Building the Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen for Any Budget

Words: Joe Rabe

Investment in outdoor living increased dramatically over the course of the pandemic. Spending more time at home prompted homeowners to create additional areas for rest, relaxation, and work or pushed them to start on that outdoor project they’ve been putting off for months (or even years). The most popular addition over the past year is the outdoor kitchen. In a recent survey, 76% of respondents reported plans to add a kitchen to their outdoor space. Having an outdoor kitchen is the perfect addition for clients looking to add more functionality and versatility to their backyard space. As with any project, determining your client’s budget and preferred features is key to designing their perfect outdoor kitchen. A beautiful, functional outdoor kitchen is possible within nearly any budget range – you just have to be open, thoughtful, and a bit creative.

Creating Kitchens Large and Small

The budget for an outdoor kitchen is unique to each client and what they hope to bring to life. If they are starting small, they can invest a few thousand dollars to create a well-designed space. On the higher end, a fully integrated outdoor kitchen can run upward of $40,000-$60,000. Similar to an indoor kitchen, the size, quality, number of appliances, and countertop surface are the main drivers of price. But in today’s market, there are a number of materials we as professionals can suggest that offer the design and performance characteristics needed. For clients with a smaller budget, a phased approach works best. You can start with a grill installation, which is usually the most common route, along with a small paver patio. Great grills are available within any price range, as are durable, quality pavers for the patio. Beginning here leaves room for expansion as the client looks to round out the space with other features. If your client has a mid-range budget, there’s room to include additional features outside a grill and patio. Depending on their vision for utilizing the space, you can add in elements such as sinks, storage, and a small refrigerator to really bring the indoors out. You can find suppliers today that offer products to suit a range of styles, from modern to classic. When you have those lucky clients who want to splurge on their outdoor kitchen, the possibilities are endless. Features like side burners, a built-in bar ledge, or a wood-fired brick oven add to the usability of the space and make it feel like a separate wing of the home. A great material option when building out benches, barbecues, walkways, and other items, such as raised garden beds, is a modular concrete panel system. The overall look of concrete fits well with any design style, especially the increasingly popular modern aesthetic. There are options available today that also offer other features, such as a hollow interior where wiring can be run for added lighting.

Photo by Feinknopf Photography

Integrating Technology

Though not exclusive for a bigger budget, integrating other forms of technology is becoming more important – and should be a discussion you have with the client upfront. Built-in lighting, audio, and additional electricity are integral for both everyday use and entertaining. Hardscape lighting, as well as landscape lighting and accent lights, make it easier for your client to use their kitchen any time of day or year. Additional electrical outlets may be needed for these lighting features, in addition to kitchen and other appliances being added for that finishing touch – like televisions or speakers.

Working With Your Customer

When starting the design process for an outdoor kitchen, have open conversations with your client to first find out their budget, then what features and design they want for their space so you can select the right materials for the job. Regardless of their budget, you can find quality products and create a design approach – whether it’s phased out over a period or completed all at once – that fits their needs.

Photo by Jeffrey Totaro
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