The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new appreciation of backyards and other outdoor spaces. With many of us spending hours and hours at home, we’re all looking for places to relax other than the living room sofa and kitchen. If you have a yard with ample space for you and your family, consider yourself blessed.
But in 2021, outdoor space owners might want to consider taking it up a notch with one of the most sought-after features: an outdoor kitchen.
“I looked at this as an investment our family would enjoy for the next 20-plus years,” says lifestyle expert Evette Rios, who recently embarked on her own outdoor kitchen project.
For people who dream of spending even more time cooking outside and enjoying their backyard, an outdoor kitchen is a must. And now’s the time to get to work to ensure your kitchen is ready when the warm, sunny days arrive.
Take a look at the tips below from experts who have successfully completed outdoor kitchen projects of their own.
1. Set a budget
Outdoor kitchens are not a cheap investment, but the price range is really broad. The cost of an outdoor kitchen ranges from $5,406 to $21,699, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Therefore, there are many ways to tailor your kitchen to your budget.
That being said, you should always prioritize durable materials in an outdoor kitchen.
“Interior furnishings afford a bit more leeway on where you splurge and save,” says HGTV star Laurie March. “But for outdoor kitchens and living spaces, performance and durability—when it comes to cabinetry and appliances—will always be worth it.”
2. Seek out American-made products
March says COVID-19 has caused major global supply chain interruptions, which has made acquiring building materials and appliances difficult. But sourcing for your outdoor kitchen might be easier if you opt for American-made products.
“I selected Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, which are manufactured in Connecticut. It made the process so much easier,” says March.
She says it wasn’t only about convenience, but also craftsmanship, quality, and the company’s established history.
3. Order appliances early in the planning process
Appliances are what will make your outdoor kitchen shine. But you’ll want to order them sooner rather than later because some companies have long lead times or backordered items.
March advises finalizing appliance picks first and ordering as quickly as possible.
“It’s easier to store them until you’re ready to install rather than have to wait for them to arrive, which can add substantial time to your project,” she says.
4. Design with four seasons in mind
Rios highly recommends designing your outdoor kitchen for year-round enjoyment. For example, in her outdoor kitchen, she knew she wanted durable, high-quality cabinets to keep contents dry even in rain or high humidity.
“Heating elements in different zones of the outdoor space are also crucial,” says Rios. “In the kitchen, our pizza oven helps keep us warm during food prep, and the fire pit is a cozy spot for guests to gather.”
If you have a covered outdoor space, she recommends planning and budgeting for ceiling-mounted heat lamps, or invest in one or two free-standing, mobile heating units.
5. Find the right people for the job
March says homeowners should do their homework and hire the right professionals to guide them through their vision, flag any potential pitfalls, and elevate the overall aesthetic.
“For me, bringing a landscape designer onboard brought the whole vision for our outdoor kitchen and yard together,” says March.
Rios says it’s also important to lock in a trusted contractor and installer to ensure the vision and layout for your outdoor kitchen is doable and within your budget.
6. Have fun with color
Rios says an outdoor kitchen is the perfect space to have fun with color, whether taking cues from the surrounding landscape or going bright and bold.
“Blues and greens can so easily play off of surrounding elements outdoors. I’m over the all-white kitchen, and I think outdoor kitchens are the perfect opportunity to embrace brighter hues,” says Rios, who used a beautiful juniper-green, powder-coat finish on her outdoor kitchen cabinetry.
7. Design based on how you’ll use your space
“Asking yourself the right questions as you think through design options can provide a lot of helpful guidance,” says March. “How do you want to live outdoors? What’s not working with your current or past space, and how could it rise up to meet you a bit better?”
She says it’s also important to consider who’s going to use the outdoor kitchen space. Does it need to be wheelchair-accessible or suitable for pets and kids?
“These details will dictate so much of your design,” says March.
For her space, she envisioned how it could pivot from a space to cook to a space to entertain. The big, open shelf she installed, for example, serves as additional landing space for items she brings out from the indoor kitchen.