Simple Guidelines for Planning a Summer Outdoor Kitchen

cal-flame-outdoor-kitchen-cabinetsWhen planning and laying out your in-home kitchen, careful consideration is put to efficiency and aesthetics.  These same guidelines can be the basis of design for your summer outdoor kitchen.  Whether you decide to design your summer kitchen on your own, or choose to hire a professional, these simple tips will help you decide how to have the perfect summer kitchen for you and your family.

LOCATION: When deciding on where your summer kitchen should be located, keep these tips in mind.  Try to locate the summer kitchen in an area of your backyard that allows the most flexibility in entertaining, serving food, and accessing the main house.  Locating a summer kitchen in a far remote section of the yard will create fatigue for the cook, and inconvenience for the guests.  Locate the summer kitchen adjacent to the back patio area, pool, and patio entrance to the home. This way guests are engaged in eating and recreation, and the cook has close access to the indoor kitchen.

FUNCTIONALITY: To ensure your summer kitchen is efficient and pleasurable to work in, consider ‘areas’ for preparing, cooking, washing/drying, and entertaining. The preparation area should have ample counter space and be adjacent to a sink and refrigerator. Storage of utensils and condiments should also be in arms reach.  The main grill and cooking area should be planned to have enough room to stand at the bbq grill, but also set food down beside.  Counter space on either side is essential, as well as room for guests to walk around without getting too close. Cleaning hands, utensils and food can be done inside your home.  If you want convenience from running back and forth, a sink is an excellent amenity to add your kitchen.

SELECTION OF ACCESSORIES: The option list for accessories is long and vast for summer kitchens. Determine what your entertaining wants and needs are for you and your family.  A family who only cooks for a few people will have very different needs than an avid cook who throws large parties 2-3 times a week. Warming drawers, smokers, griddles, and rotisseries are just a few accessory options available for summer kitchens. Your budget and the variety of cooking methods you use will help you decide.

MATERIALS: Consider the climate where you live when choosing materials.  If you live in a climate that experiences harsh winters, ceramic/porcelain tiles for flooring and countertops may crack.  Instead, concrete or natural stone would be a better decision. Conversely if you live near the beach with salt air, corrosion proof stainless steel would be a good choice for sinks and accessories.  Ask a professional summer kitchen designer if you need help choosing materials appropriate for your climate.

LIGHTING: You will want to enjoy your kitchen in the evenings as well. Lighting for cooking, preparing, and entertaining should be considered.  If you have a covered shelter, roof, or pergola – lighting can be installed on the underside.  Consider using task lighting around the summer kitchen itself and ambient lighting in the surrounding areas where guests will mingle.

Summer kitchen planning can be simplified with these simple tips, and asking questions. If you plan on building yourself, use a licensed contractor that can help you with plumbing and electrical requirements.  By following these tips, your backyard can have a beautiful summer kitchen to last for years to come.


Ronique Gibson is an Associate Architect and a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited Professional.  She has a design service, Stagetecture, which provides home staging, organization and interiors expertise to those who love their homes.

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