With spaces like these, dining at home beats eating out every time.
Picture this: You're under the stars on a perfectly cool 65-degree evening, candlelight glittering off your wine glass and soft bistro lighting illuminating a bevy of homemade dishes laid out in front of you like a buffet. The food smells delicious, there’s nary a mosquito in sight, and—perhaps best of all—when you go inside, your kitchen will be absolutely spotless.
Sound like some Nancy Meyers pipe dream? Well, it doesn’t have to be—at least not with these gorgeous outdoor kitchens as your inspiration. These days, more and more homeowners are focusing on finding bliss in their own backyards, creating do-it-all zones where relaxation and entertainment are the only things on the docket. If an outdoor kitchen has been at the top of your wishlist for a while, there’s no better time to start solidifying those dreams than now—and we’re here to help. Peep the 10 inspirational spaces below for takeaway tips applicable to outdoor kitchens big and small, whether you boast a sprawling patio or a petite but proud grill tucked into a corner.
Try a single-wall layout
An effective (and enjoyable) outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to be over-the-top. Instead of trying to recreate the kitchen you have inside, focus on tailoring the design to the space you have outside. The approachable space above, by the team behind WWOO California, provides a great example on how to maximize a small outdoor kitchen, utilizing a "wall in the garden" concept to strategically place and store everything on one well-designed wall. The design features not one but two Big Green Eggs (a popular type of kamado grill), with chef-worthy extras like plenty of countertop space, “pantry” storage, and a surplus of wood at the ready.
Add a playful tile backsplash
When it comes to adding a touch of style and durability to your outdoor kitchen, a tile backsplash is a no-brainer. Just like indoors, tile will help you make quick cleanup work of any splatters that happen while cooking (or grilling) and will add a necessary “design” touch to a space that can often feel overly utilitarian when realized outdoors. In this open-air kitchen, designer Marie Flanigan relied on a blue and white patterned design to dress up a stainless steel grill and cook space.
Swap a picnic table for an island
Picnic and outdoor dining tables tend to be the go-to when considering how you and your family will eat outdoors, but they’re not the only option. Take this charming backyard space—designed by Leslie Saeta and seen in her new book A Home to Share—as an example. Saeta added in a flexible outdoor island that offers prep space on one side and barstool seating on the other for a versatile spot that makes it easy to converse with guests while getting the food ready. A lower-to-the-ground seating area nearby offers some separation from the kitchen heat, and an additional place to lounge.
Choose weather-proof elements
When designing any room, indoors or out, it’s a good idea to consider how it will be used and the daily wear and tear it may be subjected to. This is especially important when dreaming up an outdoor kitchen, which can certainly receive its fair share of rough winds, inclement weather, and critters. In this Delaware space, designer Kelley Gable focused on incorporating durable materials—including outdoor-grade appliances and weatherproof wood and cabinetry—to help the screened-in space stand up to whatever Mother Nature throws at it. Of course, you can also see that she didn't abandon design aesthetics in the process, with all of the sturdy elements working together to create a pleasing-to-the-eye modern farmhouse feel.
Camouflage the space in nature
If you prefer the design of your outdoor kitchen to whisper instead of scream, take a page out of the Reger Regenerative team’s book and choose finishes that blend in with your surroundings. Here, a verdant California backyard seamlessly envelopes a dynamic cook space, outfitted in vertical green subway tile, stone countertops, and other natural textures that mirror the backyard landscape.
Mimic a resort bar
If you dream of outdoor spaces that feel like luxury, you may picture the pool deck at a fancy resort—and who says you can't get that experience at home? Mimic that same vibe with a similar “pull up a chair and chill” aesthetic for your outdoor kitchen. In this space designed by Andrea West, a standalone pavilion acts as the perfect place to sip an afternoon cocktail, snack on some chips, or keep the cook company as they fire up chicken on the grill tucked within.
Incorporate indoor comforts
Here’s the good news: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing an outdoor kitchen. Though an al fresco space does necessitate some differences (especially when it comes to materials), you can feel free to take direction from your indoor cook space to help inform what you need (and don’t need!) outdoors. This gorgeous galley, designed by Linda Hayslett, invokes all the creature comforts typically seen in indoor kitchens, like Caesarstone countertops, Farrow & Ball paint, upper cabinetry, and luxe pendant lighting.
Add an edible garden
Foster your green thumb—and keep dinner ingredients at the ready—by incorporating a living wall behind or nearby your outdoor kitchen. This large-scale example, designed by Heather Hilliard, is packed with useful herbs and aromatics meant to inspire each evening’s culinary adventure, but you could even downsize your design with a few window boxes or a nearby Smart Garden.
Focus on indoor/outdoor flow
Nothing interrupts an outdoor cooking groove more than constantly having to walk laps around the exterior of your home to go back inside the main kitchen for ingredients or tools. Our advice? Consider proximity before you decide where to post up your outdoor kitchen. A spot that boasts indoor/outdoor flow—like a kitchen-adjacent patio or sunroom—is your best bet. Even better? A setup like this one, designed by Mel Bean, which allows the homeowners to open a simple sliding window to create an open-air pass-through between the main kitchen and the outdoor cook space.
Include pops of color
Outdoor kitchens are all about entertaining, so it's a more-than-appropriate setting to incorporate some fun, playful design. Lean into this ethos by straying a bit from your “everyday norm” when choosing appliances and finishes for your outdoor kitchen space, even if they don’t match perfectly with the style you have indoors. Case in point? This funky outdoor kitchen designed by Living with Lolo, which features dramatic black ceramic tile and a bubblegum-pink grill that’s right in line with Barbiecore.