How to Design a Durable Outdoor Kitchen

Now that summer’s finally here, you may be dreaming of an outdoor kitchen—a place to cook, relax and entertain surrounded by nature. But creating a working kitchen and dining area that makes the best use of limited space and is durable enough to handle the great outdoors can be a challenge, unless you have a well-planned design for your location. Inspired by the homeowner’s favorite multi-colored outdoor fabric and vision of an outdoor kitchen, Prideaux Designs created a functional plan for the back patio of this home in Tucson, Arizona.


Choose local materials for your outdoor kitchen so that it looks at home in its environment. (Photo: Balfour Walker)

The homeowners dreamed big for their small space: Within 1,000 square feet, the homeowners wanted a “spool” (spa/pool), fire pit, sitting area, sunning area, nap bench, and an outdoor kitchen and dining area. “The design process was akin to putting the pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle together on a tiny tray-table,” says Kathryn Prideaux. “The simplicity of the solution comes from the shared use of space: The walls of the spool also served to define the adjoining outdoor rooms, with the kitchen and dining space on the right. Each space functions independently, but can be enjoyed simultaneously.”


A “spool” (spa/pool), fire pit, sitting area, sunning area, nap bench, and an outdoor kitchen and dining area (Photo: Balfour Walker)

When choosing where to build an outdoor kitchen, Kathryn recommends considering your backyard’s proximity to your indoor kitchen. This is especially crucial for appliance choices. “A fridge or sink may not be necessary if your home kitchen is not too far away,” Kathryn comments. Also consider the location of the sun at the times of day and the seasons when you will most frequently use the area. It’s no fun to squint into the setting sun while you are preparing or enjoying your dinner! Since people like to congregate around the kitchen, incorporate places for guests to stand, sit and place drinks or food for added comfort in any season.


Kathryn designed the outdoor kitchen and dining area as a modern interpretation of traditional hacienda style. “Many of the materials are traditionally used in the Southwest; but in conjunction with clean lines and simple forms, our approach is a fresh twist on the expected,” Kathryn adds. (Photo: Balfour Walker)

Checklist for an Outdoor Kitchen

• Ceramics: Colorful ceramic vessels or pottery make excellent accessories—even an unplanted pot can have great visual impact.

• Potted plants: Incorporate potted flora in multiple pottery groups to define the borders of your outdoor kitchen. Here, two walls were trellised with evergreen vines and colorful blooms of plants and cacti added reds and oranges to the mix.


Want a low-maintenance outdoor kitchen? Durable concrete countertops require almost no upkeep (Photo: Balfour Walker)

• Vitrified tile: “When shopping for tile for the outdoors, make sure that it’s vitrified tile,” Kathryn says. It’s made to have a lower absorption rate and will tolerate freeze/thaw conditions. Visit a local supplier or research online to learn about new features and appliances that might work perfectly with your location.

• Concrete countertops: Integrated color concrete countertops give a rustic feel to an outdoor kitchen while providing a simple, clean, solid surface. Remember, outdoor kitchens can be created using stand-alone barbecue units. “It’s all about creating a space that looks intentional and is conducive to food preparation, cooking and serving,” says Kathryn. “Lots of countertop space surrounding the barbecue can create this kind of environment.”

• Multipurpose accessories: A metal basket that is decorative can easily double as an outdoor trash receptacle.

Written by Rosa Lee Jude

Design and styling by Prideaux Designs

Photography by Balfour Walker

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