How to plan an outdoor kitchen from layout to appliances - Grand Designs Magazine

How to plan an outdoor kitchen from layout to appliances

Our outdoor-kitchen advice will help you plan your perfect garden entertaining space ready for Spring

By Mary Richards |

We all love to make the most of the good weather, and one of the best ways to do that is to take our cooking and dining al-fresco with an outdoor kitchen. Matching the quality of the indoor space, complete with integrated appliances and dining areas, outdoor kitchens are quickly becoming a must-have for many homes. Here, we’ll look at how to plan an outdoor kitchen, taking into account product advancements, which mean you can often buy off-the-shelf products that do what you want, rather than having to go the DIY route.

1. Layout

First things first, you’ll need to decide on a location for your kitchen. If you have a large garden, the idea of locating your outdoor entertaining space away from the main house may be attractive, but there are practical considerations to keep in mind. A garden kitchen adjoining your home not only makes it easier to access power sockets, it also means your guests don’t need to travel as far to reach the bathroom, and you can take shelter swiftly should the weather turn.

You should also consider the orientation of your garden. Is it a space that enjoys the sun from midday to evening? Or could prevailing winds make outdoor cooking tricky?

^ This outdoor dining room uses Paglierino tiles from Stone & Ceramic Warehouse who have porcelain slabs, tiles and worktops in everything from wood-effect to concrete-effect designs.

2. Materials

As well as creating a look you love, the capacity for materials to endure the weather should be high on the agenda for your outdoor kitchen. Concrete, brick, stone, ceramic and quartz make for brilliantly durable options, when treated, and can replicate the look of an internal kitchen. Many companies making engineered stone for indoor use, now have products that are suitable for outdoor use.

^ König Outdoor offers Neolith sintered stone, ideal for outdoor use and available in a range of designs from marble to concrete, plus a high-end design service featuring top-brand appliances.

Natural stone can be a good way to go, too, providing a natural hard-wearing surface which can be used to mix and match with other materials, such as wood.

Lundhs stone outdoor surface

^ Lundhs‘ beautiful Norwegian larvikite and anorthosite natural stone makes perfect frost- and heat-proof outdoor work-surfaces that resist scratches, sun damage and stains.

While the options mentioned so far give an ultra-modern look, in contrast, hardy woods can help to bring the natural edge to your kitchen so that it feels at home in a garden setting.

Bartholomew Landscapes outdoor wood kitchen - grand designs

Hardy woods bring a natural edge to outdoor kitchens. Photo: Bartholomew Landscapes

3. Appliances and fixtures

Cooking appliances for a garden kitchen are generally barbecues, smokers, pizza ovens, tandoori ovens and more. These are often freestanding appliances that allow you move them around as required, and the choice has increased over the years, with electric BBQs, such as the Charbroil Smart-E. The advantage of going electric is that you get the same heat no matter how long you want to cook for.

However, there are many outdoor kitchens, especially modular, which also include traditional hob cooktops.

Furniture is important, as you’ll need storage and somewhere to put rubbish while you’re using your outdoor kitchen. Again, there are a variety of products to choose from, including industrial-style freestanding units.

An outdoor kitchen with BBQ inset in furniture

^ Another super-cute entertaining space featuring industrial-chic Industville lighting.

If you’re looking to build something more permanent, Darren Turnbull, co-founder of outdoor kitchen designers BBQ Kitchens, points out how far the market has come lately: “Outdoor kitchen products have really progressed in the last two to three years as more homeowners develop their rear gardens for entertaining. Previously, these products didn’t exist, so the old approach was either DIY or finding a garden designer to design something, then finding a builder to ‘knock it up’.

“But outdoor kitchens are now speciality products, built with the same style and functionality as indoor kitchens, just from materials that are specifically designed to live outside. The approach to design is the same as an indoor kitchen, where you should meet with a specialist outdoor kitchen design/supply/installation company who will walk you through all the different products, grills, appliances, and accessories to meet your needs.”

BBQ kitchens outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

^ BBQ Kitchens‘ has a range of dedicated outdoor furniture and appliances.

Many companies, such as Grillo, sell pre-configured layouts (or you can design your own), which can make buying a kitchen or bar much easier.

^ Grillo’s stylish outdoor kitchens and bars are made in England, you can choose from pre-configured layouts or design your own.

A fridge is great for outdoor entertaining, as it can be used for drinks as well as keeping food fresh in warmer weathers. Although you’ll need to consider whether your space will have an electricity connection. Additionally, try to include a sink in your outdoor kitchen for food prep, hand-washing and rinsing dirty plates.

4. Connecting services

If your outdoor kitchen is away from the main house, think about what services need to be connected to the space. If you have a fridge, or want better lighting options, then you’ll need a power source. Many cooking appliances can be operated with propane cylinders. However, the initial cost connecting up your gas mains could be worth it, especially if your outdoor space also features a gas firepit.

EQ Kitchens outdoor kitchen with BBQ and sink

^ EO Kitchens are custom handmade in Britain from powder-coated stainless steel; Millboard, a composite used for decking and building cladding; and hardwearing, beautiful Dekton.

5. Protection from the elements

“Options for shelter include everything from simple timber pergolas to oak-framed barns and sail shades,” explains Craig Ormiston, founder of Life Outdoors. This protection means that your furniture can stay dry during those unexpected summer downpours. And also means you can have more control over light and exterior temperature. “Modern louvred-roof pergolas are remote-controlled and come in any colour. They can have heating, lighting and a sound system installed.”

Louvred pergola from Caribbean Blinds

^ A louvred pergola, like those from Caribbean Blinds, could make the perfect contemporary context for your outdoor kitchen or a shaded seating area for your guests.

There’s also a growing range of pre-fab outdoor entertaining spaces. At one end of the scale, if you’re more interested in entertaining than cooking, you can buy a ‘bar in a shed’ from companies like Dunster House. It have a whole range of fun shed pubs and bars from £350 upwards, all with excellent names, such as the Hangover corner bar or the Terminator pub shed.

At the other end of the scale, if money is no object, what about the WildKitchen developed by Guy Ritchie (yes, that Guy Ritchie)? This is an upmarket, retractable hardwood tent featuring everything you need for outdoor cooking, including a barbeque grill, charcoal/wood oven, dining table, cast iron cooking plate, prep station, hanging rack for utensils and smoke-free fire pit. Or you can opt for the WildTable version, minus the tent.


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6. Talk to a specialist

For larger-scale projects, in particular, it makes sense to talk to a specialist so you know what you can achieve and what’s best for the space that you have.

As Turnball explains, “We spend most of our time educating both garden designers, architects, and customers that they don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when it comes to outdoor kitchens. All they need is for someone like us to show them the different options and they can choose the best brand and style to match their dream outdoor space.”

“The other key thing to remember is that an outdoor kitchen is more about design, home development, and entertaining, than it is about grilling. Outdoor kitchens really are incredible these days, and the world is your oyster in terms of size, shape, style, functionality, and accessories. The right products will last for years and years and continue to look as good as they did when first installed.”

^ BBQ Kitchens promises expertly designed outdoor kitchen cabinetry that will let you enjoy cooking in your outdoor kitchen as much (if not more!) than you do inside.