Outdoor kitchen ideas: 36 chic designs to elevate your alfresco entertaining
We've got outdoor kitchen ideas to suit any style of plot – from sleek worktops and built-in grills to colorful tiles and rustic looks
Are you on the lookout for outdoor kitchen ideas? If you love to host friends and family in the garden, adding a cooking zone to your plot could be just the update you need.
Outdoor kitchens are incredibly practical for when entertaining alfresco. So if you're already considering outdoor bar ideas, why not go one step further? With everything within arm's reach out in the fresh air, there's no need to endlessly trudge in and out of the house to wash up or check on the cooking. That means you can spend more time with your guests (and in the sunshine) when dining outdoors.
And the best news? They can be done on as low or high a budget as you like – from super-sized, roof-covered set-ups with all the mod cons, to portable, modular kitchens perfect for smaller plots. Whether you love contemporary styles or a more rustic feel, you'll be sure to find a design that's just right for your yard.
Outdoor kitchen ideas: 36 set-ups perfect for cooking up a storm
To get you inspired to create your own outdoor kitchen, regardless of the size of your garden, we've listed our very favorite ideas.
1. Make the most of vertical space
Outdoor kitchen ideas provide the perfect opportunity to truly make a statement. So why not go big and bold and make the use of all that vertical space?
Giant shelves such as these make a striking impression and look fabulous adorned with displays of dried garlic and chillies. Here, potted herbs smartly line the lower level – always handy for adding an extra touch of pizzazz to dishes.
And, if your collection of pots and pans is one to be proud of, then make them a feature in themselves. These copper beauties look wonderful hung from a matching metal bar, and contrast enticingly against the black backdrop. Warm, wooden tones and an amber-colored, oversized vase complements the lavish theme whilst balancing out the inky-hued shelves.
2. Go modern with monochrome
A monochrome palette will always be a winner in our books, especially if you're a lover of modern garden ideas.
So, for a pared-back outdoor kitchen that oozes with cool, pair black finishes with pale wood, clean lines, and sleek paving. Concrete-effect planters and design-led furniture will provide a perfectly Scandinavian finishing touch.
Full-width sliding doors will encourage an airy feeling of flow between indoors and out, whilst a cover overhead will mean you can enjoy grilling on your best BBQ whatever the weather. It's a great way to extend your living space.
3. Mix up the textures
Looking for a touch of luxe for your outdoor kitchen ideas? Then you might feel inspired by the chic set-up above.
Of course, an azure-colored pool nearby will always add a sense of opulence to a scene. However, this outdoor kitchen is full of eye-catching design features in its own right. The mix of materials feels considered yet fun, with the likes of marbled worktops, white-washed bricks, tiled paving, and brushed chrome features marrying together beautifully due to their harmonious palette.
The on-trend tones are mirrored in the exposed beams of the overhead roof, which sports a central ceiling fan with light for keeping cool in the heat and illuminated in the dark. Plus, a mounted television will provide entertainment whenever needed. It's a must-have for watching the big game with friends out in the fresh air.
4. Add plenty of herbs
Freshly picked herbs will elevate any meal, whether it's basil torn across a pizza, parsley scattered over barbecued fish, or mint sprinkled across slow-cooked lamb. So when it comes to outdoor kitchens, it's always a good idea to have these fragrant and flavorsome plants easily to hand.
This garden above is a great example. It uses tons of statement planters of all different sizes to offer a harvest of herbs whenever needs be. And all the verdant green really pops against the dark color scheme of the kitchen area, which effortlessly oozes with a sense of industrial cool.
Want to recreate the scene? You can learn how to grow parsley, how to grow basil and how to grow dill in our guides.
5. Define the zone with an arch
There are plenty of ways to define different zones of your plot (just take a look at our garden divider ideas for inspiration). But one of our favorites is with an arch.
It instantly adds vertical interest and structure to a space, helping to form a garden 'room'. Take this modern gray design, for instance, which frames a cooking area beautifully whilst still providing an airy open-plan feel. The matching walls and chrome cooking equipment enhance the harmonious and modern vibe, whilst timber worktops balance the scene with their warm and natural tone.
6. Shelter your kitchen with a high-tech pergola
If you want to use your outdoor kitchen all year round, then investing in a high-tech pergola could be the way forward. Sure, it's not the cheapest approach, but it will provide all the comforts of an indoor room whilst allowing you to cook out in the fresh air.
A louvered roof that adjusts at the touch of a button will enable you to control how much shade and shelter your set-up gets – so even if it's swelteringly sunny or pouring with rain, you can cook in comfort. LED lighting will add a warm and enticing nighttime glow, whilst heaters mounted to the sides will mean that you'll be tempted to fire up the grill even in the cold depths of winter.
There are more clever roof ideas for pergolas in our dedicated feature.
7. Go for fold-down worktops
Looking to save on space? Take a cue from this stylish set-up that's perfect for small gardens. It's the ideal accompaniment to a nearby grill as it provides all the surface area needed for chopping, marinating, and mixing. Plus, the useful shelf up top can be used to store spices, utensils, and small snack bowls. And if you fancy a refreshing tipple alongside your meal, the design can be used as a bar, too.
Once the meal's over, simply fold it back up neatly out of the way. We love the living wall above it too – if you want to recreate the look, why not fill it with easy-grow herbs for boosting your culinary creations?
8. Try charcoal tones
Using inky black or charcoal gray tones in a kitchen will always make an on-trend statement – perfect if you're looking to give your cooking zone a contemporary edge.
Take this stunning area designed by Greencube Design for instance, which is part of a modern family garden. We love the visual impact made by this panelled walling and shelving set-up. And it's practical too, offering plenty of space for prepping food and storing logs.
Looking for more color inspiration? Our guide on garden color schemes is a great place to start.
9. Create a rustic-style living space
This rustic space has something for everyone, and the look is beautifully harmonious, too. This is due to the consistent use of warm-hued stone used for the fire pit, worktops, surrounding half walls, and traditional-style pizza oven.
Clever use of integrated lighting is dotted around the scene to cast a welcoming glow at nighttime, meaning that the area can be used well into the evening for hosting guests and cooking up a storm.
The paving adds another layer of visual interest whilst still complementing the zone. Meanwhile, plenty of potted plants add a welcome shot of greenery.
10. Elevate your pool parties
This backyard may be on the smaller side but there's still everything needed to enjoy outdoor living in style.
The corner kitchen is tucked away neatly to one end of the plot. In terms of the materials used, sleek worktops and chrome equipment balance out the natural stonework and timber pergola well. And speaking of the pergola, it's a brilliant way to keep the space shaded and helps to define the zone.
Like the look of the pool too? You'll find plenty more looks in our backyard pool ideas feature.
11. Try wraparound worktops
Do you have a gorgeous tree in your garden, or perhaps a statement flowerbed or pond? Try adding a wraparound worktop – it's a great use of space and will provide you with a lovely view as you get your food prep on.
Add some bar stools and an area can be used for drinks and dining, too. Just be careful positioning a grill beneath overhanging branches though – you don't want to create a fire hazard.
12. Hang curtains around a kitchen zone
Looking for some new garden privacy ideas or tired of swatting away wasps and mosquitoes? Something like this could be the solution.
Suspended from a sturdy structure, the draped curtains provide shelter and shade as and when needed, as well as helping to keep bugs at bay. In a light white tone, they offer a beachy vibe to the scene too as they softly float in the breeze.
13. Cozy up the scene with a statement fire bowl
The best outdoor heating ideas are both stylish and functional, so make a brilliant focal point for any outdoor entertaining space. With so many styles available it's easy to choose one to fit your theme, but we're loving this quirky, wall-mounted design for something a little different.
Meanwhile, statement red features and panels of yellow give a retro nod, however dark wood and seamless flooring keep the look feeling current. An over-sized lighting fixture continues the playful essence of the scene and will emit a welcoming glow come nightfall.
14. Use decking to elevate your outdoor kitchen
Make your outdoor kitchen ideas the star of your plot by raising them up on a sleek deck. Of course, a pergola will help to distinguish the zone further, whilst providing shaded relief from the midday sun.
Continue the wooden theme for cabinetry, shelving, and adjoining fences for a homely, rustic look. But to keep things looking fresh, try adding a statement piece of garden furniture. For instance, a bright red bench, as seen here, adds a surprising twist of color and looks great against a neutral table. Add plenty of comfy cushions and you've got a perfect set-up for all the family to enjoy.
15. Go for mocha shades and serious grills
These rich, chocolate-brown tones from the rattan bar stools and a pergola roof make a great match for natural stone paving and scrap-wood-tiled counters. The result feels totally polished and suave, albeit with a rugged edge.
Any serious outdoor chef will know the importance of a good grill or two. Teppinayaki styles make a great center point for any alfresco meal, and embedding one in a bar will tempt everyone to get involved, whilst adding to the social vibe.
Our outdoor grill ideas have lots more stunning designs for cooking in style.
16. Try terracotta hues for a Tuscan-inspired style
Bring a touch of Mediterranean flair to your outdoor kitchen ideas with terracotta tones and patterned tile flooring. Fuss-free furniture and accessories keep this look feeling contemporary – we love the simple chrome tap and light gray dinnerware.
One of the best pizza ovens is the perfect finishing touch to any Tuscan-inspired set-up. And, a red brick number complements the rest of the color palette in this scene beautifully. Plus, a cover overhead means the space can be enjoyed whatever the weather – you'll feel like you're in warmer climes in no time.
17. Double up a fireplace as a grill
This was a typical small London patio garden with an expanse of bland paving and very narrow planting beds to the perimeter. Architect and garden designer Ali Paterson transformed it into a sociable and inviting space perfect for entertaining, with a statement fireplace that doubles up as a cooking zone.
As Ali explains, an off-the-peg fireplace design was used which comes in various sizes – some of which are petite enough to fit in the smallest of gardens. Due to the add-on log retainer and grill, it can be used to whip up barbecued goodies, and worktops on either side provide ample space for food prep. And of course, even on days when it isn't being used to cook up a storm, it can still keep everyone feeling cozy.
We love the use of bold color too, which ties together beautifully with the surrounding planting.
18. Go big for the ultimate indoor-outdoor kitchen
To really maximize the use of your outdoor kitchen ideas all year round, you could take inspiration from the image above, and build the ultimate indoor-outdoor extension.
Sure, you'll need a bigger space (and bigger budget) to start with. But, the results will provide a gorgeous, sheltered spot to entertain and relax come rain or shine, night or day. The addition of ceiling fans will keep temperatures comfortable (perfect for warmer regions), plus why not install some garden lighting too?
Just add a variety of comfy seating and some of our outdoor dining ideas and you'll be all set.
19. Choose colors to match the exterior of your home
For a soothing look that feels beautifully balanced, pair your outdoor kitchen idea's palette with the exterior of your home. This example above with its duck-egg hue feels considered and cohesive, as the cladded cabinets blend with their surroundings.
A small tree is a lovely way to lift a patio space and provide year-round interest, too. Take a look at our guide on the best trees for small spaces for lots of lovely ideas.
20. Opt for patterned tiles for a fresh look
A patterned tile instantly uplifts a space and is a gorgeous way to add personality to outdoor kitchen ideas. Choose bold designs and paint surrounding surfaces to match, for a pulled-together and totally modern look.
Some handy shelving will keep everything within arm's reach, and you can also add a potted plant or two. We love how this design above is underplanted with ferns and other foliage, for an extra pop of vibrancy.
21. Go for an all-white theme
Consider an all-white theme for your outdoor kitchen ideas. Far from dull, the neutral tones will lift the space and make it feel bigger, brighter, and blissful.
We love the addition of potted white heathers in the example above, whilst sleek paving finishes the look. Such a peaceful set-up is sure to be be a joy to use.
22. Top with a herb garden for easy access
A simple scattering of herbs can elevate any meal. And if you're like us, you'll love to grow these beauties yourself, and experiment with all the different varieties and flavors. If you don't have one yet, our guide on how to create a herb garden is a great place to get started.
So, if you're planning your outdoor kitchen ideas, why not incorporate elevated planters above your worktops, ready to be filled with chives, basil, parsley, and all your other favorites? They'll be just where you need them when you're cooking up a storm, plus it'll bring a softer, greener touch to your set-up.
23. Go sleek with shades of gray
Gray gardens are so in vogue right now (see for yourself in our 2021 garden trends). And there's nothing stopping you from bringing the look to your outdoor kitchen ideas, too.
This design created by Pollyanna Wilkinson Garden Design uses a blend of gorgeous materials in hues of gray, including the built-in BBQ. Warm copper details complement the scene perfectly.
24. Put a contemporary twist on tropical
If you love our tropical garden ideas, then why not extend the theme to your outdoor kitchen? A good dose of palms and architectural foliage is all you need to bring a jungle vibe to your space. Meanwhile, minimal materials, clean lines, and muted tones will keep it feeling contemporary.
Don't forget to add one or two sun loungers too, so you can relax in your green oasis after all that cooking.
25. Up the glam factor with brushed metal features
Okay, maybe you don't have a swimming pool or lakeside view (but lucky you if you do!). However, even a smaller plot can feel luxurious with the right materials.
Brushed chrome finishes will always look sleek and make a glamorous addition to any outdoor kitchen. Add to the sophisticated style with outdoor rattan furniture and neutral tones. A built-in cover finishes the scene – simply adorn in spotlights to illuminate your evenings out-of-doors.
26. Try a corner kitchen
Put your decking ideas to good use by installing an outdoor kitchen. And, by opting for a corner design, you don't need the biggest of spaces to make it work. Double up your worktops as a chic bar – just add overhanging pendant lights for a cozy feel when the sun goes down.
You can soften the look and up the feeling of romance further by encouraging climbing plants along a back wall, as seen above. Then sit back and admire the rest of your plot with a cold drink and a plateful of barbecued goodies – bliss.
27. Make a feature of an outdoor oven
An outdoor oven like this one above deserves to take center stage. We're loving the way it's framed by a practical yet stylish hut, complete with extra shelving and two bar counters.
Plus, having the whole kitchen sheltered under a solid roof means this set-up is practical whatever the weather.
28. Invest in built-in storage
If you have a slightly larger space and budget to play with, investing in a permanent kitchen with built-in storage is a great option for die-hard outdoor cooks.
With plenty of storage for dinnerware, tools and condiments, this one above also has lots of worktop space for easy prep – plus space for drinks, too.
Need more solutions to help declutter your plot? Get organized with our garden storage ideas.
29. Pair a barbecue with handy shelving
Perhaps you have space for little more than the best gas BBQ. In which case, slimline shelving could be the answer to your outdoor kitchen prayers.
This design features a nifty wall panel, which can be fully customized to your needs – you can attach shelves, hooks and even a storage bench to the panel base. It's a great addition to one of our garden fence ideas.
30. Add a pizza oven for a Mediterranean touch
Pizza ovens are on trend right now for a very good reason: there are few things better than homemade pizza eaten straight from a hot stone slab.
Opt for lighter versions, this one above is just 30kg, and they can be placed on any sturdy surface. Which means, it'll work just as well for small balcony gardens as it will in a large plot.
31. Include an outdoor sink
Permanent outdoor kitchen ideas have the luxury of being able to incorporate almost every part of your indoor kitchen, including a sink and tap. So, you can bid farewell to carting dirty plates back into the house.
As long as you can plumb the sink in, you're all set to be able to cook and wash up from your outdoor garden. We love the way this design incorporates a splashback, too: there's nothing like a patterned tile to liven up a garden space.
We've got an entire feature crammed with beautiful outdoor sink ideas – head on over and take a look.
32. Protect from the elements with a stylish cover
Protect yourself and your food by positioning your kitchen under shelter. An existing structure on the side of your house is perfect for this, but you can easily add a pergola, a gazebo or a canopy for similar levels of protection.
Framing outdoor kitchen ideas in this way also helps to zone your garden, creating a clear cooking-dining space that's separate from other, more casual areas of the plot. A durable and practical tile underfoot, like the above, completes the look.
33. Opt for a modular design
We love Ikea for its innovative and accessible ideas at the best of times, and its line of barbecues and storage trolleys for outdoor kitchens is no exception.
The Klasen range of furniture can be combined in a variety of ways to create a garden cooking space at a low cost – and all of the products can be wheeled into storage come winter.
34. Paint it black (or green, or blue, or…)
If you're opting for a modular design like Ikea's, there’s no end to the ways you can customize your kitchen to make it your own – including painting it.
Want to inject color into your space? Choose your shade and make a feature of it. Love pattern? Get hold of some stencils and be creative! Prefer your kitchen to blend in? A dark green shade like the one shown above is perfect.
35. Invest in a kitchen-bar
An outdoor bar feels particularly useful in the summer months when you're hosting friends alfresco – so why not combine it with a kitchen for the full works?
This outdoor kitchen bar set above does just that in a sleek design. Look closely and you'll see it's actually a combination of three products: a garden bar, a drinks trolley and an outdoor kitchen cabinet. Clever, huh?
A DIY design like a pallet bar is also easy to tweak to include extra storage for cooking equipment – all you'll need is a barbecue. Our pallet furniture ideas will help get you inspired.
36. Go for meals on wheels
Another one for small spaces, this trolley is a great portable alternative to a full-on outdoor kitchen set-up.
It has worktop space for food prep, a tabletop grill for easy cooking, and extra shelving space underneath to store equipment, dinnerware and even a small bin. Plus, it moonlights as a drinks trolley, too.
What is the best material for an outdoor kitchen countertop?
Durability and hygiene should be the starting point when considering an outdoor kitchen countertop material, as says Jacques Shelton, Director at CENA Outdoor. After all, 'It will be assaulted with grease, oil, standing water, UV light, frost, and acidic foods (lemon juice and mustard are both corrosive).
'A polished counter can look superb when clean, but water marks and leaf residue will stand out, especially on a darker surface. So, consider a matt or low sheen finish.
'Granite is probably the most popular choice, being cost effective, highly durable and easy to clean,' Jacques continues. 'You could also consider stainless steel but be aware it may scratch and that will really spoil the aesthetic.' If you do go stainless, go for brushed styles which are easier to keep clean. Plus, if you're wondering how to make a garden feel modern, this will be a good start.
'There are so many smart and composite materials now available though,' Jacques says. 'These have been developed for everything, from building cladding to indoor kitchen counters.
'There is a huge array of options out there which can be used to create almost any look or feel you like.'
How do you winterize an outdoor kitchen?
Luckily, outdoor kitchens do not require much maintenance, but according to Sarah Fishburne, Director of Trend and Design for The Home Depot, it is absolutely essential that you conduct a few simple steps before winter.
Sarah shares her expert tips:
- Close all the water lines connecting outdoor kitchens to indoor plumbing.
- Drain water lines. Make sure this includes water lines to the refrigerator, sink, and ice maker.
- Open drain valves. Be sure to leave them open all winter long to protect the lines from freezing water.
- Clean out the fridge. Switch off the power and make sure it's unplugged. Remove all food items and give it a complete clean. Make sure to leave the refrigerator uncovered to ensure moisture does not accumulate under the cover.
- Clean the sink. Drain the water line, fully opening the hot and cold tabs. Give the sink a thorough clean and then cover it securely to keep winter debris from scratching the finish and entering the drain.
- Clean the grill with a degreaser, be sure to turn off the gas line and keep the hood vent closed.
- Winterize the cabinets. This will depend on the type of cabinets you have so be sure to check the material instructions.
Jacques Shelton, Director at CENA Outdoor, adds that the easiest way to keep an outdoor kitchen clean and protected from the elements is by using a cover. A custom-fitted cover is the gold standard, which will prevent water ingress, resist lifting in windier conditions, fit around appliances such as grill lids, and may help to keep out unwanted visitors.
'Even under a shelter it may still be worth considering a cover to help prevent bird droppings or sideways rain leaving unwanted marks and residue,' he adds. Plus, 'a cover which you can lift off at a moment's notice means that with a quick wipe down, you could be ready to cook!' Impromptu winter BBQ, anyone?
Don't forget to check out our other winter garden jobs to get you ready for the colder season.
Do you need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen?
Jacques Shelton, Director at CENA Outdoor, says that in the UK it is 'always worth checking on your local planning portal, but you may not need permission for an outdoor kitchen, especially without a canopy.'
This is because 'they are under the 2.4m permitted development height restriction applied by many local authorities,' he explains. 'If you wish to place a canopy overhead to provide some weather-proofing, then permitted development may allow up to 2.4m within set distance of the boundary, with height allowances increasing as you move away from the boundary.
'There are limits in terms of overall footprint in relation to the main property and the overall height,' Jacques continues. It's worth considering that for spaces over 30sqm, you may need building regulations, which may require support from engineers or architects.
'We would recommend thinking about your neighbors from a purely social aspect,' he adds. 'Noise carries on a calm dry evening when everyone is likely to be enjoying their gardens. And, of course, smell or smoke can be annoying (or tantalizing!) if you are downwind.'
For US outdoor kitchens, Sarah Fishburne of The Home Depot says, 'Normally, you don't need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen as it is not considered a permanent structure, but you should always check with your local government to ensure you are up to speed on government rules and regulations.' Of course, matters can change when it comes to extending your home to incorporate a built-in outdoor kitchen roof.
So, if you're now feeling inspired and are raring to add an outdoor kitchen to your own plot, our guide on how to design an outdoor kitchen is well worth a look.
After a stint writing for true life titles, Ellen made her venture into the world of interiors magazines in 2017 on Real Homes magazine where she is now deputy editor. She's a fan of clever tips and tricks for renters, and has a special interest in sustainability in the home. While she's waiting for a garden to call her own, Ellen keeps herself busy with her collection of houseplants – 28 at the time of writing, but ever-growing. She also enjoys helping out at her grandad's allotment and has made friends with the local cat along the way.
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