10 Tips on How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen — Boxhill & Co., LLC
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10 Tips on How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen

10 Tips on How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen is a perfect way to get the feeling of increased square footage at your home and create new memories with your friends and loved ones. Designing an outdoor cooking space can be a daunting project, and for good reason – when you’re designing spaces that need to stand up to the natural elements, there’s a lot to consider! Don’t worry... we’re here for you. We’ve created this resource to help walk you through the process, and as always, we’re just a phone call or email away!

Top 10 Considerations 

  1. Plan, plan and plan again.
  2. What kind of memories do you want to have in this space?
  3. Collect inspirational images.
  4. Set your budget and work within it.
  5. Find a skilled designer.
  6. Choose the right location.
  7. Decide what features are must-haves.
  8. Choose the right outdoor furniture and appliances.
  9. Don’t forget about lighting.
  10. Determine storage needs and solutions.

#1 Plan, plan, and plan again

Building an outdoor kitchen is not a project to take on lightly. They can be incredibly expensive, not just because of kitchen cabinets, grill island, and appliances, but also because of the masonry and concrete typically used to build the space. Then there’s the facades, countertops, pavers, gas/electric, which can add up quickly. By no means is this a reason not to build your dream kitchen, but a rather good reason to plan well in advance and be realistic about your vision and budget. (We've got some handy worksheets to help you with this part. Get them here.)

#2 What memory are you trying to create?

Most people who set out to build a cooking area outdoors are trying to create a memory for their family in that space. Designing your ideal outdoor cooking space starts with having the feeling of an experience you want to create, and then breaking it down into the components required to make that happen. A lot can be revealed by exploring your vision in this way. You may find that all you need is a bar, or that you really need the cooking area in close proximity to the indoor kitchen.

#3 Collect inspiration

This is a great first step in your outdoor kitchen design process, whether you decide to work with a design professional or tackle the job yourself. Try to create an outdoor space that is cohesive with your indoor space, focuses on your priorities, and works within your budget.

  • Start by getting inspired from inside your own house. Taking style cues from your interior will help create continuity outdoors, and gives you a great jumping-off point. Look for the things you truly love and build upon them.
  • Use Pinterest or Houzz to collect your inspiration. These tools can also help you to realistically allocate your money based on your passions and priorities. Check out the Boxhill idea boards to get you started.
  • Think about who will be doing the most cooking in this space, and consider what they would like. For example, if the main cook is also the main entertainer, the seating should be oriented toward the cooking space.

#4 Set your budget and try to stick to it

Setting a firm budget for your project can be tricky because most people don’t understand the cost of the features they envision. Know that everything built for the outdoors costs more than their indoor counterparts. Do your research, prioritize, and work with a designer who can help you navigate these details. We put together this handy Outdoor Kitchen Budget Planner to help get you started.

#5 Find a skilled designer

A designer with experience doing outdoor cooking and dining areas will be able to help you think through all the details of your project, challenge your perspectives in constructive ways, and give you an end result that is typically better than you imagined yourself. Check out our Outdoor Kitchen Design Checklists to do some work in advance yourself so you have a better sense of what you need and want. Don’t get nervous about letting your designer know your budget. You want them to START designing for your budget, not have to work around it later. If you’re interested in connecting with one of our skilled designers, head over to our Design Questionnaire to start a conversation!

#6 Location, location, location

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the location of your kitchen. Before you begin designing, you must first consider the orientation of your home, climate, and weather fluctuations. For example, areas with drastic fluctuations in temperature throughout the year should avoid certain building materials such as tile and natural stone since they are at greater risk for cracking. Similarly, the prevalence of saltwater in coastal cities can be destructive to certain materials, and marine-grade materials should be included in the design process. Keep these things in mind:

  • Connected to the house or freestanding?
  • Traffic flow from house to outdoor cooking area & other outdoor areas
  • Aim for convenient access to utility connections
  • Look at the land, is it level, drainage, storm room runoff?
  • Avoid winds & harsh sun, plan for protection from the elements
  • Preserve or frame views
  • How do you envision yourself using the space?
  • What do you cook and what equipment is required?
  • Who does the cooking and what are their preferences?
  • Where do you want to gather?

#7 Decide what features are must-haves

Do you want a full kitchen or would a bar be sufficient? What type of cooking equipment do you need for the food you love to cook (BBQ, Green Egg, Smoker, Fryer)? Will you need prep space? A warming drawer? A sink? It’s not uncommon for outdoor food prep areas to be as robust as indoor kitchens, but not everyone needs all those features. Make a list of the things you can’t live without to help you envision your space, and budget accordingly. Or fill out our Outdoor Kitchen Design Checklist for some more ideas.

#8 Choose the right appliances

It’s never a good idea to cut corners when it comes to outdoor appliances. Appliances that are built to withstand outdoor environments will last longer and perform better over time. For this reason, they are more expensive than indoor appliances. Follow these guidelines to make sure you choose the right appliances:

  • Establish an informed budget. You may have to adjust your vision based on your priorities.
  • Know what your needs are before you shop (see our Outdoor Kitchen Design Checklist)
  • Choose products that will last. Appliances built for the outdoors will be more costly, but will ultimately last longer.
  • Shop before you design. This is important for two reasons: budget (outdoor appliances are more expensive than indoor) and function (it is best to design and build around appliances).

#9 Don’t forget about lighting

When it comes to lighting, there are a few different functions of which you need to be aware. There is ambient lighting, which is the lighting that provides the overall illumination for the space. Task lighting is key to making your kitchen functional. A well-placed task light by the grill will allow you to see if your steak is cooked perfectly, rather than having to take the food inside to see if it is rare, medium, or well-done. A beautifully-designed kitchen will have the appropriate mixture of both ambient and task lighting.

#10 Determine storage needs and solutions

Consider what items you’ll want to store in the outdoor kitchen. Keep in mind that most outdoor food prep areas are subject to normal outdoor pests such as critters, dust, pollen, humidity, and precipitation. Unless your cabinetry is air-tight, you may want to store your dishes in airtight containers. Most people choose to wash, clean, and store their dishware indoors, while keeping a few basic things outside. That being said, a designated space for cleaning supply storage is always a good idea – this will help with clean-up, which will not only deter critters but also extend the life of your material surfaces.

Looking for more outdoor kitchen design resources?

We know getting started can be daunting. We've learned a thing or two in our 20+ years designing outdoor spaces, so we put together some free worksheets to get you started on the right track. Click the button below to claim yours today. If custom design services are what you’re after, submit this design questionnaire to get started with one of our expert designers, and contact us with product questions at any time.

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