Wednesday Word on Interior Design: Top 5 Musts for an Outdoor Kitchen

It’s sunny and warm in the Northeast and we are booking dates on the calendar to invite friends over and enjoy our favorite room in the house – the deck!  We live in a center hall colonial, which is not my first choice for entertaining.  Note to self: next home I will have an open plan.

Deck Spring 2010

Bottom line, I love being on our deck, looking at our gardens, enjoying friends over a glass of wine and some grilled meat – insert your favorite kind here.  The best part is we built the deck to be child proof – gates that close, viewing distance from the swingset (just far enough away that we can have the illusion of some grown up time) and after all is said and done, we just take out the hose to clean up the spills.  Love that!

Next on our agenda is an outdoor kitchen.  I did buy my husband a really great Bobby Flay style grill –  Flay is his idol!  What is it about man with fire?  Grilling comes somewhere immediately following golf on my husband’s list of favorite hobbies.  And I am pretty sure golf is first – that or playing guitar.  Did I mention that I think my husband is very cool?  He also happens to be a landscape architect, so I am leaning on him for advice when we create our outdoor kitchen.  I get to choose the appliances though!

So here’s my Top 5 List to Consider when Creating an Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen in Storage Shed

1. Location and Weather. Are you in a year round sunny clime?  Or do you live where it snows half the year?  If the latter, keep in mind an ability to winterize your outdoor kitchen.  For example, make sure you can turn off water access so the pipes don’t freeze.  Consider whether your kitchen will need access to a fuel source, electric and/or water and site it accordingly.

Having some kind of shelter, such as a porch roof or a pergola (my husband’s first choice) is a wise idea.  I saw a an outdoor kitchen along a breezeway that was built indoors with a garage door that opened up – talk about a well-protected space!  How great is that?  I recently worked on a second kitchen area for a client that was just inside the patio, because she didn’t want to have to deal with winterizing it.  It’s just off her TV room too, so it does double duty.  The grill is outside, but everything else is close at hand just inside the patio doors.

Also, you want to be sure that your kitchen is close to your seating area.  Otherwise what’s the point?  May as well run inside to your full-time kitchen!

Consider the weight of a full outdoor kitchen.  We will not be building it on our deck but just alongside it.  Also, keep in mind the materials that you use to build should be weather and fire resistant (and so could be heavy), such as stone, brick, stainless steel, granite, various polymer options for cabinets.

Outdoor Kitchen on a Condo Balcony

2. How much space do you have to build? This small kitchen packs in quite a bit for a small space.  Keep in mind your space considerations when choosing your appliances.  Many appliances come in smaller sizes.  Leave plenty of room for storage cabinets.  At the least, the chef needs to have the grilling tools at his or her fingertips.  If you have more space, you can even store outdoor dishes and glasses.

Need I remind you to measure, measure, measure…  And if you’re not sure call an expert.  Many interior designers, including myself, are able to create a beautiful outdoor room for you.

3. How will you fuel the grill? Ours has been a stand-alone. Yes, we keep a spare tank so we aren’t running to fill up moments before the party begins.  Need you ask?  And yes only once.  Now, we are putting in a larger propane tank to run the generator, as a result of 5 days with no heat, no running water and no electric back in March.  Think I am still smarting from that!  So with the new generator, we can tap in direct for our grill.  It’s going to be so convenient.

4. Which appliances would you like to include? There are so many possibilities – refrigerators, outdoor ovens, warming drawers (do not pass on this – love these!), stove-top style burner (we use ours to boil the corn), ice makers, kegerators, a sink for clean-up, even dishwashers.  Make sure that your appliances are UL-rated for the outdoors.  And don’t forget ventilation, particularly if your outdoor kitchen is covered.

How about a stone hearth or pizza oven?  When you’re not making pizza, you can keep your guests warm and enjoy the ambiance of an outdoor fireplace.  A freestanding fire pit is another great option.

Outdoor Kitchen Lighting

5. Lighting I know, I know, I can’t pass up an opportunity to talk about lighting.  Our deck has lights along the railings, lights under the step so people can see it, and a light by the door.  All of these lights are low wattage and none glare in your eyes.  You can even consider solar lighting.

Add some tiki torches and it’s a summer party!  Next purchase is those wonderful LED battery operated lights to string through my umbrellas – looks amazing!

Pool Bar

Last but not least, this great photo of a kitchen you can swim too.  Yes, those are built-in bar stools in the water.

Inspired?  Where is your favorite place to cook and entertain in the summer?  I would love to hear from you!

(photo sources: and


One Response to “Wednesday Word on Interior Design: Top 5 Musts for an Outdoor Kitchen”

  1. Hickory Furniture Mart Says:

    Love this post Catherine! Nothing says summer better than a good cook out! There’s something really refreshing about outdoor furniture, especially when your surrounded by smells of food from your outdoor kitchen!

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