Design a Dream Outdoor Kitchen in a Small Space

Spending time outdoors cooking, dining, and entertaining is a dream for many homeowners. But designing your ideal outdoor kitchen and bar area can be a challenge when yard space is limited. With some creative planning, a compact perimeter design, and multifunctional furnishings, you can have the outdoor oasis you’ve always envisioned–even with a petite backyard.

An outdoor kitchen opens up possibilities for al fresco dining, effortless entertaining, and casual family gatherings any time of year. Cooking and grilling outdoors in the fresh air is a favorite summer pastime. By incorporating a bar area, your outdoor kitchen also becomes a designated hangout spot where people naturally congregate.

Optimize Layout and Workflow

When dealing with a small footprint, smart layout and spacing is crucial. A galley or L-shaped design allows you to get the most out of a narrow area against your home’s exterior. Keep like functions together in designated prep, cook, clean-up, and storage zones so you can move efficiently from one task to the next.

Be sure to allow enough elbow room around appliances and at least 32 inches of clearance between separate stations. Position the outdoor sink close to the prep space. Locate the bar area conveniently near where the bartender can easily access supplies.

Maximize Your Square Footage

Expanding vertically is one of the smartest ways to maximize every inch. Mount suspended shelves or add wall-mounted racks for hanging pots and pans right above the work area.

small outdoor kitchen with bar

Storage cabinets with drawers built in underneath the grill and counters offer concealed storage that clears up precious counter space. If you’re tight on floor space, go vertical with stacked upper cabinets. Just be sure to install cabinets at reachable heights.

Multifunctional Furniture Saves Space

When working with limited square footage, furniture that serves double or triple duty is a must. Nesting tables that fold up flush to the wall come in handy for extra seating only when you need it. An outdoor storage ottoman does quadruple duty as a foot rest, table top, extra seating, and hidden storage.

Small rolling carts give you flexible prep space or beverage service. Then tuck them out of the way when not in use. Dining tables with built-in ice buckets eliminate the need for separate beverage stations.

Include Essential Appliances

While your outdoor kitchen and bar doesn’t need every bell and whistle, there are certain appliances that make an outdoor cooking space truly functional.

At the top of the must-have list is a durable grill with enough capacity to handle the size of your gatherings. A built-in unit saves precious ground space versus a freestanding cart model. Include a vent hood overhead to whisk away smoke and fumes.

An outdoor sink allows for easy clean-up closer to the action. While not strictly necessary, a small under-counter refrigerator lets you store cold drinks and perishables so you make fewer trips inside.

Outdoor TV for Entertainment

If enjoying sports, movies, or TV shows outdoors is part of your vision, install a weatherproof flat screen above your outdoor bar. Aim it where it can be viewed from the grilling area and seated gathering spots. Add a sound bar for better audio if you’ll frequently have a crowd.

Run connection cords and cables cleanly through walls and ceilings to preserve your outdoor oasis aesthetic. A water-resistant outdoor TV cover protects the screen when not in use.

Focus on Multi-Functional Furnishings

Choosing furnishings like seating and tables that serve multiple purposes will maximize both functionality and comfort in compact square footage.

Opt for stools that tuck under the bar counter when not in use. Benches lined with weather-resistant cushions can seat a crowd. Then the cushions can be stacked up to clear more floor space for mingling.

Lightweight aluminum or resin wicker outdoor chairs take up less space than bulky patio furniture. Look for stackable chair designs to minimize the footprint.

Get Creative with Your Layout

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to your layout. For example, if you have high ceilings, consider installing a loft space above your bar area for additional seating. This creates two entertaining zones without claiming more ground space.

An oversized umbrella with a built-in heater unit allows you to use diagonal wall space for fitting in extra chairs and tables under its canopy. This zone can serve as an al fresco dining area next to the kitchen.

Don’t Forget Lighting

Installing proper lighting transforms a compact outdoor kitchen and bar from purely functional to an inviting oasis after dark.

Recessed lights, pendant lamps, or track lighting above the main prep and cooking area supply essential task lighting. Stylish hanging pendant lights above the bar create a focal glow.

Low-voltage LED lighting illuminates steps and pathways to safely navigate at night. Strands of Edison string lights supply ambient lighting and a festive touch overhead.

Create Lighting Zones

Divide your compact outdoor area into separate lighting zones based on primary uses. Bright focused task lighting allows safe meal prep. Dimmer mood lighting sets the stage for relaxed lounging around the bar. Accent lighting illuminates architectural or design focal points.

Control lighting zones with dimmers so you can adjust the brightness and ambiance as needed. Install smart bulbs and control lighting from your phone.

Design for Entertaining

A well-designed outdoor kitchen space in any size footprint seamlessly facilitates casual entertaining and memorable gatherings.

Include seating around the perimeter of the bar area, whether barstools or a corner banquette. This encourages people to gather and mingle. An outdoor sectional or curved sofa facing the kitchen also invites lounging and conversing.

Gathering Extras

Include extra amenities to enhance entertaining. For example, install Bluetooth speakers linked to your phone to set the mood with music.

A USB charging station mounted around the bar allows guests to easily charge devices. Weatherproof covers allow you to safely store items like toss pillows when not in use.

Consider a ventless gas fireplace or free-standing heating unit to take the chill off in cooler weather. Ceiling fans encourage air circulation on hot afternoons and evenings.

Get Creative With Materials

Using weather-resistant and durable finishes allows your compact outdoor kitchen to hold up for the long haul. Stainless steel, stone, and tile are ideal easy-care options in wet areas like the sink, bar, and around the grill.

But don’t be afraid to also add some character and color by mixing in different materials. For example, concrete or butcher block countertops add organic warmth. Painting your cabinetry a vibrant hue injects cheerful personality.

Wicker barstools, colorful throw pillows, and potted plants liven up small spaces. An outdoor rug adds softness underfoot and visually defines the lounge area.

Personalize with Purpose

Make your petite but mighty outdoor kitchen unique with personal touches that also serve a purpose. For example, install shelving to display your vintage pottery collection. Use wall space for hanging herb gardens or spice racks.

Arrange your eclectic glassware in open shelves or mounted wine glass holders. Describe items with small decorative plaques to add personalized character.

Don’t let a small yard deter you from creating your ideal outdoor living space. With smart layout, multifunctional furnishings, and creative design choices, you can pack all the features that matter most into a compact, perimeter kitchen.

Focus on durable, low-maintenance materials that can withstand weather and frequent use. Proper lighting transforms the space from day to night. When each element serves multiple roles, you can comfortably cook, dine, lounge, and gather right outside your back door.

A thoughtfully designed small outdoor kitchen has everything you need to kick back and savor the sights, scents, and sounds of outdoor living.

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