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Designing a Functional and Aesthetically Pleasing Outdoor Kitchen

August 24, 2023

When your top destination this season is a trip to your outdoor kitchen, the space needs to live up to your dreams. Your outdoor kitchen should be functional and aesthetically pleasing, with the types and variety of kitchen equipment that allows you to enjoy your time outdoors - whether you're cooking, relaxing or entertaining. From refrigeration and cooking surfaces to serving areas, sinks and lighting, Nicolock Paving Stones can help you bring your covered outdoor kitchen ideas to life.

Before You Begin

Whether you're working with a design professional or taking a DIY approach to your outdoor kitchen design, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions to narrow down your approach:

How will the space be used?

When is it going to be used?

Who will be using the space?

Are there any appliances or features that are must-haves?


Usage is important and while most outdoor kitchens include a grill, everything else is negotiable. If you spend a lot of time entertaining, seating may be more important than storage space. If you like to make cocktails, including an outdoor bar may bring more satisfaction.

Perk up the Patio

All of the best outdoor kitchen ideas start with a solid foundation - or in this case, a patio. Upgrading to a paving stone patio is a great way to add instant ambiance and a touch of luxury to your outdoor kitchen design. On top of the visual appeal, a paving stone patio provides the perfect base for grills, cabinets, outdoor sofas and much more.

If you already have a paving stone patio, get it cleaned and make any necessary repairs before you start your kitchen design. If you don't have a paving stone patio, consider adding one as the first stage of your design process. A new paving stone patio may be more affordable than you think, and the pros at Nicolock Paving Stones can help connect you with a contractor that can install a new patio and an outdoor kitchen.

Keep it Simple

A lot of people make the mistake of going for every bell and whistle they can find when they design their covered outdoor cooking area, but that's a recipe for disaster. No matter how tempting it is, limit the extra features and keep things simple when designing your outdoor kitchen. Remember - the more things you have outside, the more things you have to maintain. Pick and choose which appliances fit your lifestyle, not which ones fit your space.

You don't have to try to keep up with the Joneses. Only include the kitchen appliances you need and keep the space open while minimizing how much you have to clean. A simple space is easier to maintain and is also more relaxing and in many cases, more aesthetically pleasing.

Make it Modular

Sometimes a functional outdoor kitchen is one that you can customize for your needs. Planning a party? Bring out some extra table space. Having your event catered? Roll the grill away and save that space for something else. The modular outdoor kitchen is very trendy right now because homeowners are seeing the value in a flexible space. Freestanding grills and outdoor kitchen cabinets that can simply be rolled away give homeowners the cooking power they want, the performance they need and the versatility to use the space for multiple functions. With modular or rolling outdoor kitchens, you get more bang for your buck. Plus, it's easier and cheaper to replace any components in a roll-in or modular kitchen than in a built-in kitchen.

Wheeled grills and outdoor kitchen essentials have started tailoring to a higher-end crowd in recent years, with wheeled designs rivaling the built-ins in terms of aesthetics and power. Many wheeled outdoor kitchen components can be locked in place or even lowered to hide the wheels, but still provide the portability of a wheeled design. Wheeled grills and modular kitchen components also offer an affordable way to test your kitchen design and play with placements before making a major commitment.

Stick to Stainless

Stainless steel is the most common choice for covered outdoor kitchen designs because it holds up well in any climate and is easy to clean. Stainless steel can be sanitized quickly and it won't warp or fade when exposed to heat or direct sunlight. Most grills are made of stainless steel as are most outdoor kitchen prep tables. Sticking to all stainless steel cooking appliances and countertops is an easy way to make your outdoor kitchen design come together.

If you're not a fan of stainless steel, you can always add color or texture with kitchen towels, colorful serving ware or other small accents. Accessories allow you to customize your space and add color, changing the design as often as you like.

Form Should Follow Function

When designing your outdoor kitchen, remember that form should always follow function. That means that you should make the space work for you before you make it beautiful. Look for a grill that not only looks beautiful, but also makes a beautiful steak. A good-looking outdoor kitchen isn't helpful if it's difficult to use or doesn't leave enough space for entertaining your guests.

If your space is smaller, consider downsizing to smaller appliances and kitchen components or choosing multi-purpose products that do more than one function. You can save space by choosing a grill that doubles as a smoker or that has a built-in flat top for cooking. Likewise, a countertop with built-in storage or an under-counter fridge can do double-duty as your food prep station and your refrigeration component.

With a little bit of diligence, it's entirely possible to find great-looking outdoor kitchen components that are completely functional and fit your space too. Need some inspiration? Visit a Nicolock Paving Stones design center to see some of our favorite outdoor kitchen designs.