Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for a Safe, Aesthetic Entertaining Area

Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for a Safe, Aesthetic Entertaining Area

The loggia outdoor kitchen at Balmore Residence

Whether you’re working with a sprawling backyard or a cozy patio, our outdoor kitchen design tips will help you create the perfect summer entertaining space. From selecting the right layout and incorporating strategic storage to layering your lighting, we’ll guide you through ten steps to optimizing your outdoor kitchen. For additional inspiration, be sure to pore over our portfolio.

10 Outdoor Kitchen Ideas to Optimize Your Summer Entertaining Space

#1 Select the Right Layout for Your Outdoor Kitchen Design

Outdoor kitchens at Colonial Drive and Balmore Residence

When designing an outdoor kitchen space, the size and shape of your backyard might dictate the best layout. However, your cooking style, favorite activities, and typical party size will also impact which layout makes the most sense. 

For small, narrow spaces, a straight line layout is ideal because all cooking elements and appliances are within easy reach. A galley-style kitchen or peninsula could also make sense for smaller spaces. An L-shaped layout works well in medium to large spaces as it offers ample counter space and provides a clear separation between cooking and prep areas. If you love to entertain guests while cooking, an L-shaped layout might be best. 

For serious cooks with expansive backyards, a U-shaped layout promises extensive counter space and enough square footage for multiple cooking appliances. You’ll benefit from a highly efficient workflow and plenty of room for multiple cooks​. For social cooks who prefer a more open outdoor living space, consider creating a central hub around a kitchen island.

#2 Invest in Permanent Structures That Allow Year-Round Use

Wood and brick loggias at Balmore Residence and Hedwig Village

Next on our list of backyard kitchen ideas is to design permanent structures. Whether you seek shade during the summer, shelter from wind and rain during the fall, or a cozy retreat while it snows during the winter, investing in permanent outdoor structures will make outdoor kitchens more functional all year-round. But which structures can safely house outdoor kitchens? From pavilions to loggia to covered patios, homeowners have a few options when it comes to creating an outdoor living area that withstands all four seasons. 

A veranda is a roofed, open-air porch attached to the front or sides of a house. This space is typically enclosed by a railing and feels a bit like an outdoor living room. A pavilion is a more casual freestanding structure that is open on all sides. A loggia is an architectural feature that is both physically attached to a building and visually integrated. Loggias consist of a gallery supported by columns or arches, with at least one open side. They are commonly seen in Italian architecture and are ideal for backyards with stunning views, large outdoor spaces, or kitchens that need ventilation. 

As Jennifer Kelly Geddes writes in an article for Realtor.com, “Loggias do require fairly good weather to be enjoyed…[as] wind and rain can sneak through the open side.” However, the sturdiness and more comprehensive enclosure keeps furniture and appliances much safer during bad weather than a pergola or a pavilion. For hosts who enjoy outdoor living and want to feel more integrated with their guests, loggias make more sense than sunrooms or enclosed porches.

#3 Create Activity Zones Around the Kitchen

A putting green and loggia with fireplace and television

Create activity zones around your outdoor kitchen setup to keep guests close but comfortable while hosts prepare meals, appetizers, and drinks. At our Balmore Residence project, we fully optimized the outdoor entertaining areas for both hosts and guests. We added a putting green for one of our clients, a series of seating areas, and a gorgeous pool to keep everyone entertained outdoors. In just the loggia alone, there are three seating areas: one by the bar, one surrounding the dining table, and a third opposite the outdoor fireplace and television.

#4 Work with a Designer to Develop Seamless Storage Solutions

Indoor and outdoor storage solutions including base cabinets outside and a bar cart inside

Next on our list of outdoor kitchen design ideas is to invest in storage! After all, no outdoor space is truly functional (or enjoyable) without enough storage to clear clutter and carry everything you need to host a fantastic fête.

We recommend working with a design team to create storage solutions that blend with your home’s interior while standing up to inclement weather. The right combination of built-ins and freestanding storage space in outdoor furniture will keep all cooking essentials organized and within reach while preserving the aesthetic value of your new outdoor entertaining area.

To ensure they resist weathering from sun, snow, and everything in between, be sure to use weatherproof materials like stainless steel or marine-grade polymer for all built-in units in your outdoor cooking space. In addition to your outdoor kitchen cabinets, consider hidden storage within your kitchen island, behind the bar, or below your outdoor pizza oven. If rolling supplies out from your indoor kitchen, invest in a cart that matches the look of your loggia.

#5 Don’t Skimp on Outdoor Appliances

Loggia at Balmore with BBQ, fan, and seating

The perfect outdoor kitchen needs more than a gas grill and a food prep station. For a truly luxurious outdoor entertaining experience, invest in top-of-the-line appliances that seamlessly blend the functional and the fabulous! Consider stainless steel appliances like Sub-Zero or True refrigerators, Viking or Wolf ranges, and wine fridges by Monogram. Add an outdoor fireplace, build a brick pizza oven, install a built-in grill, and craft your own custom bar for what will surely feel like an endless summer.

Just be sure to select appliances specifically designed for outdoor use if dining al fresco. While appliances in an indoor space need not resist wind or cold weather, outdoor appliances must. With corrosion-resistant materials, protective coatings, appropriate ventilation, safety features, and special temperature controls, outdoor appliances will last for years if you care for them properly.

Indoor appliances might seem like a great budget-friendly option, but they quickly succumb to the elements and will need frequent repairs if left outside. Choosing outdoor-rated appliances guarantees durability, longevity, and a safe space in which to get those creative juices flowing!

#6 Illuminate Your Space with Layered Lighting

Lighting from different angles in the loggia and covered porch of our Balmore Residence

Sixth on our list of ideas to elevate your outdoor cooking and dining area is to light the way! Safety and successful hosting both necessitate appropriate lighting. To create an enchanting atmosphere in your outdoor kitchen, prioritize strategic lighting. Incorporate overhead fixtures (possibly integrated into a ceiling fan) that provide overall illumination. Complement with task lighting that ensures you never cut your thumb while chopping or swap the garlic with cumin.

Add lanterns or an electric fireplace for that soft, cozy glow. Install dimmer switches to set the perfect mood every time, whether you’re hosting a casual dinner or a raucous party. For accessibility, don’t forget to illuminate pathways leading to and from your patio kitchen.

#7 Soften Hardscape Elements with Lots of Greenery

Leafy plants surrounding an outdoor kitchen with natural textures and blonde wood

Incorporate lush greenery into your outdoor kitchen design to soften hardscape elements and create that “enchanted garden” feel. Use potted plants, hanging baskets, or vertical gardens to blend your outdoor kitchen with surrounding nature. Consider an herb garden by the outdoor kitchen for delicious dinners and elevated cocktails. Be sure to choose plants that thrive in your climate and require minimal maintenance so your outdoor space does not quickly become a burden.

#8 Elevate Your Outdoor Kitchen Space with Textiles and Interesting Textures

Colorful outdoor furniture under the covered porch of our Braeswood Place project

Who says outdoor decor has to be drab or that furniture must be stiff, and uncomfortable? Homeowners can choose from a wide variety of performance fabrics and unusual materials that make any outdoor space feel more like home. As you craft your outdoor kitchen, stand up to the boring and over-done designs found at big-box stores. Treat outdoor spaces like you would any other room in your house (while considering the weather, of course).

Consider the covered patio of our Braeswood Place project. For the dining area, we paired the clients’ existing table with dining chairs chosen by the LUDC team. For the heads of the table, we opted for white powder-coated die-cast aluminum Forest Armchairs from Janus et Cie. Surrounding the other two sides of the table are side chairs from the same Janus et Cie line.

We chose to separate the dining area from the living area by centering each on a separate LOLOI Isle Collection Grey/Blue power-loomed rug. In the outdoor living area, we chose a slate gray ombre-finish Sheridan coffee table from Four Hands.

#9 Bridge the Gap Between Indoor and Outdoor

The living room and hot tub with views of each other from our Balmore project

This next tip elaborates on the previous. Bridging the gap between indoor and outdoor is key to creating a home that supports both intimate and expansive events. As we note this post on the Journal, “Connecting indoor and outdoor spaces creates continuity and provides context while capitalizing on some of the mental, physical and emotional health benefits of biophilic design.”

While updating your home’s interior, think about views to your backyard. Similarly, consider how guests indoors might interact with those outside. Make the transition between your indoor and outdoor kitchens seamless with a connected slider or unobstructed pathway. Incorporate similar textures and tones from interior elements in your outdoor furniture.

#10 Remember, Safety First!

The pool and loggia at Balmore Residence

Last but not least, make safety a priority. As noted above, make sure all pathways are illuminated. Ensure steps are wide and shallow enough for people of all abilities to traverse. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand, watch small children at all times, and outline house rules before welcoming guests.

Ready to Transform Your Backyard into the Ultimate Entertaining Sapce?

From a built-in bar to a custom loggia to the best appliances available today, there’s nothing like an outdoor kitchen designed especially for you and your family. We understand that each of our clients has his or her own hosting style. It’s personal—just like the design of your home! Your home’s interior is a reflection of your unique needs and aesthetic; your backyard should be, too. Ready to work together? Reach out to share more about your project with our team.

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