Outdoor kitchen design ideas
outdoor kitchen ideas: kitchen on a decked area in cornwall coastal cottage

Design tips for your outdoor kitchen

Advice on planning your al fresco cooking and entertaining space

By Hugh Metcalf |

Entertaining at home has moved beyond wheeling out a rusty barbecue once a year. Many homeowners are instead looking to invest in outdoor kitchens that mimic the sophistication of their indoor cooking spaces, with built-in appliances, prep space and beautifully furnished seating areas.

If you’re considering an outdoor kitchen, these design ideas will help you create a space that is both functional and stylish.

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 powerpoints, 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?

When it comes to the practical layout of your space, follow the same design rules you would for an indoor kitchen. Think about how your kitchen is orientated in comparison to your dining space. For example, to avoid you having your back to friends and family when cooking, invest in a kitchen island.

Also consider the functionality of your space, in regards to where you store, prep, cook and clean. Creating a ‘working triangle’ between stove, sink and fridge is the golden rule in a home kitchen, but you can adapt this to whatever features your outdoor kitchen includes.

outdoor life fire magic kitchen garden - grand designs

This outdoor kitchen by Life Outdoors showcases how it can be in the garden whilst being protected from the elements

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

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.

Another consideration is storage (there can never be enough for outdoor seat cushions) and somewhere to put rubbish while you’re using your outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchen with green tiles and plants

Freestanding kitchen units from Vlaze Adapt can be moved from indoors to outside

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.

unique home stays katie weaving outdoor kitchen - grand designs

You may need an outdoor power source. Photo: Unique Home Stays

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.’

Image: This sink from Lundhs is great for al fresco food prep and rinsing dirty dishes

This sink from Lundhs is great for al fresco food prep and rinsing dirty dishes