The summer living dream for many homeowners is the ultimate alfresco upgrade, and dedicated outdoor kitchen – the perfect place to while away sunny days and long, lazy evenings. More than an outdoor dining space, outdoor kitchen designs allow the keen cook to still enjoy the weather (and company) as they prep for light lunches, sociable feasts or just a laid back meal for one. So if you’re tempted to upgrade, take a look at our guide on how to get started on moving your culinary skills outside.
Building an outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to complicated. Or rather it only needs to be as complex as you want it to be. Just a few thoughtful additions can make a space so much more practical and a joy to use (like a proper space to put utensils or plate up dishes). A DIY outdoor kitchen could simply include a built-in BBQ and an outdoor sink to give you all you need to feel you don’t have to dash inside to complete preparations. You can also mirror the range of your indoor kitchen, with an outdoor kitchen island and a built-in grill, weather proof outdoor kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Just think about the changing seasons when planning; surfaces need to withstand the harsher elements, and grills will need to be covered. A design built of brick is more naturally weather resistant and worktop space that folds down from the wall in hardy anodised steel or poured concrete can give a cool, modernist look.
Don’t be an island
No matter how well stocked and extensive your outdoor kitchen, you will still need to consider the indoor/outside flow. Even if your dining space is far away from the house, how easy is moving between two places? You may want to bring items inside to the dishwasher or see things cooking as you pop indoors, so a clear line of vision is key. Big, sliding doors will turn your inside space into an extension of your garden, especially when matched with vertical blinds that can recede into walls to allow for a clear view. Make sure access to your outdoor kitchen is not too small or difficult to navigate. Squeezing through a narrow door or through bushes with a tray will become tiresome, and a difficult-to-use outdoor kitchen quickly becomes an unused outdoor kitchen.
Keep it fluid
When planning your space think about giving yourself the widest usability options you can. If you don’t want to be baked whilst you grill, but do want to feel the sun on your face as your dine, choosing two awnings instead of one longer one can give you the option to cover your cooking or dining area but not always both. Putting the table a little further away from your outdoor kitchen also means that diners don’t have to endure BBQ smoke. Many patio dining sets can also sit out in the sun without damage, so won’t mind the full glare. If you have a round outdoor table, you can follow the line of the table to create a flagstone seating area to create a feature, and choose a different style awning or table umbrella to reflect that. It’s these little details that can make a scheme seem well-considered and ironically, effortless.
Weather-durable fabrics and the design of outdoor dining furniture have greatly moved on in the last few years from limited rickety plastic chair options of old. Outdoor dining tables can be luxurious and treated to withstand all manner of conditions but with the style value to compete with any of its indoor counterparts. To protect them from sun fade, a motorised awning will shade your fabrics when the sun’s damaging UV rays are most aggressive. Luxaflex awning fabrics can offer up to 100% protection and in a range of patterns and styles. You can create all kinds of moods, from friendly or country garden style with a jacquard weave in a subtle pale blue to a city slick edge with an oversized pinstripe. Reflect your outdoor awning style with outdoor dining furniture to maximise the effect, such as the blocky, angular shapes of these outdoor dining chairs completing this angular, grey urban theme.
Turn the tables
When planning your outdoor kitchen ideas use it as an opportunity to consider how your outside dining can also break the mould. Do you prefer a more casual way to eat? If so, tables aren’t necessarily a given. Garden furniture has moved well beyond spindly rattan lawn furniture, so consider a low, long outdoor sofa in waterproof fabric as a chic alternative to a more formal arrangement. Or forget furniture together and plump for an array of deep filled floor cushions in an outdoor fabric in bright mismatched patterns or Moorish tones of black, white and beige.
Another important element to consider is the visual flow. Unless you want to intentionally create a very different style from that inside your home, tonal changes in fabrics and materials from both the inside décor and the building and garden will pull it all together naturally. This outside table works with both the window frames and the stone flooring. Another transition when planning these outdoor kitchen and dining spaces is when and how they will be used. Pool furniture sets are ideal for those climbing damp from a hot tub or swimming pool, or splashing with the hose and eager for lunch. (This is where outdoor rugs come in handy too, to dry wet toes before diners rush inside and leave a trail of damp footprints.)
Follow the sun
If you have the space, why not make an after dinner dining area once your outdoor cooking and dining are through? A retractable awning is ideal for outdoor living spaces that are too bright at noon but make the perfect spot for ‘sun downers’. Garden furniture sets that entice people to wander round from the dining area and continue to chat late into the evening will allow you to clear away in peace. If summer lets you down and a little rain should fall, an electric awning will quickly keep guest snug as the press of a button. Add some hotel-level hospitality with some artfully folded blankets to keep them cosy and you can all watch the fire flies, sunset or rain drops (and whatever the night brings) in total luxury.
If you’ve found our ideas on creating an ideal outdoor kitchen useful, try our guide to buying the perfect awning.