Alfresco parties are a lot easier (and more fun!) with an outdoor kitchen. These souped-up versions offer great ideas for designing your own dream space.
Text by Julia Rutland
1 of 7Photo by Lisa Romerein
Not every kitchen needs a formal dining table. Ample seating around a coffee table gives this space a comfortable vibe. Eliminate stress over spills by upholstering with stain-proof fabrics.
• Install acrylic panels over an arbor to prevent downpours from spoiling the fun while allowing plenty of light to flood in on sunny days.
• Paint new brick the same color as existing brick for a seamless look. Using one paint color helps when you can’t match new materials with old.
• Position your kitchen close to the house so you don’t have far to lug groceries and supplies. Or, equip the outdoor room with its own refrigerator, dishwasher, and storage space.
2 of 7Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Cater to a Crowd
Chefs love U-shape kitchens for good reason: Everything’s within easy reach, and the open workspace allows busy hosts to mingle with guests.
• Keep the mini-refrigerator and other appliances under the counter so they don’t block the ocean view.
• Design a countertop that serves double duty as a prep area and dining surface. This broad concrete counter accommodates both the chef and an appreciative audience.
• Umbrellas provide affordable (and portable) shade. Measure your seating area and size your umbrella accordingly.
3 of 7Photo by Douglas Hill
A Subtle Approach
You hardly notice the kitchen components on this patio―and that’s a good thing. The cooking area doesn’t detract from the Mediterranean style or take up too much space.
• Use plate-glass and crank-out casement windows to protect cooks from wind and rain without obstructing the view.
• Incorporate punches of color to energize a neutral space. Here, vintage wicker furniture was painted a vibrant green to coordinate with the accent floor tiles.
• Carefully consider lighting. Size chandeliers and lanterns to fit the space. Add task lighting over kitchen prep areas, if necessary.
4 of 7Photo by Brian Vanden Brink
Because a ceiling protects the wood cabinets and interior-grade appliances from the weather, this fully loaded kitchen has both indoor style and outdoor ambience.
• Maximize seating with a bar-height countertop and stools. Guests who tend to congregate in the kitchen can be near the action without being in the way.
• Paint walls and ceilings bright white to make your outdoor room appear larger.
• Choose furniture options that allow for flexibility. The covers on these director’s chairs can be easily replaced as they age or modified to suit the season.
• Mix up your flooring. Here, hardworking, easy-to-clean ceramic tile defines the cooking space, while decking sets off the dining area.
5 of 7Photo by Eric Roth
You can make a corner of your deck an outdoor kitchen just by adding a grill and prep area. Here there’s also room for a stucco-covered pizza oven.
• Include appliances that aren’t practical in an indoor kitchen, such as the pizza oven.
• To save space for lounging, use the perimeter of a deck for your kitchen area.
• Position your grill or fire pit to keep smoke from wafting into seating areas or back into the house.
6 of 7Photo by Jean Allsopp
Basic, But Better
Ready to shop? Every outdoor kitchen starts with a great grill. Even if you don’t have a lot of space to work with, you can fit up-to-date equipment in a compact area.
• Choose modular components for customized installation.
• Opt for materials such as stainless steel and granite that can weather an outdoor setting.
• Stack appliances in tight spaces. This five-burner grill features a rotisserie cooker, and the entire unit sits atop two warming drawers.
7 of 7Photo by Jean Allsopp
• Plan your kitchen to suit your cooking style. Casual cooks may need only a grill island, while experienced chefs may want a rotisserie, smoker, warming drawers, or even a lobster-boil cooktop unit. Consider a large sink for cleaning the day’s catch.
• Pellet grills use small wood pellets to cook foods and infuse them with flavor. While these grills may cost more than traditional choices, they are clean burning and energy efficient.