5 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips from Professional Landscaping Contractors

This guest post was written by Steve Stewart, owner of Landscape East & West

Home feel too small? Need extra space to relax? Consider adding an outdoor kitchen.

The backyard is a popular “room” to renovate these days, as many homeowners can’t afford to buy a larger home or add on a full addition. An outdoor kitchen will allow you to grill and entertain al fresco year-round, especially if you add a patio cover.

Having overseen dozens of professional landscaping projects, I’ve seen enough to know what makes an outdoor kitchen design work – and what makes for a flop. For instance, some homeowners fail to think ahead about how interior natural light levels could be affected by a new outdoor kitchen patio cover. Successful outdoor kitchen additions require careful planning, first and foremost. Read on to discover my five tips for outdoor kitchen design.

5 Design Tips for Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor Kitchen Design Cultured Stone Traeger BBQ Island

Tip 1: Plan First, Save Time and Money Later

Let’s start off with a big-picture view. I suggest creating a bird’s eye map of your property. Show the location of buildings, utility lines, trees, and other features that will affect the placement of your outdoor kitchen. Aim to select a spot that’s:

  • Located conveniently near indoor/outdoor transition
  • Protected from bright, hot sun on sunny days, and from chilly gusts on windy days
  • Large enough to allow the chef(s) space to operate
  • Capable of providing enough space for guests to sit and mingle
  • Protected from street views
  • Close to utility lines, to facilitate the hook up of natural gas, water, etc.

The best designs marry function and form, meaning that they’re both easy to use and easy on the eyes. Of course, you’ll also need to set a budget for your project early on.

Tip 2: How to Assess Your Needs for an Outdoor Kitchen

Once you know the general location of your new outdoor kitchen, it’s time for the fun stuff: figuring out what appliances and amenities your new al fresco cooking space will require, according to your family’s needs. How do you envision using your outdoor kitchen? To get your creative juices flowing, here area few features we’ve included in outdoor kitchens:

  • Built-in brick pizza oven
  • Lockable refrigerator(s)
  • Weather-resistant countertops. Plan for a 3-foot countertop as a minimum, particularly if you plan to do kitchen prep work outdoors.
  • Built-in trash enclosures
  • Kegerator, for the true beer lover
  • Gas grill and gas burners
  • Cabinets and other storage spaces
  • Griddle cooking surface
  • Dishwasher
  • Short wall defining kitchen area while also providing seating

Outdoor Kitchen Design

Select features according to your budget and intended use. Two items you will almost certainly want: a sink and a grill. As you tidy up, an outdoor sink will keep you connected to the social action. A grill makes for great cookouts, and it lowers your summertime utility bills, since you don’t need to turn on as many indoor appliances for food preparation, or crank the AC to offset cooking heat.

Tip 3: Landscaping to Compliment your Outdoor Kitchen

I suggest sitting down with a professional landscaping contractor to select low-maintenance, non-aggressive plants for the area around your outdoor kitchen. The gourmand will also appreciate an herb and vegetable garden near the cooking area – if your space is limited, consider growing lettuce and other veggies in containers. Finally, to prevent flying pests from ruining your enjoyment of your new outdoor kitchen, add species that repel insects, such as mint, basil, and lavender.

Outdoor Kitchen Design Glasser BBQ

Tip 4: Adding a Cover over your Outdoor Kitchen

A covered cooking area will see far more use year-round. Make sure you allow enough space for cooking ventilation. And to maximize resale value, match your patio cover to the local climate as well as to the style of your home.

Tip 5: Avoid Potential Problems

  • A clashing outdoor kitchen may actually drag down your home’s asking price. Extend ROI by matching kitchen design to your home’s existing architectural details. Masonry, concrete, and wood are just a few of the many materials you can incorporate in your outdoor kitchen, according to which materials are featured in your home’s exterior.
  • Also, consider how a patio cover and other outdoor kitchen elements might block or change interior light. Consider adding patio cover skylights to maximize natural light, or select a translucent patio cover.
  • Outdoor light is also important. To add function and beauty your outdoor living space should include line voltage or low voltage accent lights to illuminate those late night gatherings. Music lovers will want to add a built-in stereo system as well—surround sound speakers can be hung underneath the patio cover to keep the tunes pumping.
  • One final word of warning: Avoid drainage problems down the road by partnering with a professional landscaping firm. Improperly graded patios can cause damaging flooding down the road. An experienced landscaper can also help you avoid damaging the environment with tainted construction runoff.

A well-designed outdoor kitchen can expand your usable living space. Like a backyard oasis, a comfortable outdoor living area invites family members and guests to gather and enjoy nature.

Steve Stewart Landscape East and West

Guest post provided by Steve Stewart, owner of Landscape East & West, an award winning, full-service landscaping design and maintenance company based in Portland, Oregon specializing in outdoor kitchen design.


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