Maximize Your Outdoor Kitchen Design for Memorable Spring Gatherings

Spring is just around the corner, although in many parts of the country, it seems to have arrived unseasonably early! There’s nothing like melting snow, warmer temps, and birds singing their sweet melodies to put Midwesterners in a spring state of mind. As you think ahead to all the memories you want to make this year, make 2024 the year you design that outdoor kitchen you’ve been dreaming of!

As you begin to turn this dream into a reality, here are five tips to keep in mind that will help you maximize your outdoor living space:

Set an outdoor kitchen budget.

Just like boundaries for kids, when you determine your budget, you know where you can play. You’re free to operate within those parameters for a more fun and worry-free process. Also, be sure to communicate your budget upfront with your designer. This will save both of you time. No homeowner wants to spend time considering and envisioning options only to find out later that they’re outside the scope of their budget. When you’re upfront about your financial parameters for the project, your designer can direct you straight to the products and materials that align with your pocketbook and your ultimate vision for the space! 

Define your cooking goals.

What kind of cooking do you like to do or envision doing in your outdoor kitchen space? Do you love smoking every meat and vegetable in sight? Do you have dreams of cooking over an open flame? Are you always firing up the grill for some down-home BBQ? Maybe whenever you and your spouse go out to eat, you suggest somewhere that serves a mean wood-fired pizza. Think through what kind of food preparation you gravitate towards and design your cooking setup for your outdoor kitchen accordingly. And yes! You can design a kitchen with a variety of cooking options! The crucial point here is to plan ahead so your outdoor kitchen accommodates all of your preferences.

Envision your ideal seating arrangements.

When you picture gathering with your friends and family while preparing a delicious al fresco meal, where do you envision everyone sitting? Do you envision a bar and 4-5 bar stools adjacent to your pellet grill and prep surface? Would you prefer a nearby but separate island with enough seating for a larger group of people? Can you picture seating everyone around a big fire table for that “wow” factor? Will you include a fire pit in your design for warmth, ambiance, and additional seating?

It’s helpful when choosing your seating arrangements to imagine yourself moving around the food prep space and socializing with your guests. Since you will likely spend a lot of your time prepping and cooking, you’ll want to make sure you can still engage in all the banter and not miss out on the meaningful conversation that inevitably ensues when you’re dining under the stars. 

Set the mood with thoughtful outdoor kitchen lighting.

It’s easy to focus on the more prominent features and pay little attention to lighting. However, a good designer understands how something as inconspicuous as lighting can impact the mood of an outdoor space.

Use under-the-counter lighting to illuminate your seating areas. Not only is walkway lighting functional, but it can be highly aesthetic and help create an easy flow between spaces with different functions (food prep/seating/fire pit, etc.) If you have a pergola or pavilion, consider how lighting on posts and in the ceiling can be both functional and relaxing. Do you want a more dramatic flair? Think about hanging lights as opposed to recessed lights. Because the effect of lighting can be more difficult to visualize than countertops or outdoor kitchen appliances, it might be helpful to start a Pinterest board with images you want to emulate in your own open-air space. 

Add a few extra touches that will make your space shine!

Plan your design around a couple special features that make your space stand out. Consider an outdoor refrigerator and/or freezer for keeping food and beverages cold on those warm spring and summer days. You can even install an ice maker for bevvies that rival the best restaurant in town! An outdoor sink means you won’t have to run indoors to wash your hands after hand-mixing your best burger recipe! Don’t want to bring all your dirty dishes indoors at the end of a late night? Install an outdoor dishwasher. Then put the dishes back in your outdoor kitchen cupboards once they’re dry so they’re ready for your next gathering. 

Whatever your vision, the design and build experts at McDonough Landscaping would love to help you out! Contact us here or give us a call at (651) 755-7901 to get started.

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Posted in Blog.