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25 Outdoor Kitchen Design Ideas

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Kris Tamburello for Strang Design

As the temperature continues to drop—and our attention moves inside—merely thinking about an outdoor kitchen is surprisingly, if not stylistically sacrilegious. But, while creating warm and cozy spaces for the here-and-now ranks high on most people’s decorating to-do list, getting a head-start on your al fresco area can be an investment for your future self and space. Simply put, nobody wants to spend the height of sifting through tile samples or waiting for that back-ordered patio furniture.

However, regardless of how early you start the planning process, decorating an outdoor kitchen is by no means easy. Not only do you need to create a space that caters nicely to both home chefs and guests, but you’ll also need to consider how your culinary quarters will fare during those unfavorable months. To help, we asked a handful of designers to share their best tips for decorating an outdoor kitchen. From the practical to the aesthetically pleasing, the pointers below are worth of a chef’s kiss.

Deborah Krasner, author of The New Outdoor Kitchen advices budgeting for your outdoor space according to what’s most important to you. It may be best to invest in the setting (things like patio, or decking) if you’re planning to stay in your house for the long haul, and start with modest cooking equipment and appliances that can be upgraded over time. If you think you may move, buy the equipment of your dreams in portable form so you can take it with you.
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Take an Audit on Appliances

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make while you design your outdoor kitchen is which appliances you’ll want to add to your space. Fortunately, unlike a traditional kitchen, there are no wrong answers. While some dwellers might keep it simple with a grill, designer Mel Bean added the works like a beverage fridge to the mix.
Outdoor kitchens might elicit visions of easy, breezy, and open spaces. However, if you want to make the most of your space, it’s a good idea to add walls and a ceiling to your setup. Brandon Architects teamed up with Brooke Wagner to create the ultimate indoor-outdoor space, complete with large serving windows.
Though outdoor kitchens are often associated with the summer, those who live in warmer climates might utilize this space year-round. But, if you’d like to differentiate your year-round space for each season, add some textural touches as Allison Babcock did here.
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Strategically Place Your Kitchen

A kitchen is one of the most trafficked areas of any property, so it makes sense to position it next to your backyard’s “wow” factor. For ultimate convenience, Ten Plus Three placed this simple setup right next to their clients pool. Dinner entertainment has never been so fun!
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Scope Out a Subtle Spot

Or, if square footage comes at premium, consider adding a kitchen to your property’s under-utilized areas. For example, Studio Schicketanz created a gorgeous outdoor kitchen in this side yard. Areas that need a lot of attention frequently turn out to be the best location for privacy and give you an opportunity to add some atmosphere to an underutilized space.
When designer Linda Hayslett was tasked with creating an outdoor kitchen, she wanted to make it as functional as possible. So, she added upper cabinetry. “Every interior kitchen has cabinetry that houses these items, but most people don’t think of that for an outdoor kitchen,” she shares. “It can be cumbersome constantly going in and out when cooking on the grill, so having the same amenities outdoors can really make an outdoor space feel more comfortable in using.”
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Create a Functional Flow

Make meal prepping al fresco as simple as possible with a long countertop, jus as L’Atelier Paris did here. With a sink and stovetop flanking each side, it’s possible to go from washing produce to grilling in a snap.
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Heat Things Up With a Fireplace

A built-in fireplace lends to the ambience and keeps guests comfortable on cool nights. While a traditional hearth will warm up a kitchen, Andrew Mann Architects put foodies first with this sleek pizza oven.
For a space that bridges the gap between form and function, consider thinking beyond the kitchen appliances. Traci Connell compartmentalized this outdoor kitchen in style with zones for meal prepping, cooking, eating, and socializing. That way, there’s ample space for hosts and guests alike.
If a culinary corner is a new addition to your backyard, consider building it off your existing structures. In this place from Artepatio, a sunken kitchen is nestled nicely between a pool and deck. Danver appliances complete the space, striking the perfect balance between practical and picturesque.
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Opt for a Pop of Color

Just because an outdoor kitchen serves a practical purpose—and must be able to withstand the elements—doesn’t mean that it can’t look good, too. For an Insta-statement, add a fresh pop of color. Take a cue from Heather Hilliard, who added these bright blue cabinets to the mix.
For a kitchen that can be used all day long—from scrambled eggs in the morning to s’mores at night—layer on the lighting. Take a cue from designer Roger Higgins, who combined sconces outside of the kitchen, pendants in the structure, and string lights in between.
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Show Off With a Screen

Looking for dinner and a show? Hanging a flat screen television in your outdoor kitchen, as Mary Patton did here. That way, you can kick back and relax long after the last course is served.
Outdoor kitchens (like most indoor ones) are as much about socializing as food prep, so you’ll need to allow for both activities. L-shaped configurations are a common choice, with the chef at one end and the guests at the other.
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Plan Ahead For Weatherproof Items

For just about every indoor kitchen appliance, there’s a weatherproof counterpart—and it’s absolutely worth investing in them, even for relatively covered outdoor kitchens. Bear in mind, though, that you may need to pay to run additional gas, electric, and water lines outside before installing such items.
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Designate A Trash Area

Nature is unpredictable, and it’s important to be prepared for everything from pollen on counters to spider webs in burners and wildlife visits, says Krasner. Beyond sponging down pre-cooking and scrupulous clean-ups post-meal, don’t forget to designate an easy-to-reach spot in the outdoor kitchen for a trash can.
Outdoor kitchens greatly benefit from a sink, which is good for washing up as well as for rinsing fruits and veggies before tossing them onto the grill.
Use a portable grill, table, and chairs to create a temporary set-up that lets you see what it’s like to cook and eat in your space, Krasner says. Mark your path to the site, noting how it feels to carry things there. Assess the site for its ease and enjoyment, and repeat until you find the best arrangement.
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Pick The Right Material

Cabinetry, countertops, and floors should be weatherproof and coordinate with their surroundings. Stainless steel storage resists rust — plus, it’s likely to match the appliances. Stone countertop options, such as granite, wear well and play up the natural setting.
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Light The Entire Space

Think beyond the perimeters of the kitchen: An up-light in a tree extends the entertaining area, but keep the wattage low so as not to detract from the night sky.
Krasner recommends checking with your insurer to see if your kitchen will be covered. Typically, if it’s connected to the back or side of a house on a deck or patio, you’re more likely to be covered than if the kitchen is off a deck (even it it’s only five feet away from the house).
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Keep The Table Covered

Incorporating both sunny and shady areas is handy for when the temperature swings. Be sure to shelter the dining area completely (umbrellas and retractable awnings are two possibilities).
For a rustic look, a vine-covered pergola will emit dappled light, and its openings can be fitted with plastic sheets to block the rain.

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