By Ellen Finch
Looking for outdoor kitchen ideas? If you love hosting in the garden and fancy taking your cooking outside too, adding a kitchen to your plot could be just the update you need.
Outdoor kitchens remove the need to endlessly trudge in and out of the house for washing up or to check on the cooking. Meaning 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.
So, to get you inspired to create your own outdoor kitchen, regardless of the size of your garden, we've listed our very favourite ideas. Whether you love contemporary garden design ideas or a more rustic feel, you'll be sure to find the design for you.
1. Try terracotta hues for a Tuscan-inspired style
Bring a touch of Mediterranean flair to your outdoor kitchen with deep terracotta tones and patterned tile flooring. Fuss-free furniture and accessories keep this look feeling contemporary – we love the simple chrome tap and light grey dinnerware.
Of course, 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 colour 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.
2. Go big for the ultimate indoor-outdoor kitchen
To really maximise the use of your outdoor kitchen 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 of our garden lighting ideas too?
Just add a variety of comfy seating and some of our outdoor dining ideas and you'll be all set.
3. Choose colours to match the exterior of your home
For a soothing look that feels beautifully balanced, pair your outdoor kitchen'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.
4. Opt for patterned tiles for a fresh look
A patterned tile instantly uplifts a space and is a gorgeous way to add personality to an outdoor kitchen. 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.
For more modern garden ideas, take a look at our feature.
5. Go for an all-white theme
Consider an all-white theme for your outdoor kitchen. 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 modern paving idea finishes the look. Such a peaceful set-up is sure to be be a joy to use.
6. 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 flavours. 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 an outdoor kitchen, why not incorporate elevated planters above your worktops, ready to be filled with chives, basil, parsley, and all your other favourites? 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.
7. Go sleek with shades of grey
Grey 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 idea, too.
This design created by Pollyanna Wilkinson Garden Design uses a blend of gorgeous materials in hues of grey, including the built-in BBQ. Warm copper details complement the scene perfectly.
8. 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 of the best sun loungers too, so you can relax in your green oasis after all that cooking.
9. 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.
10. 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 cosy 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.
11. Make a feature of an outdoor oven
An outdoor oven like this one above deserves to take centre 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.
12. 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 organised with our garden storage ideas.
13. Pair a barbecue with handy shelving
Perhaps you have space for little more than the best 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 customised 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.
14. 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 garden ideas as it will in a large plot.
15. Include an outdoor sink
Permanent kitchens 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 add pizzazz to a garden space.
We've got an entire feature crammed with beautiful outdoor sink ideas – head on over and take a look.
16. 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 one of our pergola ideas, or a gazebo or canopy for similar levels of protection.
Framing an outdoor kitchen 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.
17. 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.
18. 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 customise your kitchen to make it your own – including painting it.
Want to inject colour 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. And whilst you're there, take a look at these 5 other ways to use paint to brighten up your garden.
19. 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. Check out our pallet furniture ideas to get inspired, or we've got plenty more suggestions in our outdoor bar ideas feature.
20. 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 neighbours 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 tantalising!) 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, then head over to our guide on how to design an outdoor kitchen.
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