10 Tips for Designing Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens are one of the hottest new trends, even in the Midwest. They improve the value of your home (no small thing in this soft real estate market) and create another garden room for you to enjoy. Even in the Midwest with its cold winters, people are building outdoor kitchens to extend the time they spend outside. This story recently appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times.

I recently attended a program on building Outdoor Kitchens by the Landscape Design Association, a group of Chicago-area garden designers.

Here are 10 Top Tips for Building an Outdoor Kitchen as presented by Russ Faulk of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet:

1. Usage. Do you cook yourself or do you hire a chef? Do you cook simple meals, or complicated, needing additional burners, pizza oven, wood smoking, and a gas and charcoal hybrid grill? Do you cook just for your family, or for many people at parties?

2. Location. Do you want the kitchen to be near the house and your indoor kitchen? This can be more economical because fewer appliances and less storage are needed plus gas and electrical connections are closer. Or do you need a complete, stand alone kitchen farther out from the house, for instance by the pool?

3. Design principles. Be sure to consider traditional good kitchen design: cold areas, hot areas, wet areas and dry areas, especially counter space. The National Kitchen & Bath Association Kitchen Planning Guidelines is a good resource (nkba.org/guidelines/kitchen.aspx).

4. Seating & Dining. Include dining, lounging and bar areas in the design and consider the flow of traffic. Try not to isolate the outdoor cook from the rest of the party while he cooks so that he can interact with guests and family.

5. Durability. Use materials that will withstand outdoor conditions, are easily cleaned and grease resistant, such as stainless steel, stone and tile. Check to see if the materials get hot under constant sunlight. Use outdoor rated appliances.

6. Appearance. An outdoor kitchen design should compliment the look of your home and landscape. Use appropriate materials and consider adding similar architectural details.

7. Cooling & Heating. Consider pergolas or awnings to provide shade and shelter from rain. Natural gas patio heaters, portable propane patio heaters, radiant heat under patio tiles and counter tops, fireplaces and hearths all extend use of an outdoor kitchen into cool weather.

8. Entertainment. Incorporate music with outdoor speakers systems or video monitors and televisions.

9. Lighting. Adequate task lighting for cooking at night is a must, as well as safety lighting for moving around after dark and lighting in the dining area. Decorative ambient lighting can set a mood and highlight special features.

10. Utilities. Provide plenty of outlets, check to see exactly what wattage and BTUs are needed for your appliances, and consider an exterior breaker box for ease of utility maintenance.

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