How to build an outdoor kitchen, Part Two

Outdoor Kitchen Grill Island Video Gallery

When you are designing an outdoor kitchen, the first major decision to make is the type of grill or grills you are going to use. Once the built in grill has been decided and the various accessories chosen, the space an overall shape of the grill island should be considered. Often the shape the outdoor kitchen takes will be chosen by the space where the island will be constructed. Your specific use can create the shape, especially if you will use the counter for seating and serving guests. There are some obvious generalizations that evolve in outdoor kitchen design that we can discuss but the important result for you is to consider the decisions that work for other homes to allow your imagination to go to work designing your own perfect space.

Custom outdoor kitchen designs

From the house to the column and into a bar.  The backsplash matches the exact arch of the roofline.
From the house to the column and into a bar. The backsplash matches the exact arch of the roofline.
Straight counter grill island design
Straight counter grill island design
U-shaped design outdoor kitchen with separate seating area.
U-shaped design outdoor kitchen with separate seating area.

Your outdoor kitchen design must serve your cooking needs but the grill island shape must also address your social needs. The images on the right are all in the same community, same type of home with the same layout. All three of these custom-built outdoor kitchens were built in essentially the same space. However, although the space was considered the individual needs of the homeowner make each space useful in different ways.

  • One outdoor kitchen may be used as a full kitchen with top range burners, grill, built in kegerator, sink, trash access and plenty of seating facing the television. This design has guests and home parties in mind. 
  • Another design may need much less and just a grill with a lot of counter space for preparation and serving is used.   The backyard chef allowing themselves a beautiful space to cook complimenting the lines of the home.
  • Third a homeowner who needs less seating with a sink, refrigerator and built in grill is designed more for a family dinner together out doors.

The same space and similar built in grills and accessories became very different outdoor kitchens based on the imagination of the homeowners needs.

It is important that you consider your needs when designing your own custom outdoor kitchen.  Imagine the last time you used your grill and ate outside.  What could have been better?  Where did you need more space for preparation or for seating?  Often I am in a customers backyard and s/he will walk me over to several neighboring backyard so I can see what other people have done with the same space available to this homeowner.  I work to impress the necessity to consider your own habits and usage in the design rather than how good you will look to your neighbors.

Grill Island straight design

Grill island designed between two walls on the patio for perfect spacing
Grill island designed between two walls on the patio for perfect spacing
grill island fills the wall beyond the bathroom door to the screen door.
grill island fills the wall beyond the bathroom door to the screen door.
Grill island covered by the patio roof and right next to outdoor patio dining table.
Grill island covered by the patio roof and right next to outdoor patio dining table.

Outdoor kitchen designs with the house

The easiest grill island to design is straight.  The idea of the straight grill island is similar to the cart grill that stays in one spot of the yard.  Instead of a standardized cart grill in the same spot, a little imagination can help create a grill island with a lot of space to serve and prepare your food for grilling.  Most of these designs have a wall of the house that is not being used.  Often I will look for the spot where electricity and plumbing is stubbed outside the wall or running in the wall to a kitchen or bathroom. 

  • This island was obviously built to fit the space onside to walls inside a covered patio.  The depth of the walls did not allow for the grill we chose so we invented a decorative movement that gives us the depth we need for the infrared grill and gives some character to an otherwise straight run of stucco.  Electricity and plumbing were already available and the window placement seems to be made for the positioning of the grill centered in the outdoor kitchen.  We covered up some damages to the wall with a backsplash and placed extra electrical boxes to allow for future use of lights, coffee pots, rotisserie motor and blenders.
  • The second unit looks like it is mounted to the wall of the house but it is not.  This unit is built to be self-supportive freestanding and was anchored to the wall of the house which does not extend to the end of the bbq grill island  We built the wall for the backsplash to allow electricity and lighting to be installed and to hide the pool pump that had been placed just outside the screen.  The poorly planned eyesore was hidden by the beautiful backsplash of their outdoor kitchen and by matching the stucco exactly, it appears to have been built with the original home plans.
  • This third example is like the first one built to fit a particular space under the patio roof.  The original cart grill was kept here in close proximity to the dining area outside.  We agreed the space was convenient and electricity was already there for the refrigerator.  The dining table placement just inside the patio and the walkway out of the gate had made the space pretty unusable.  The grill island turned a dead zone into a beautiful focal point of the patio.

Outdoor Kitchen L Designs

Free standing grill island with polished marble for additional storage and seating.
Free standing grill island with polished marble for additional storage and seating.
Grill island with 90 degree counter adds space for refrigerator and space for plates, napkins and cups
Grill island with 90 degree counter adds space for refrigerator and space for plates, napkins and cups
This small space is perfect for the L shape design allowing infrared grill, trash cubby, sink, and  refrigerator.
This small space is perfect for the L shape design allowing infrared grill, trash cubby, sink, and refrigerator.
Sometimes the cooking space gets tight on these wrap-around U shape units but a slight angle opens up the inside area for room and comfort
Sometimes the cooking space gets tight on these wrap-around U shape units but a slight angle opens up the inside area for room and comfort
U-shaped outdoor kitchens have a lot of space to work and sit to eat or socialize.
U-shaped outdoor kitchens have a lot of space to work and sit to eat or socialize.
Outdoor kitchen with a lot of room to prep, serve and sit.  No longer carrying food to the other side of the yard everything is in one location.
Outdoor kitchen with a lot of room to prep, serve and sit. No longer carrying food to the other side of the yard everything is in one location.

Outdoor Kitchen L-shape grill island designs

The most popular outdoor kitchen design we custom build on-site is the 90 degree L-share design.  This design is always the same in a general way be is always customized to the size and use of each individual client.  Some clients will use the extra leg for seating, others for serving, some for under-counter storage and many will combine the usefulness of the additional counter for several good practical reasons.  The units can be very small to fit a space inside a wall or as long as the length of the entire patio.  Often it is treated like two units with two definitive uses.

This first outdoor kitchen example has polished marble -- yes marble, that is not granite.   I usually try to stop homeowners from using marble on a countertop because it is so porous and tends to absorb stains.  The polishing process protects the stone and seals it just like when granite is polished.

This example of an outdoor kitchen at an angle adds to the décor of the custom gazebo and allows for more storage, accessories and counter space.   We cut the granite overhang at a concave shape to wrap the existing columns perfectly.  The dry stacked ledge stone matches nicely with the granite counter and the wood gazebo above.

The third example had plumbing and electric run to the spot as part of the original architectural design of the home.  The L shaped design was perfect for the space inside the wall angle.  Where a dead zone would normally be created, we placed a small under-mounted round sink.  We also matched the color and texture of the stucco t make it impossible to tell the grill island was added after the original home was built.

Grill island U shape outdoor kitchen wrap

When the space allows for it and the necesity for a lot of space is a concern, wrapping the countertop allows for a full kitchen space outdoors. I have built outdoor kitchens that had dishwashers, ice machines, several refrigerators and seating for ten. Custom built outdoor kitchen are generally priced by square footage of materials so these styles get much more expensive. However, I have yet to hear from a client that they did not make every penny back on the sale of the house and even have some builders who call us before even listing their new homes for sale.

  • When space is plentiful, sending the return leg of the counter out further than four feet or building it at an angle allows for a very comfortable working space. The more working room, the more comfortable you will feel and the more frequently you will use your outdoor kitchen. In the extra leg, seating up top and extra space for refrigeration, trash and cubby holes make outdoor grilling convenient.
  • Seating for four on one side and serving space on the other two counters is a great design. This design gives the cook the ability to keep their preparation separate and even the serving space is on a lower level than the eating guests. Cubby holes lined with non-porous granite for additional plates, cups and utensils.
  • Last example has a lot of seating for comfort. Large grill and side burner complimented with access doors, built in drawers and electrical boxes for additional appliances on the countertop. Although granite is probably the best countertop, porcelain tile has been the most popular choice for matching or complimenting accents through the yard. As with any tile the weak part of the design is grout. On these fully-exposed outdoor kitchens, the tile and grout should be sealed quarterly to ensure resistance to bacteria.

While I believe the first step of designing and building an outdoor kitchen should be to examine your cooking habits and selecting the right accessories, the next step is definitely researching the designs and exploring the shape of the spot where you would like to build. Often a client will present a rough design for the part of the custom backyard they would like us to build but when we meet in the space we find a better spot for the outdoor kitchen.

As you consider the right outdoor kitchen for you, force yourself to make three different designs in two separate areas of the yard. Looking at the other directions will make you question the "natural" design to ensure the final custom built grill-island matches the use and the décor of your overall design. I have seen outdoor kitchen that were rarely used because the design was not well thought out and I've seen very simple designs that were perfect, appreciated and used on a daily basis.


Custom Outdoor Kitchen

Custom Outdoor Kitchen with 2 Infrared built in gas grills.
Custom Outdoor Kitchen with 2 Infrared built in gas grills.

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Comments 4 comments

midnightpiper 6 years ago

These look really beautiful. What sort of budget is the minimum to make an outdoor kitchen like these? My wife would love one, but our weather in the UK isn't so good for an outdoor room like this.

Thanks for sharing these amazing ideas.

Midnightpiper.


Charles_Trento 6 years ago

How can I get more information? Is there a way custom build these outdoor kitchens in other states?


grillrepair profile image

grillrepair 6 years ago from florida Author

On average most of my clients will spend $7000. for a well built grill island with good quality stainless accessories with lifetime warrantys from American companies.

More info is available at:

http://www.grill-repair.com/grillisland.html


debbie mcmahon 6 years ago

great article!thanks for the great ideas!

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