Outdoor patio kitchens and bars are becoming the hottest trend in home renovations. They provide a unique space to cook, dine, and entertain outdoors while enjoying the fresh air. However, building your ideal outdoor cooking and bar area requires careful planning and design. From choosing durable appliances and materials to effective layouts and decor, numerous factors go into crafting a stunning outdoor living space.
Whether you’re looking to add convenience for al fresco dining or build an entertainer’s oasis, follow these essential tips to create a fully-functional and inviting outdoor living area.
Carefully Plan the Layout
The foundation of any successful outdoor kitchen is an efficient and well-thought-out layout. You want to make sure there is enough room for multiple people to cook comfortably while also designating specific zones for grilling, prepping, cleaning, and dining. Consider the following layout tips:
Create convenient work triangles between key appliances like the grill, sink, and fridge so cooks can easily move between them. Allow at least 4 feet of counter space on either side of the grill for prep room and staging cooked food.
Incorporate enough space around islands and counters for multiple people to maneuver without bumping into each other. At least 5 feet of clearance is ideal.
Separate the loud grilling area from conversation zones with a bar-height counter or partial wall. This lets people mingle nearby while the chef works.
Situate the sink centrally between the grill and fridge so cooks can easily wash veggies at the prep station or clean up spills.
Designate zones for different activities like an ample dining area for meals and a lounge section with comfy seating just for relaxing.
Maximize Small Spaces
For compact patios and yards, you can still create a practical outdoor cooking space. Opt for narrower counters and smaller appliances to leave room for traffic flow. Add multifunctional carts for extra counter space and storage when needed. And maximize vertical storage with hanging racks or mounted shelving.
Select Durable and Weather-Resistant Materials
The materials you choose for countertops, cabinets, and surfaces play a big role in functionality and longevity. Since your outdoor kitchen will be exposed to harsh weather and heavy use, opt for these tried and true options:
Granite – A classic choice, granite is extremely durable, easy to clean, heat-resistant, and available in a variety of colors. The downside is it scratches more easily than some materials.
Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is a sleek, modern option perfect for grilling stations as it’s rust-resistant and easy to disinfect. However, it scratches easily and gets hot from the sun’s rays.
Concrete – Concrete makes a stylish countertop that holds up well outdoors. It’s naturally waterproof but requires resealing every 1-2 years.
Tile – Tile is budget-friendly, easy to clean, and comes in tons of colors and patterns. Use porcelain or ceramic tile; avoid natural stone as it absorbs moisture.
Storage and Cabinetry
When selecting storage units, look for moisture-proof cabinets made of stainless steel, aluminum, weatherproof wood composites, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). OR opt for open shelving using durable materials like bamboo, unfinished cedar, or corrosion-resistant metal.
Include Essential Appliances
Every outdoor kitchen needs certain appliances to function for cooking, cleaning, and entertaining. Here are some must-haves:
The grill is arguably the most important fixture in outdoor kitchens. Opt for a durable, high-heat model designed specifically for outdoor use. The three most popular fuel types are:
- Gas – Convenient and quick heating but uses propane.
- Charcoal – Gets hotter than gas and infuses food with smoky flavor.
- Pellet – Burns small wood pellets efficiently and provides light smoke.
Look for a grill with at least 400-500 square inches of primary cooking space. Many come with handy side burners perfect for heating sauces and sides.
Refrigerator and Freezer
An outdoor fridge keeps cold beverages and perishables right at your fingertips. Look for Energy Star-rated models designed for outdoor use with weather-resistant exteriors. Opt for a dual-zone or beverage center model if you’ll be storing lots of drinks. Adding a standalone freezer can provide extra storage for ice and frozen foods.
Sink and Faucet
Installing a sink allows for easy cleanup while cooking and food prep. Choose a deep double-basin sink for washing dishes and produce. For the faucet, opt for a high-arc model that lets you easily fill large pots. Look for brass fixtures with a corrosion-resistant finish.
Optional extra appliances like a pizza oven, wok cooker, or wine fridge can further enhance your space.
Install Proper Plumbing and Electrical
You’ll need access to running water and electricity to power appliances and lighting. Consider these factors:
– Hire a contractor to install gas lines, water lines, and electrical underground to hook up to your house’s main system.
– Follow all local building codes for outdoor kitchen construction.
– Choose lighting designed for outdoor use like recessed ceiling fixtures, waterproof pendants, and post pathway lights.
– Install GFCI electrical outlets near appliance zones and consider lighting controls for ambiance.
Incorporate Heating and Cooling Elements
The ability to use your kitchen comfortably year-round largely depends on heating and cooling considerations:
– Add a warming drawer, wall-mounted infrared heater, or freestanding patio heaters to keep the space cozy in cooler weather.
– Install ceiling fans or portable misting fans to keep air circulating on hot days.
– Create shade by adding an awning or pergola covered with shade cloth or climbing vines.
– Use screens or roll-down shades to enclose the space in fall and spring or expose it fully in summer.
– Incorporate a fireplace, fire pit, or chiminea to provide warmth and extend seasons.
Include Decor Touches
Finish off your outdoor kitchen and bar with decor elements that enhance the ambiance and visual appeal:
– Add stylish backsplashes using materials like handmade tiles, glass mosaics, or natural stone.
– Display your personality with unique cabinet hardware, drawer pulls, and knobs.
– Incorporate greenery with potted herb gardens, succulents, or vertical wall planters.
– Use weatherproof artwork, wall mirrors, and lighting for visual interest.
– Define spaces and create intimacy with freestanding screens or half-walls.
Add Seating and Dining Areas
Your outdoor kitchen design isn’t complete without areas for people to relax and dine. Provide a range of seating options:
– Barstools lined up at counters or islands are great for casual gathering and chatting with the cook.
– Include a dining table with 4-6 chairs for meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
– Create designated lounging areas with deep sectionals, armchairs, or chaise lounges for post-dinner relaxation.
– Use portable folding tables and stackable chairs to accommodate large groups when entertaining.
– Place small side tables between seating areas to hold drinks and serveware.
Creating a fully-equipped outdoor kitchen and bar requires considering numerous design factors from layout to decor. But the end result is an inviting oasis that seamlessly extends your living space outdoors. With quality materials and appliances, well-thought-out zones, and the right amenities, your outdoor kitchen will provide a perfect spot to gather, cook, and make lasting memories for years to come.