Think about your outdoor kitchen as an extension of your barbecue, says interior designer

Open kitchen with dining room table and chairs outside

Create your outdoor kitchen so it suits yours needs and lifestyle. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Spend more time in your garden and in the fresh air with an outdoor kitchen, which can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

While Covid-19 has made us reconsider how we use our gardens and outdoor spaces, not everyone sees the value of forking out wads of cash on an outdoor kitchen - especially bearing in mind the British summer (or lack thereof).  

However, outdoor kitchens don’t have to be the big commitment they may initially seem to be.  

Most likely, you already have a BBQ outside and looking at your outdoor kitchen as an expansion of this is a great way to approach alfresco cooking and dining, says interior designer Audrey Whelan of Audrey Whelan Designs

“We all know that miserable rack on the BBQ’s side and have had to ask people to hold plates,” she says. “Everything is hot and you’re worried about the children burning themselves. 

“But most outdoor kitchens will house a BBQ - either as an integrated grill or as something you can slot in,” she goes on to say, “which will give you surfaces either side of it, and suddenly you start to have the functionality of a kitchen.” 

Audrey suggests building your outdoor kitchen incrementally so you can see how you use the space. 

For example, start off with some worksurfaces and outside storage and “see how you get on”. The following month or season you can add a sink or an overhead cover, tailoring the kitchen to suit your needs. “Enhancing the basics little by little is quite a useful thing to do if you want to work out how much you are using the outdoor kitchen before you shell out money”, Audrey says.

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Pre-Covid-19, we were all used to the idea of entertaining in the garden but prepping food indoors and shuttling salads, condiments and crockery back and forth from inside to out. However now, that may not always be possible or safe. “Reduce the need to go in and out of the house with storage and setting up a water supply and sink, which will make the space more self-sufficient” says Audrey. 

With any kind of interior design planning, consider what your priorities are. If the aim is to spend as much time outdoors as possible, adding a lounge area to your dining and cooking area will encourage people to stay outside – particularly if you make the lounge area cosy, say with a sofa, cushions and blankets. 

“Think about textures and about replicating the comfort of indoors,” Audrey says. “We used to think outdoor furniture had to be metal so it could stay outside permanently, but metal is cold and not that comfortable to sit on.” 

A firepit – perhaps best placed in the lounging area - adds ambience as well as warmth. “The atmosphere a firepit creates is incredible,” says Audrey. “They are mesmerising.”