Designing an Outdoor Kitchen and Dining Area

Dreaming of adding an outdoor kitchen or dining space to your Chicagoland home? You’re definitely not alone. 

After all, what could be better than having the freedom to cook and entertain in the great outdoors? With a well-crafted outdoor kitchen or bar, you can enjoy some sun and fresh air, while making your biggest culinary dreams come true. 

Around the country, demand for outdoor kitchens is only growing. But while a perfectly designed outdoor space can help you make the most of Chicagoland’s warm summer nights, it can also be a big undertaking, with many different design elements and projects on the menu — from figuring out your budget, to designing the entertaining space that will best suit your unique lifestyle. 

Want to create a foodie oasis, right in your backyard? Here are a few ideas and projects to consider as you start dreaming about building the perfect outdoor kitchen and dining area: 

How Can You Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space?

Before you move ahead with building your dream outdoor kitchen, it’s important to think of how this addition will fit into your outdoor space. Do you have enough room for all the appliances and seating you want to add? Can you make some simple steps to unify your indoor and outdoor entertaining areas? Do you need to add a new patio or deck, or can you retrofit the outdoor entertaining space you already have? Can you build your kitchen or entertaining space in a way that it complements your garden, or the natural landscape of your backyard? 

After you’ve spent some time searching design blogs, real estate sites, and magazines for inspiration, a landscape architect, contractor, or designer can help you make plans for how to best make use of your outdoor space — while also considering practical factors like running electricity, plumbing, or gas to your new prep station. 

What’s Your Budget?

Building an entire outdoor kitchen can be pricey — but there may be little steps you can take to help give you the amenities you want, without having to break the bank.

While a full kitchen and entertaining space may cost thousands of dollars, there may be DIY projects you can take on, like setting up a grilling station for easy meal prep on summer days; installing a fire pit for roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories; or creating your own covered seating area for chic backyard gatherings. An oversized kitchen window can help create an easy passthrough to your deck or patio, while a movable bar cart can make hosting happy hour a breeze. 

In addition to thinking about the scope and scale of your project, consider steps you can take to keep costs lower, such as using recycled or repurposed materials, or finding cost-saving alternatives to popular materials.

What Appliances and Features Do You Want to Include?

According to a survey cited by Architectural Digest, some of the key components that homeowners most want in an outdoor kitchen include a grill, a refrigerator, a sink, heaters, cabinets, and a TV. If you’re a serious gourmet, you might have other items on your wishlist, from an ice machine, to a beer tap, to a heavy-duty smoker. 

As you move forward with designing an outdoor cooking and entertaining space, it’s important to think about what matters most to you. Will this be a space where you and your loved ones watch the big game over barbecue, or unwind on cool summer nights? Do you want bar seating that makes conversation easier, or a more formal outdoor dining table? Do you need space for a massive fridge and food prep area, or are you comfortable doing the bulk of your prep and storage inside? 

What Materials Speak to You?

According to Architectural Digest, homeowners want warm and rustic features for their outdoor kitchen and entertaining spaces. In 2019, popular outdoor design trends included stainless-steel, metal, or wood doors for built-in cabinets; natural stone for countertops and flooring; and fixed overhead structures such as pergolas, made with stone or brick walls. 

However, it’s all about your taste and style. Do you want light, bright surfaces and finishes? Do you want to make use of recycled materials, such as brick, reclaimed wood, or corrugated metal? Do you want finishes that are easy to care for, such as tile? 

As you move forward with your project, be sure to take some time to research various materials and make sure that they’re resilient enough to hold up to the rain, snow, and heat we get in Chicagoland, while also being easy to clean and maintain over time. 

Do You Have a Theme or Design Idea?

As you think about creating the perfect outdoor oasis, consider your family, your goals, and your lifestyle. The more you’ve thought about how you’re going to use your new outdoor area, the more strategic you can be about adding the functionality and design elements that will work for you. 

Looking for some ideas to get started? As reported by Architectural Digest, a majority of homeowners want their outdoor kitchens to feel “family-friendly” and “casual.” Meanwhile, the majority of people say that they want to be able to use their spaces three seasons out of the year, and primarily for family meals and small gatherings of 10 people or fewer. 

How Can You Fit Lighting Into Your Decor?

Outdoor lighting is a great way to keep the party going, even after the sun sets. For safety’s sake, this is particularly important in an outdoor kitchen. Think about the best way to light your grill, stove, and prep area, as well as your entertaining space. Options run the spectrum from functional overhead lighting, to cool ambient lanterns, to chic and playful hanging lights. 

What Do You Need to Throw the Perfect Outdoor Event?

If entertaining friends and family is high on your to-do list, think about all the fun finishes that can help you make the most of your outdoor kitchen and dining areas. There are plenty of stylish, simple, and affordable ways to turn this space into the perfect place to spend time with the people who matter most — from designing stunning outdoor tablescapes, to laying down a functional all-weather rug, to decorating your chairs and tables with comfortable pillows and coverings. Get creative, adapt your decor to fit the season, and you’ll never run out of fun new ways to enjoy your home’s outdoor spaces. 

Making the Most Your Time at Home

Whether it’s now serving as a school, office, playground, or simply a safe space, our home has never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.

Looking for new ideas to make the most of your space? Curious about what steps you can take to get your home ready to sell in the months ahead? Whatever your real estate goals may be, we get you — and we’re here to help make things easier, at every step of the way. 

Written by




Stay Connected

Get the latest news, stories, and advice from the Baird & Warner blog delivered straight to your inbox.


Stay Connected

Get the latest news, stories, and advice from the Baird & Warner blog delivered straight to your inbox.


Stay Connected

Get the latest news, stories, and advice from the Baird & Warner blog delivered straight to your inbox.