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Outdoor kitchens top list of landscape remodels

Courtesy of Julie Orr
The temperate climate in the Bay Area is ideal for outdoor cooking, adding to the growing popularity of backyard kitchens.

One of the wonderful perks of living on the Peninsula is the temperate climate. Preparing a meal for family and friends while relaxing in the beauty of the garden is one of the top ways to relax and reconnect with one another. With our busy lifestyles, it’s no wonder that outdoor kitchens are among the top-requested items for a landscape remodel.

Following are questions to ask as you pursue an outdoor-kitchen project.

What is your cooking style?

If you are considering a kitchen for your backyard, it’s important to determine what kind of cook you are and how you entertain. If you are a gourmet chef who prepares multicourse meals, you may want more appliances and gadgets than the average person who grills steaks and hamburgers on weekends. Do you need specialty appliances to create stir-fry dishes, smoked meats or pizzas? The more appliances you add, the more space you’ll need for countertops and storage.

Kitchens are not only about food. You’ll also need drinks to accompany your meals. Do you need space for a blender or a keg tap? Do you require a refrigerator or an ice chest for canned or bottled drinks? Consider the types of drinks you’ll be serving and where your guests will sit as they enjoy their beverages. A bar top is a great way to keep conversations going with guests while manning the grill.

Why so expensive?

Remember how much you paid for your recent kitchen remodel? Well, now consider the fact that everything must be built with even higher standards, because your outdoor kitchen must withstand all the elements of nature. In addition to the cost of appliances, there will also be costs associated with running new gas (for the grill) and water (for sink) lines, not to mention permits from the city.

What should you incorporate in the design?

An outdoor kitchen should complement your entire landscape and home design. Along with complying with city setback requirements, consider the proximity of your outdoor kitchen to the one in your house. Typically, the farther apart from one another they are, the more appliances you may wish to add to your outdoor kitchen.

Once you determine how many people you typically entertain, you can begin to consider seating. Some of the seating might be built into your kitchen or an adjacent area via a dining table or lounge furniture. Also, for year-round cooking, consider whether your guests or the cook will need shade or rain protection.

Storage is often overlooked, so consider making room for trash/recycling, grilling tools, dishes, glasses and cutlery. You’ll also need to install access doors near your appliances and sink in the event future repairs are needed.

Because outdoor kitchens are custom built, anything is possible. To ensure that you don’t miss out on the myriad possibilities, consult with a professional landscape designer.

Julie Orr is a landscape designer and member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. For more information, call 468-8020 or visit

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