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How to Design the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Designer Kerrie Kelly shares her must-haves for a functional outdoor kitchen.

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Outdoor Kitchen design, Kerrie Kelly
Kerrie Kelly shares the basics of good outdoor kitchen design.

There’s just something about the aromas and flavors of al fresco cuisine that has made barbecuing, smoking and firing up that outdoor pizza oven a significant part of our lifestyle. When it comes to cooking outside, think about the following design tips that will help you cook-up the perfect outdoor kitchen suited just for you.

Begin by accessing your space. If you live on a property with lots of acreage, make sure you don’t have to walk too far from the house to the outdoor kitchen to fire up the grill. With smaller or more contained properties, decide if you have room for a fully functional kitchen or need to stick to something more simple. This is the time to determine what is essential and what is a luxury, and if your budget has room for the extras. If you rent or plan to move in the next few years, it might be a good idea to equip your outdoor kitchen with appliances and features that can move with you.

Next you will want to make a budget and stick to it. An outdoor kitchen can easily end up costing more than anticipated if you don’t plan for specific materials, appliances and labor. If your outdoor kitchen will be permanent, consider materials used on the exterior of your home, such as brick, stone, wood, concrete, stucco, metal and tile. This will create visual continuity for your outdoor kitchen. Additional costs include enlisting the services of a designer, obtaining permits, specialized tools, and professional help, such as electrical and plumbing.

Kerrie Kelley Outdoor Kitchen Urban Rooftop
This urban rooftop features an outdoor kitchen, and ample seating from Laguna Furniture.

While designing an outdoor kitchen, think about the maximum number of people you’ll be cooking for and the method of cooking you want to employ. Do you and your friends love grilled fish or a hamburger cooked over a charcoal barbecue? What about pizza cooked in an outdoor brick oven for the whole family? How about Sunday supper from the smoker? Plan several of your favorite outdoor meals and make sure that the outdoor kitchen you have in mind can handle the prep and actual cooking, while also accommodating guests.

An outdoor kitchen is exposed to the elements. Even if you don’t use it often, you will want to think about the location of your outdoor kitchen related to climate. Appliances and surfaces will need to be covered and maintained depending on your region’s weather. You want to avoid spots that are windy, too hot, too shady or cold. If you live in a region that gets a lot of rain, consider locating your grill or kitchen under a covered patio or retractable awning.

Our ideal outdoor kitchen includes solid surface countertops for easy clean-up, stainless steel cabinetry for durable all-weather storage, a wet bar for guests to serve themselves, a refrigerator to hold beverages, a 30″ gas grill and a smoker. All is housed on our side patio and the smoker can be rolled around to different areas of the yard depending on the type of entertaining we are doing. No space is the same, so make yours specific to you and your lifestyle for maximum outdoor kitchen enjoyment.

Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Labs
Kerrie Kelly is a Board Member of ASID and on the editorial advisory board of Furniture, Lighting & Decor

With more than 20-years of experience, Kerrie Kelly is creative director for Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, an award-winning California interior designer, author and contributor; product designer and multi-media consultant, helping national brands reach the interior design market.

Kerrie is a Fellow, Board Member and Foundation Trustee of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); Houzz Pro Advisory Board Member; and Member of National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). She is also an avid representative, speaker and on-air talent for Outdoor Living and Livable Design initiatives. Kerrie has authored two books: Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide with Sunset Books and My Interior Design Kit, with Pearson Professional and Career Education.

We value Kerrie's input as part of our Furniture, Lighting & Decor Editorial Advisory Board. For more from Kerrie Kelly, you can visit her website, kerriekelly.com, here.


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