5 Designer-Approved Tips for Creating a Timeless and Functional Outdoor Kitchen

Plan Ahead

“Think about how you want to utilize the space and how you will actually use the area," Bobby Berk, an interior designer and a TV personality, says. "This will definitely help to inform the layout and what type of furnishings you should invest in." When Berk was designing his own backyard oasis, he incorporated a prep sink and under-counter refrigerator, so he could have everything he needed for easy al fresco cooking and entertaining.

Protect It From Elements

“Your region’s climate should have a more significant impact on creating the ideal kitchen than anything else,” Vernazza says. Vernazza explains how you'll need an outdoor kitchen with plenty of shade such as a pergola if you live in the Southwest. If you're located in the Northeast or Midwest, you will have to think about what materials will survive significant temperature fluctuations, she says.

Make It Comfortable

Sheltering or shielding the outdoor kitchen and accompanying seating area is one matter, but adding levels of comfort is another. Think about what extras might be needed in the region where you live and for the types of guests you see yourself hosting. This may include an outdoor ceiling fan or heat lamp, furniture enhancers in the form of seating cushions and padding, regular-height dining furniture as opposed to higher bar seating or low-slung lounge furniture, and more. If your outdoor space is visible to any neighbors but you prefer to keep your al fresco dining private, think about adding a pergola or canopy.

Think About Layout

One needs to plan within one’s means—as well as one’s environmental and spatial limitations. Vernazza emphasizes the importance of designing a layout for the space you have and not the space you want. Whether that's choosing a linear design for tight spaces for a cleaner look, opting for an L-shaped layout for medium-sized patios, or providing additional countertop space for a bar zone or grilling area—think about what will actually fit and work well, she says. "Double-island layouts can be the perfect approach on a large, spacious patio or grilling porch, especially if you intend to entertain on a larger scale," Vernazza says.

Express Yourself

Finally, think about your personal style. “Do you prefer wood or metal finishes? Modern or traditional? Narrowing down what you love will make the design progress a lot easier," Berk says. In the same vein, consider your home’s architectural style and all exterior and landscape elements. “The details, materials, and plants that will surround your outdoor living space will play a part in the overall look and feel, so it’s certainly worthwhile to consider and integrate them into your design," he says.

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