As days grow warmer and evenings longer, Northern Virginia families start to spend more time outdoors enjoying their backyard living spaces. Aside from fireplaces and swimming pools, outdoor kitchens are one of the most frequently requested features.
Outdoor kitchen designs range from super simple built-in BBQ grills to café style kitchens with multi-level stone countertops for seating and food preparation. In this article, we will focus on outdoor kitchen layouts and how they facilitate the range of styles and functionality that can be applied to your backyard kitchen. The layout is the shape or “footprint” the kitchen describes on the site.
Depending on the size and layout of your kitchen, it will be best suited for weekend family gatherings or for entertaining large groups on special occasions where you might have caterers in charge of the kitchen.
Developing an Outdoor Kitchen Design Concept
The first step in developing a design concept is to imagine how you will use your outdoor kitchen. Answering a few key questions will help to determine the kitchen size, number of appliances, and special features you will need:
- What type and size grill will you need? This is the most important question to answer because the rest of your kitchen will be built around that central feature.
- Will the kitchen need to accommodate large parties run by a caterer? If yes, then you will need a full-size, full-service kitchen with plenty of countertop space.
- Will fresh food be stored indoors and brought outdoors to be cooked? Nearness to your indoor kitchen determines how much storage and refrigeration you will need to plan into your outdoor kitchen. If located farther from the main house, for example in a pool house, the kitchen will need to function as an independent unit and be serviced by gas, water, and electrical lines.
- Covered or uncovered? You may want your backyard kitchen to be fully protected from the elements under the roof of a pavilion or pool house. Or you may simply need shade for the time of day you expect to be using the kitchen. That shade could be permanent or temporary: an overgrown pergola or large umbrellas.
Your landscape architect will guide you through these preliminary questions to determine your needs for storage, refrigeration, clean up and food preparation areas.
Layout Styles for Outdoor Kitchen Designs
The choice of layout style is based on an assessment of the available space in your yard and the functionality you desire in your outdoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchen layouts (no surprise) correspond to the most common layout styles of indoor kitchens:
L-shaped Kitchen Layout. We often see the L-shape anchored by a retaining wall. One of the most common styles due to its efficiency and scalability, it adapts well to large or small configurations. In a larger size, it can provide multiple workstations and seating areas. In a smaller space, it can snug neatly into a corner or be fitted seamlessly into a retaining wall. (This layout is often accompanied by an island when used for indoor kitchens.)
U-shaped Kitchen Layout. This style loosens up outdoors to become more of a crescent or S-shaped configuration. It is often a free-standing configuration that is positioned to make it easy for the cook(s) to interact with guests while they make their magic.
The key difference is that, once we bring these indoor kitchen concepts out into the backyard, they gain more freedom of expression. Outdoor kitchen designs introduce variations on the standard themes embracing curvature and organic materials that you rarely find indoors.
Minus the enclosure of four walls and a ceiling, outdoor kitchen design involves a number of logistical factors beyond those that focus on aesthetics and functionality. You will need the expertise of a landscape architect to walk you through the key planning points so that your backyard kitchen works in harmony with the other elements of your outdoor environment. Some of those considerations are:
- Nearness to house
- Wind direction
- Relationship to other backyard spaces
- Shelter from the sun or rain
- Kitchen equipment and appliances
- Need for water, gas and electrical service
Successful outdoor kitchen designs depend on a balanced, logical connection between your backyard kitchen and other activity areas in your outdoor living space—especially the dining patio.
For an in-depth description of all the key considerations related to backyard kitchens read everything you need to know to plan your perfect outdoor kitchen.
The kitchen layout and design style that works best for you is going to be the one that best fits the available space and harmonizes with other elements in your backyard environment. If you are ready to take the next step and have a detailed discussion, schedule a consultation with one of our landscape architects.
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.