Outdoor Kitchen Style: Maximizing Style & Functionality in Small Spaces

Published: April 15, 2024

Outdoor Kitchen Style: Maximizing Style & Functionality in Small Spaces

As an interior designer, I’ve always been captivated by the idea of extending our living spaces outdoors. One area that offers endless possibilities for creativity and enjoyment is the outdoor kitchen.

Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a cozy urban patio, designing an outdoor kitchen for a small space requires thoughtful planning to maximize both style and functionality. Let’s explore some tips and tricks for creating a chic and efficient outdoor kitchen in even the smallest of spaces.

Tip 1: Start with a Solid Plan

Before diving into any design decisions, it’s essential to asses the space and created a detailed plan. Consider the layout of the outdoor area, including any existing features such as trees, walls, or structures. Think about how you’ll use the space and what appliances and amenities are must-haves for your outdoor kitchen – Plenty of seating? Countertops for meal prep? Easy access to the indoors? The backyard is your canvas.

Tip 2: Optimize Layout & Flow

In small outdoor spaces, every inch counts. Opt for a layout that promotes efficient movement and maximizes usable counter space. Consider incorporating a compact island or peninsula to house undercounter refrigeration and to serve as a prep area or additional seating. Keep pathways clear and ensure there’s enough room for people to move comfortably around the kitchen.

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Tip 3: Choose Multi-functional Appliances

When selecting appliances for an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to select products that can take up minimal space while maximizing functionality. Look for grills with built-in side burners and versatile cooktops or sinks that have removable insulated ice bins with stainless steel sliding cover to keep ice on hand and stainless speed rails to keep your spirits close-by. This allows you to make the most of limited space without sacrificing functionality.

Tip 4: Focus on Quality Materials

In outdoor environments, durability is key. Opt for high-quality materials that can withstand the elements and require minimal maintenance. Consider durable countertop options such as Dekton or stainless steel, which offer both style and resilience. Choose weather-resistant cabinetry and finishes that can withstand exposure to sun, rain, and fluctuating temperatures.

Tip 5: Create Ambiance with Lighting & Décor

Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood and enhancing the ambiance of an outdoor kitchen. Incorporate a combination of task lighting for cooking and food prep areas, as well as ambient lighting to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Consider adding string lights, lanterns, or sconces to illuminate dining and lounging areas. Enhance the space further with outdoor-friendly décor such as vibrant textiles, potted plants, and decorative accents that reflect your personal style.

Tip 6: Maximize Vertical Space

Don’t be afraid to look up – vertical space is often overlooked and underutilized. Take advantage of walls and vertical surfaces to create additional storage and functionality. Install shelves, hooks, or hanging racks to keep cooking utensils, tools, and accessories within easy reach. Consider vertical gardens or trellises to add greenery and visual interest to the space without sacrificing valuable floor space.

Tip 7: Embrace Modular Design Solutions

For ultimate flexibility and versatility, consider incorporating modular design solutions into the outdoor kitchen. Modular units allow you to customize and reconfigure the layout as needed, making it easy to adapt to changing needs and preferences. Look for modular cabinets, islands, and seating options that can be rearranged or expanded over time to accommodate growing families or evolving entertaining needs.

Designing an outdoor kitchen for a small space may present unique challenges, but with careful planning and creative thinking, it’s possible to create a stylish and functional outdoor oasis that enhances your lifestyle and maximizes your enjoyment of the great outdoors.

By focusing on optimizing layout, choosing multi-functional appliances, selecting durable materials, and incorporating smart design solutions, you can create a small outdoor kitchen that punches well above its weight in both style and functionality.

—By Kerrie Kelly, NKBA, FASID, CEO & Creative Director of Kerrie Kelly Studio and brand consultant. Kerrie has received national recognition for her expertise in interior design. She is a Fellow, Design Luminary Award recipient and past-chair of the national board for American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) board member; and Houzz Advisory Board member. 

Photo credit: Cosentino

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