Tips for Designing, Building, and Creating a Fabulous and Functional Outdoor Kitchen

Planning and Building an outdoor kitchen is a big deal! A lot of thought needs to go into the design for the final product to be functional and fabulous.

Trust me…I know. We spent hours, days, weeks, months planning the exact design of our outdoor pool house kitchen. I imagined every island shape, size and dimension, every location, and thought endlessly about best possible functionality for the space.

Sharing my tips today for creating a fabulous and functional outdoor kitchen!

Our Outdoor Kitchen is on YouTube

For a full reveal of the entire pool house plus outdoor kitchen area, check out my video on YouTube.

Budgeting for an Outdoor Kitchen

Let’s start by talking budget. Before starting the process, a realistic budget needs to be established. It’s so easy for a project to go sideways once the building has begun, so it’s important to establish a budget and stick to it. Insert phase here “Do as I say, not as I do”. Just a bit of advice to you. Our project did go very sideways and got a bit out of control…so my advice is to create a budget and stick to it!

Many factors go into creating this budget..materials used, utilities, countertops, technology, lighting, appliances, and cabinets.

Think prefab vs custom island and countertops. Think small propane tank for grill vs running a gas line. Maybe you can do without running water? These are all expensive items and alternatives should be carefully considered.

Layout and Functionality in an Outdoor Kitchen

When we build our pool house kitchen, the design was still in flux. I knew for sure where the grill and sink would be located – as we planned for a pony wall in the original design. But the island was TBD, and I’m glad I waited for the area to be built out so I could get a better idea of space.

I could do a whole seperate blog post on layout and maybe I will. But after much consideration, we decided on a single island. I chose the largest size we could for the space and for the stone size, since I did not want any seams in the countertop.

Things to Consider When Choosing an Outdoor Kitchen Countertop will discuss the various kinds of options available when making this very important decision.

The single island allows for ease of use on all 4 sides. It has a large surface space and can hold many serving dishes and still have room to sit around and mingle.

The counter stools you see in the picture are great but not to be used outdoors 😐. I love the style but they did not hold up well outside, even though the description states indoor/outdoor. But I do recommend them for inside use.

Update: Our new stools have arrived and are fabulous. Check them out HERE.

Choosing Appliances for an Outdoor Kitchen

Supply chain disruptions have led to very long lead and delivery times for just about everything…outdoor appliances included.

We were lucky with our grill. We already owned a 48 inch Wolf outdoor grill that was located in another area of our yard. After having the grill serviced and finding out it was still in great condition, we relocated the grill to our new outdoor kitchen. This was our original plan all along and glad it worked out.

Knowing we wanted a grill in this area…we planned on running a gas line to the grill early in the design phase. All the details of the gas run were not finalized until later in the process because so many factors go into the planning. It was not an easy process and took a lot of time to figure out, many people were involved in the design and planning of the run..along with permits and inspections.

I could do a separate blog post on running a gas line too…that was a big deal!

Whether or Not to Add Running Water to an Outdoor Kitchen

Another very big deal in planning an outdoor kitchen is the decision on whether to have running water. I do have a separate blog post talking about this important decision, check out What Does it Take to Add Running Water and a Bathroom to a Pool House?

Deciding on Cabinets Choices for an Outdoor Kitchen

There are many different options to choose when deciding on outdoor cabinets. Prefabricated ones are popular and if you live in a region with extreme weather conditions, the choice is important. Many materials can warp and bend with changing temperatures.

After looking at all possible options, we chose to have our cabinets custom made using a weather resistant material. We added cabinets throughout the island and on both sides of the pool house, against the pony walls.

Important to remember electrical outlets. You want to have enough for you and your guests to charge phones. We installed one on each side of the island.

Storage space is also very important. You want enough cabinet space to hold all your outdoor dishes, glass ware and serving pieces. Running back and forth to the main house disrupts the flow, so keeping as many items outdoors was important to me in the overall design of the outdoor kitchen.

The front side of the island is plain without any cabinets and has a clean appearance.

Still loving the outdoor umbrellas with a scalloped edge. We stored them inside for the winter months and look forward to bringing them out again in Spring.

Adding Lighting to an Outdoor Kitchen

Often overlooked, lighting is a major component of any well designed outdoor kitchen. Transitioning the space from day to night is key and if it can be done without any disruption to the flow…even better.

Our lights are connected to a transformer and come on at dusk every day. We have a fabulous lighting guy that has worked with us in the past and did all our exterior home lighting.

The bistro lights can also be connected to a switch or just plugged in each time when you want to use them. Many options available.


These are all expensive items and alternatives should be carefully considered. You can get an idea about pricing for outdoor kitchen products from places like ArchiPro.

I still get excited each night when the lights turn out automatically. It’s such a lovely sight! Often we are using the spa at dusk to watch the sunset and the lights pop on…still a thrill 🙂

I hope this helped you to think about the different aspects of the design process. Are you building an outdoor kitchen? Would love to hear from you!



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6 thoughts on “Tips for Designing, Building, and Creating a Fabulous and Functional Outdoor Kitchen

  1. Great post Denise – there’s so much to think about that isn’t necessarily top of mind at the design stage! I love your automatic lights too! I hope the thrill never goes away! 🙂

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