It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, mid-summer grilling season has arrived along with the hot weather. But maybe your backyard isn’t quite an oasis of al fresco dining.
If you want a fresh look but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ideas to pique your creativity and get you ready to renovate.
As with any home improvement project, there are a few factors to consider when planning your outdoor kitchen. Here are a few:
- Size of your space
- Style preference
- Choice of materials
- Equipment, furniture, and other features
- Lighting and shade solutions
- Budget limitations
- How often you plan to use it
- Anticipated level of maintenance
- Local zoning bylaws
- Building codes
- Durability and weather resistance
The Work Flow
When designing an indoor kitchen space, we always follow the golden rule of the kitchen triangle. While the layout won’t be identical for an outdoor kitchen, the concept should be similar. You’ll need to access your fridge, sink, and your grill.
However, because this space is fundamentally different from an indoor kitchen, we approach it a little differently.
Instead of the triangle, your outdoor grill space should include wet, dry, hot, and cold zones. Your wet zone is where you can wash your ingredients before you prep them in the dry zone. The hot zone is for your grill, while the cold zone is for your fridge.
A logical progression would be to start with your cold zone, then move to the wet zone. Next to that, you’ll have the dry zone, and then finally, your hot zone. Think about whether you like to work left-to-right or right-to-left, as this will definitely come into play during the design phase.
Like an indoor kitchen, your outdoor food prep area can be any shape or size. U-shaped, L-shaped, galley, and island styles are all excellent choices for your open-air kitchen. So-called “one-wall” or “straight line” kitchen spaces are pretty popular too, as they’re space-efficient.
A U-shaped or elongated L-shape is perfect for homeowners that want the all-in-one kitchen and sit-up bar look. This way, you can grill and entertain your guests simultaneously.
No matter what shape you choose, make sure to leave plenty of “landing space” on either side of your zones. This way, you have room to prep and set down dishware when it’s time to plate.
Regardless of how much space you’re working with, your kitchen prep area should be proportional to the dining area. If you’re really tight for space, you can even combine them into a shared cooking and dining area.
If you want the full grillmaster fantasy, go all out on your barbecue – within reason, of course. If cooking is important to you, it’s okay to splurge a little in this area and cut back on other design elements. It’s all about priorities!
Instead of a full-size fridge, try a mini-fridge that will fit underneath your countertop. Don’t forget about storage cabinets to hold all the necessities, including dishware. Melamine dishes are a great choice because of their durability, and they come in a wide range of styles and colors.
Design and Dine
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to think about the décor. Pick out your table and seating, thinking about how many guests you plan to have dining with you, both now and in the future.
What’s your style? Is it clean and classical? Perhaps it’s more of a relaxed, cottage-by-the-lake vibe, or a rustic Spanish villa look. Whatever your preference, there’s a way to translate it to outdoor decor.
Don’t neglect the flooring. If your dining lounge isn’t located on the deck, flagstones or cement pavers look great underfoot. To illuminate the space, play around with lanterns, strings of lights, torches, and integrated outdoor lighting.
For a smaller, more affordable shade solution, try a hanging cantilever umbrella. For more coverage—and a higher price tag—you may enjoy a stylish pergola, which accents your space without overwhelming it.
Whatever your taste, make sure to choose durable, exterior-approved furniture and decor. You want your investment to withstand the elements!
Finally, remember to set the table. A nice fabric tablecloth is great, but woven placemats are a low-maintenance alternative. Add candles, flowers, and other decorative items for that extra little something. All you need now is your friends and family around you!