With the right design, an outdoor kitchen can provide the best of both the cooking and entertainment worlds. A well-designed outdoor living area makes it comfortable to use outdoor cooking appliances while providing a fun outdoor living space for family and friends to gather. Designing a custom kitchen on your own, however, can be an arduous and overwhelming process. While Coogan’s Design-Build is always available to help you with this process, we’ve developed a guide to help you get started in designing your own outdoor kitchen.

Determine the Space

Your first step in designing an outdoor cooking space will be to locate the perfect space in your backyard. Ideally, an outdoor kitchen adjoins the main kitchen in the house. This proximity creates easy access between the two kitchens for food preparation and traffic back and forth.

You will also need to determine how much space you will need for your outdoor living area. To determine this, consider which of the following appliances you will want to include:

  • Grill
  • Cooktop
  • Sink
  • Pizza oven
  • Keg
  • Under-counter refrigerator/ice maker

Each appliance that you include in your design will need to have adjoining countertop space to assure the functionality of the space.

Countertop Space

Insufficient countertop space is one of the most common design mistakes made in outdoor kitchen design. Ideally, countertops should be placed on both sides of the grill, the sink, and the cooktop. Sufficient countertop space is essential for placing items that you need to have on hand while cooking a meal. Ingredients, cutting boards, colanders, platters, and utensils all use up countertop space during the cooking process. Omitting landing areas on one side or both sides of key equipment significantly impacts the usability of the space.

Outdoor KitchenCooking Area

No matter the size of the kitchen, the heart of any outdoor entertainment space is the grill. Unfortunately, grills are not uniform in size, which can make future upgrades challenging. You can avoid future upgrade complications by selecting a grill based on the cook you aspire to be, rather than on the cook you are now. You’ll also want to consider including other outdoor cooking appliances, such as pizza ovens, smokers, cooktops, or charcoal- or wood-fired grills.

After selecting a grill, you will need to consider where to place the grill in the kitchen area. Placing the grill perpendicular to the dining area will allow the cook to interact easily with guests. This configuration enables the cook to work without having to turn their back on the guests. It also prevents an open grill hood from obstructing the cook’s interaction with guests.


Outdoor KitchenMany homeowners want a complete and fully functioning kitchen outside, including storage for dishes and cooking utensils. At a minimum, you will want permanent storage for grill-specific items, such as wood chips, hot mitts, charcoal, and grill brushes.

When planning storage, you’ll need to consider the year-round weather in your area. Outdoor cabinetry needs to be able to withstand the elements and protect contents from exposure to the elements. Weather-tight cabinetry utilizes seamless rain gutters around the door and drawer openings to help divert water. You’ll also want cabinets with a weatherproof finish to guarantee the longevity of your kitchen.

The size of your kitchen will determine the amount of linear storage you will need. In general, smaller kitchens store fewer items, while larger kitchens are more likely to store pots, pans, and serving pieces. The following is helpful for determining the amount of cabinet space needed based on the size of your outdoor kitchen:

  • Small kitchen: 21 inches
  • Essentials kitchen: 36 inches
  • Medium kitchen: 72 inches
  • Large kitchen: 96 inches


Outdoor Kitchen

Seating is an important consideration in designing a functional outdoor living area. The three main types of seating to consider are dining, bar, and lounge. While having all three is ideal for entertaining, the most important component of seating is that it allows the hosts to easily interact with guests. When laying out your seating space, choose a design that does not isolate the cooking area, or separate the cook from the guests.

You will also need to consider how much space is needed for your seating area. You will need to allow adequate width for each seat. Typically, you should allow 24 inches width for each seat, but for more accessible seating, allow 30 to 36 inches. You may also need to consider space for knees below the table, counter, or bar, and adequate space for traffic behind the seats.

With careful thought to layout, countertops, appliances, storage, and seating, you can create a fabulous, functional outdoor living space that you will be able to enjoy for years to come. Coogan’s Design-Build can help with the entire process, including space planning, design, appliance selection, and construction.

Contact us today for a free design consultation.