind your style/aesthetic. You want the design and materials used for your outdoor kitchen to be consistent with the rest of your outdoor design and the style of your house. For example, the stone of your kitchen countertop should match the stone used in your patio stone and the colors of your house.
A landscape designer can help you design an outdoor kitchen and dining area with the right materials and style without being too “matchy-matchy”.
Designing the Outdoor Kitchen of Your Dreams
There are many options when it comes to designing a kitchen for outdoor cooking and dining—from simple to spectacular. Make sure you take the time to think realistically about what you will need. Then, sit down with a landscape designer and share your thoughts. They’ll make sure you end up with a kitchen and dining area that you’ll truly enjoy, instead of a “trophy” kitchen that you’ll hardly ever use.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.