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A Guide to Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

If your backyard or screened yard is large enough, it is time to begin designing your outdoor kitchen. There are some important decisions you will need to make. The first step of designing the ideal outdoor kitchen starts by thinking about how you want to use the area, what barbecues and appliances will be needed for this area, and how much space you want designated for just cooking.

Outdoor kitchens are the perfect combination of luxury and lifestyle, and if you are considering building an outdoor kitchen you can rest assured in the knowledge that your outdoor space will be as useful as it is eye-catching. However, designing your kitchen may seem daunting, and you may wonder where to even begin. 

Designing an outdoor kitchen requires several  considerations including location, functionality, environment, and more. You should also be sure to determine whether you want to design your own kitchen or seek assistance from a professional designer, and always build using quality, weather-resistant materials.

Fortunately, designing an outdoor kitchen comes down to your preferences. Provided that you do it safely, there is no wrong way to design an outdoor kitchen. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the choices you need to make at every step of the journey.

Location is Everything

Before you get started on your kitchen design, you will first need to have an idea of where it will go. 

Although the only requirement for your outdoor kitchen is that it is outside, the following factors are some things you can consider to make sure that your kitchen is in the perfect location:

  • Attached vs. Detached: Many people choose to add an outdoor kitchen to the side of their house to conserve the flow of their house’s architecture and keep space open in their backyard. Many people also choose to have a standalone kitchen, too, which can be the better option if you have ample backdoor space.
  • Sun vs. Shade: Most outdoor kitchens have a covering, but this does not mean that sun and shade still will not matter. Direct sun can cause bleaching of woods and surfaces, whereas shade may mean you have to remove nearby trees. It is best to opt for partial shade when designing your kitchen.
  • Opt for even ground: Although you can always level off the ground in a given area, you should choose to build on an area that is already naturally flat to avoid erosion or flooding. 
A covered outdoor kitchen.
The only requirement for your outdoor kitchen is that it is outside.

Choosing a location is the first step in designing your new outdoor kitchen. Once you have a good location in mind, you will be able to think through how much space you have on hand and move into starting a layout.

Set a Budget and Choose a Designer or Contractor

Although it will be tempting to immediately break ground on your exciting kitchen plans, a budget is a necessity before the rest of your kitchen dreams can take place. Setting a budget will require you to look closely at your available finances and consider how much you are willing to spend on the project.

If you are choosing to hire a designer or contractor, you may wish to reach out to them and ask them for a quote. They will be able to provide you with more concrete information about the costs associated with the project, and you can also compare costs across companies.

Choosing a Professional

Maybe you do not wish to fully design the kitchen on your own but rather want your ideas and dreams to be carried out under the guidance of an expert. If this is the case, you may wish to hire a professional designer who specializes in outdoor landscaping and design.

Asking a professional to design your kitchen has many benefits, not the least of which is their attention to detail and expertise. When choosing a designer, you should keep in mind the following things:

  • Experience: Ask to see photos of outdoor kitchens they have designed in the past, and see if these measure up to your expectations.
  • Reputation: Testimonials can carry a lot of weight. Read any relevant reviews or customer feedback to make your decision.
  • Timeline: Busy design firms may have a waitlist, and not all designers work at the same pace. Ask any potential designers what their expected turnaround time would be, and see if that works for you as well.

Opting for a designer will likely be more expensive than a DIY method. However, even if you do choose to hire a designer, you can still contribute your thoughts and feedback to the design process. 

Think About Features

Perhaps one of the most exciting steps in designing your outdoor kitchen is determining which features you would like to have. For some people, a perfect grill is a must, while others might be more interested in making sure the kitchen can accommodate large numbers of their families and friends. 

An outdoor kitchen with Umbrella.
Designing your outdoor kitchen is determining which features you would like to have.

Make an Appliance Wish List

Appliances are integral to your outdoor kitchen, and passionate chefs most likely have some appliances that they need to have in their prospective kitchen space. Take some time to create a comprehensive list of everything you would like to have in your kitchen. 

When you have a list made, you can then budget everything out. See if your ideal wish list will be attainable with your budget. Additionally, if you have models of appliances in mind, you can find information about the size of these items. Then, based on your budget and available space, you may need to make some cuts to your list.

A helpful strategy when choosing appliances is to sort your list by needs and wants. Although you may need some practical implements like a fridge, you may not need an expansive cooking range or a stone-fired oven. Separating your needs and wants when you start planning will make it that much easier to narrow your list down if you have to.

Plan for Storage

An important facet of any outdoor kitchen is storage space. As you plan your space, make sure you are taking into account cabinets and cupboards where you can keep cooking utensils or any necessities for your kitchen.

A stainless steel cabinet.
There are many creative ways to work storage space into a limited area.

Although storage will inevitably take up some of your layouts, there are many creative ways to work storage space into a limited area. Consider the appliances you would like to buy and the space you have to work with and do not be afraid to get creative with cabinets.

Think About Your Goals

Maybe you are building an outdoor kitchen because you are a grill master who loves to cook. Maybe you wish to have an outdoor kitchen because you want to entertain large numbers of your family and friends. 

When planning your kitchen, it is helpful to think about the following:

  • Seating capacity: If you are a regular entertainer, you may wish to dedicate more of your kitchen to seating spaces where your guests can relax and enjoy a good meal.
  • Cooking goals: If you are building a kitchen because you love to cook, it may be more important to have all of the appliances on your list.
  • Multi Use space: Do you want your kitchen to be purely a kitchen and dining area, or would you like to serve other purposes too such as a bar space or game area? Knowing what you would like to use your space for will make it much easier to design a layout accordingly.

No two outdoor kitchens are alike, and your individual desires will dictate much of what your kitchen turns out to be. For this reason, it is very important to know what you want and what you hope to accomplish with your outdoor kitchen.

Consider the Space

There are many things you may wish to include in your outdoor kitchen—the trick is determining if you will have space for everything! Yard space is a limited commodity, and not everyone has acres of open space to make an enormous outdoor kitchen a reality.

An outdoor kitchen with a pool.
Many spectacular outdoor kitchens can still take shape even in limited yard space.

If you are working with a small- or average-sized yard, do not be dissuaded. Many spectacular outdoor kitchens can still take shape even in limited yard space. However, you will still need to take your available space into careful consideration when creating your plans. 

Choose Quality Materials

Once you have a layout in mind and a good sense of what you would like in your kitchen, you can begin sourcing the materials and appliances you need to make your dream outdoor space a reality.

Don’t Forget About the Weather

This may seem obvious, but your outdoor kitchen is an outdoor space, and you will need to keep this in mind when you are choosing materials and appliances. These guidelines will help make sure that your kitchen is set up to endure the weather in your area.

  • Shelter or covering: Installing a covering is not required but it will help protect your kitchen from the wind, rain, and other elements. In addition to providing some shade or covering for your guests, it will keep your appliances and surfaces in good shape.
  • Waterproofing: The materials you buy should be resistant to moisture and outdoor conditions. Choose sturdy materials such as stone or treated wood to construct your kitchen.
  • Winter Proofing: If you live in an area where winter is a reality, you will need to make sure that your structure and appliances are suited for cold temperatures. Even if you do not intend to use your kitchen in the cold months, you will still need to winterproof them by draining water lines and storing away furniture.
  • Building timeline: Depending on where you live, it may not be the best idea to break ground in the middle of the winter. Plan your building timeline around the seasons, and speak to a contractor if you are unsure of the best time to get started.

As a final note, although it could be tempting to use spare indoor appliances, everything you use should be certified and approved for outdoor use. Limit your search for appliances and materials to things that are intended to be used outdoors. Your kitchen will be much more durable and require fewer repairs in the coming years. 

Check for Limitations

You probably will not need special permission to construct an outdoor kitchen, but it will be worthwhile to check local building codes to make sure your structure is in accordance with specifications on height or size.

Additionally, if you are part of a Homeowners’ Association, you may wish to speak with them before breaking ground to make sure that your dream kitchen is not violating any of the rules or expectations for your community.

Plan for Landscaping

Landscaping is the final touch on a perfectly-designed outdoor kitchen. A masterful landscaping plan will help integrate your kitchen with your outdoor space and make it feel like the open-air oasis it is. 

The following are some popular landscaping choices around an outdoor kitchen:

  • Shrubs
  • Flower beds
  • Rock gardens
  • Herb gardens

Be wary of planting trees directly next to your structure unless you know they will not grow past a certain height. Large trees could cause damage to your kitchen covering and could need to be removed in the future. 

Grilling outdoor.
A masterful landscaping plan will help integrate your kitchen.

Fortunately, plants are very versatile and you will certainly be able to create a landscaping plan that perfectly accents your kitchen.


When facing the prospect of designing an outdoor kitchen, the problem is not having too few choices, but having so many options that it can be difficult to know where to start. Planning your dream kitchen will require some organization, but will allow you the flexibility to create your dream space.

Take into account practical limitations such as budget and space before you start building your kitchen. Always be mindful of your goals for the kitchen, and be sure to choose appliances and materials that can stand up to the outdoor elements. If you follow these guidelines, you will experience a great deal of freedom with the kitchen space and know that you cannot go wrong with your choices.

If you are new to designing, it may be helpful to seek the expertise of a professional designer. However, rest assured that designing an outdoor kitchen is a creative and rewarding process. Although it will take some preplanning and research, there will soon be a few barriers standing between you and the outdoor culinary space that you have always wished for.

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