Jeff Flowers on April 8, 2015 1 Comment For many people, an outdoor kitchen represents the height of entertaining luxury. You may imagine yourself flipping burgers to the applause of your friends or sipping wine while a pizza bakes over a hot fire. Whether you are dreaming of a rustic outdoor pizza oven or a sleek line of stainless steel, adding an outdoor kitchen can extend your living and entertaining space substantially. When you reach the planning stage for your new kitchen, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Considering how you’ll use the space, where it’s located, what outdoor appliances you’ll need and how it will all hold up to the elements can all help you design a functional and long-lasting kitchen. By following these eight easy tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating an awesome outdoor kitchen of your own. 1. Extend Your Living Space One of the great benefits of an outdoor kitchen is that it extends your living and entertaining space. Make the most of this additional space by planning for shade, shelter, and warmth. In the hot summer months, a shaded kitchen means that cooking and entertaining are more pleasant. To provide shade and shelter, plant some nearby trees or incorporate an awning or pergola in the design. For seating areas, consider a patio umbrella. You’ll also want to plan for cooler temperatures. One popular option is to build your own fire pit that you can gather around as a cozy retreat to the weather. If this doesn’t appeal to you, or space is limited, consider buying an outdoor heater that you can use if or when it’s needed. Another option is to add an outdoor gas heater. For those who have a higher budget, adding radiant heat over the patio can create a truly toasty retreat. By adding some creature comforts, you can ensure that your outdoor space is welcoming, cozy and comfortable no matter what season it is. 2. Consider Your Surroundings It’s true that an outdoor kitchen is an extension of your indoor living space. However, it also needs to fit in to the yard and area surrounding it. As you brainstorm your design, think about your home’s exterior. Choose colors and textures that compliment or extend that style. Similarly, think about the surrounding landscape and design a kitchen that fits in well with that landscape. For a desert oasis, you might choose bold colors, like orange or turquoise, that stand in stark relief to the whites and sandy browns around it. For a tropical location, you might opt for materials like bamboo that seem right at home among the lush foliage. 3. Plan Your Layout Layout is just as important in an outdoor kitchen as it is for an indoor one. In addition, there are some extra considerations for an outdoor kitchen. Whereas an indoor kitchen’s layout is defined by the walls, doors and windows that surround it, the outdoor kitchen often defines the space on its own. For this reason, L-shaped designs are popular choices outside, lending a sense of room division for the area. Another key layout decision concerns appliance placement. Consider the best locations for your cold and hot zones. Avoid placing a gas grill directly next to a refrigerator unit that already needs to work hard during the heat of summer. Don’t forget to allow enough space for food prep as well. 4. Consider What Appliances You’ll Want Continuing on from the layout design, this is a good time to consider what types of appliances you’d like built into your outdoor kitchen area. There are a wide variety of appliances you can go with, so consider what you believe you will get the most use out of. Here are a few of the most popular appliances for outdoor kitchens: Grills & Smokers: Many people opt for a grill of some kind to be the focal point, and then add appliances around that. Realistically, if you’re wanting to have a kitchen outdoors, you’re gonna need something to cook on. There are many different types of grills available for outdoor kitchens, so be sure to do your research before you buy. Built-In Refrigerator: A small built-in refrigerator is another popular choice for outdoor kitchen areas. Having water bottles, sodas, beer, or juice boxes conveniently located for your guests not only makes it easier for everyone, it also prevents them from constantly going in-and-out of your house. Built-In Kegerator: If you and your guests drink a lot of beer, installing a kegerator is another popular option when designing an outdoor kitchen. We’d recommend a built-in kegerator with at least two taps. This gives you the ability to offer multiple types of beer, or even root beer for the kiddos. (And yes, having root beer readily on tap is as awesome as it sounds). Ice Maker: If you think you’re going to need lots of ice, then it would be wise to invest in an ice maker for your outdoor kitchen. However, for design purposes, you have a couple of options you can choose from. While built-in ice makers are available, you may not have the space for one if you also install a refrigerator and/or kegerator. Alternatively, consider a portable ice maker that continually makes ice, but can be stored away when it’s no longer needed. During the design process, keep in mind that you will need to look for “outdoor” appliances. In most instances, the indoor version will work, but since they are not designed for outdoor use, they are less likely to last as long as they should within the elements outside. 5. Choose Your Materials An outdoor kitchen needs to be as hardworking as its interior counterpart. However, it also needs to hold up to whatever the weather may bring, such as high winds, heavy rains, extreme heat and possibly even ice and snow storms. As you design your outdoor kitchen, select materials that are tough enough to withstand the elements while still being low maintenance for easy care. Because of its durability and toughness, stainless steel is a great option for outdoor countertops, as well as for appliances. They look sleek, they hold up to the elements and they’re easy to clean. For those who want a warmer feel in their outdoor kitchen, tile is another great alternative for countertops. Available in a wide range of colors and textures, there are tiles that fit virtually any design and style. 6. Outfit It in Style Once you have the bones of your kitchen – the layout, appliances, and materials – it’s time to give some attention to the details. Adding in garden decorations, potted plants, and cushioned seating can create an inviting outdoor space. Much like you accessorize the inside of your home, consider the style and impact of each piece you add. Also keep in mind that these accessories will live outside. For cushions and upholstery, choose fabric that is moisture-resistant and that resists fading from the harsh sun. Select accessories that are sturdy enough that they won’t blow over with the first stiff breeze. 7. Add Some Lighting Lighting serves dual purposes. First, it creates much needed light for tasks. Second, it creates a soft ambiance and sets the mood for entertaining. Incorporate both types of lighting for maximum effect. Install lights to shine on cooking and food prep surfaces. If you are fortunate enough to have an overhead structure like a pergola, you can hang a light above the space. Other options include mounting a light behind the work area or installing a pole yard light nearby. To create ambiance, consider adding some solar-powered accent lighting or a string of lights over the areas people will be gathered. The addition of a few candles, either traditional or LED, can also create an intimate setting. Also, don’t overlook the power of citronella candles or tiki torches to add some much-needed mosquito repellent along with your mood lighting. 8. Plan Your Party Once your outdoor kitchen is built, you’re ready to start entertaining. Whether you invite over a few of your closest friends and family or host your first annual block party, you can put that new kitchen to good use. After months of planning and building, there’s no greater way to celebrate your accomplishment than by breaking out some long-anticipated backyard gourmet. But most importantly, don’t forget to send me an invitation.