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Insights for Designing Outdoor Kitchens

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Industry Data & Research

Insights for Designing Outdoor Kitchens

Was the pandemic-fueled thirst for outdoor kitchen remodels and additions a fluke, or is it here to stay? Plus: The top design considerations for outdoor kitchens

By Caroline Broderick June 5, 2023
nkba outdoor luxury kitchen
Project by Sandra Gjesdahl. Courtesy NKBA

It continues to become exceedingly rare for designers to work on luxury projects without an outdoor kitchen in scope, according to a new report by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).

And when it comes to new construction, it’s an expectation that homes come equipped with an outdoor kitchen. But how can designers and remodelers do these spaces correctly? NKBA’s report collects insights from high-end designers across the globe to identify whether outdoor kitchens were solely a pandemic trend and how to design these spaces effectively.


Why Are Luxury Outdoor Kitchens So Popular?

As the pandemic pushed outdoor kitchens and outdoor living to the top of homeowner’s wishlists, the NKBA study sought to answer whether or not the outdoor kitchen boom would remain. What they found was that yes, luxury outdoor kitchen requests are here to stay and they’re still on the rise.


luxury outdoor kitchen
Project by Lance Stratton, Kate LeCount, and Tom King. Courtesy NKBA


For homeowners, a major benefit of luxurious outdoor spaces, including kitchens, is, naturally, the expanded square footage. As most outdoor spaces act as extensions of the home, continuing the interior aesthetics out, these spaces become second living spaces.

The report found that outdoor spaces and kitchens provide a strong return on investment, especially if these spaces offer all-season capabilities with heated areas for colder weather and apt lighting for those shorter days.

Outdoor spaces can also accommodate experiences otherwise not available inside the home, such as pizza ovens and fire pits.


fire pit outdoor kitchen
Design by Sandra Gjesdahl. Courtesy NKBA


The Big Outdoor Kitchen Design Considerations

Aside from the agreement that luxury outdoor kitchens are on the up rather than the out, designers also agreed on a handful of considerations for impactful design trends for this space:

  1. Harmony inside and out
  2. The elements
  3. Personalization and experience


Harmony Inside and Out

Extending the interior to the out is a top priority for designers, according to the report. Homeowners seek spaces with the same interior comforts, but outside, such as large televisions, refrigerators, ice makers, and outfitted workspaces.


indoor outdoor living
Design by Nar Bustamante. Courtesy NKBA


The offerings outside should match the inside, but materials and overall design should also mimic the interior. 

The physical transition from in to out becomes important as well. Allowing for separation but connection through tall glass doors is a cornerstone of luxury outdoor design nowadays.


The Elements

The exciting part of offering and executing outdoor areas well is the thrill of homeowners’ ability to spend time outside more—it’s also the difficult part. Being knowledgeable in appropriate materials and products makes or breaks a design.


luxury backyard kitchen
Design by Matt Hebert. Courtesy NKBA


Some quick considerations from designers, as stated in the report:

  • Cold weather environments need easy shut-off valves at the sink as freezing can affect pipes, sinks, and appliances.
  • Factor in the direction of the sun and typical storm/wind direction. Can counters take the heat of direct sunlight? What protection can be designed with walls, windows, or screens?
  • Protect the investment: Covers, prevent leaves and elements from entering fire features
  • Avoid wood
  • Consider drip edges, pitched surfaces for water run-off, grooves to redirect water to earth, drainage under cabinets, and products that won’t rust


outdoor living remodel
Design by John Cialone. Courtesy NKBA


Personalization and Experience

Designers in the report say luxury is much more than the price point, it’s much about the experience. Outdoor kitchens provide an avenue for unique family experiences and hosting. 

It’s imperative to understand the interests and lifestyle of the client. Do they cook or do they prefer someone to cook for them? Do they host or do they relax with their families?

“Outdoor kitchens take cues from the inside, acting as an extension of the interior. The appliances are a bit different, but a lot of the same rules apply,” said Kerrie Kelly, founder of California-based Kerrie Kelly Designs.


luxury outdoor kitchen design trend
Project by Sandra Gjesdahl. Courtesy NKBA

written by

Caroline Broderick

Caroline Broderick is the Managing Editor for Pro Remodeler. Most recently, she served as the associate editor for PR's sister publications, Pro Builder, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS where she covered design, building products, trends, and more in the residential construction industry. She can be reached at cbroderick@sgcmail.com.

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