Home Design: Furnishing the Outdoor Kitchen of Your Dreams

Use these tips to build an inviting space that combines luxury and functionality

Many of us dream of having an outdoor kitchen, and we all have our own ideas about how we’ll use it. Some want a place to entertain guests, or one that allows them to enjoy the outdoors more fully, while others want an alternative cooking space that won’t heat up the house.

These divergent kitchen goals naturally dictate furnishings and other design decisions. While each kitchen is unique, there are some common elements that homeowners should consider before the work starts.

Lighting your outdoor kitchen

The kitchen is one place where ambient lighting isn’t enough. Many tasks happen in different parts of the kitchen, and those work areas need to be well-lit to see what we’re doing to avoid injury and to see the subtle details that make cooking the art it is.

While ambient, softer lighting is preferable for dining, when you’re cooking, you’ll want good light – particularly when daylight wanes or weather blocks the sunlight. Figure out where specific stations will be. Where are you going to chop vegetables and prepare the foods? Where will you do the dishes? Once you lay out the key working areas in your outdoor kitchen, plan your task lighting accordingly.

Lighting is also important for safety purposes. Add accent lighting where you think trip hazards may be, so people can see where they’re walking. If there’s an island, consider adding lighting so visitors and family can see where the edges are once the sun sets.

Factor in storage needs

Sure, some tools and other items may travel back and forth from your indoor kitchen to your outdoor kitchen, but you’ll want some things to have a permanent home outside for ease of access. So don’t forget to consider how much storage you will require for your outdoor kitchen. Are you storing another set of pots and pans out there? Do you have specific tableware that you’ll keep outside? What about cooking utensils? Remember, you won’t want to keep a lot of things on the counters because of animals, insects, and typical outdoor environmental issues. Whatever is stored outside should have a home that’s secured for food-safety and security reasons.

Consider usage when deciding on appliances

How often will you use your outdoor kitchen? Some appliances may be necessary, while others, like a full fridge, may not be. If you plan on using your kitchen regularly, then you may want a full set of appliances. If budget is a factor, think about the ones you’ll need most. Some common appliances used in outdoor kitchens are:

  • Grill or stove. Most would agree that an outdoor kitchen would be incomplete without a grill.  They come in many shapes and sizes, and there are gorgeous options that you can build right into your space. Also consider all the cooking options you want. Would you like a smoker included in your setup? What about a pizza oven? Or a stovetop? You can go as specific and numerous in your cooking options as you’d like.

  • Sink. A sink is a nice option for sanitation and water access. Consider how big of a sink you’ll want and how many basins.

  • Dishwasher. If you plan to do dishes outside, consider putting in a dishwasher so you can load it up and let it run, freeing you up to enjoy your evenings more.

  • Refrigeration. There are a lot of cool fridges you can use in your outdoor space. We particularly love the under-counter variety, which you can stock with just about anything you want. At the least, you’ll want one fridge to keep food cool until you’re ready to use it. Consider also having one for beverages so you don’t have to go inside whenever you want a drink.

  • Built-in trash. Critters love trash, so it’s a good idea to build your trash cans into your design to secure them. Kitchens always produce plenty of items that need to be tossed. Don’t forget this detail or you’ll end up with a trash can sitting out in the open detracting from your space.

In many places, an outdoor kitchen can be used year-round, providing you have the right shelter for it. Keeping the elements out of your outdoor kitchen is paramount if you want to get a lot of use from it. At Tandem Contracting, we specialize in building kitchens that are beautiful and functional. See how we can make your outdoor living dream a reality or contact us for more info.

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