Although the weather in the UK can be a little hit-and-miss, it doesn't stop us from perusing DIY outdoor kitchen ideas. The popularity of outdoor kitchens is rising, partly down to the resilience of us Brits who will sit outside wrapped in blankets even when it's chilly!
'Cooking and entertaining outdoors has really taken off in the past year, and we expect this trend to only increase,' says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, managing director, Morsø UK. 'An outdoor kitchen gives you ample opportunity to cook and eat outdoors, whatever the season, and as outdoor kitchens now come in a multitude of sizes and forms, you have more reason to get outside and make the most of your outdoor space, whether you have a large garden or a smaller patio.'
The best DIY outdoor kitchen ideas are often the simplest. The first point of call is to decide where to build your DIY outdoor kitchen – butted up next to a wall is a good option as it will offer some protection against the elements. It really doesn't need to be a huge space, if you want to build a mini outdoor kitchen all you need to get started is a worktop for food prep and somewhere to cook – this could be as simple as popping your best BBQ next to it or making a grill space between breeze blocks. Or investing in a pizza oven and using that on a potting table to start with.
DIY outdoor kitchen ideas
Consider your DIY outdoor kitchen ideas to be an extension of your home and if you already BBQ as soon as the weather allows then you're halfway there. DIY outdoor kitchens are about expanding on what you have and adding some extras to make your life easier – like practical worktops, lighting and semi-permanent storage.
1. Give your guests some cover
Whether there's blazing sun during a rare heatwave, or a slight drizzle, installing a pergola is a great DIY outdoor kitchen idea to implement. Pergolas are basically open roofs, and can be pieced together from pre-cut pieces of wood. The trickiest part will be installing the post supports if you opt not to build it into concrete, and making sure it's level.
To give a basic DIY pergola idea a list to make it more outdoor kitchen worthy, adorn it with lights.
'There are lots of stylish outdoor lighting options available for pergolas and a good starting point is to consider what the pergola will be used for i.e to cover an outdoor kitchen, dining and entertaining or more a space in which to relax and unwind. To keep things flexible, you might like to try layering different styles of lights, which will then adapt to different uses.
You may wish to choose smaller pendants and hang them in clusters which keeps the lighting soft and creates a wonderful ambience. One thing to bear in mind with pendants is how open your pergola is and therefore how windy it could get. If it is likely to be breezy, consider choosing flush mounts on a stem to prevent pendants from blowing too much in the wind. If possible, also have the lights controlled independently, so you can switch on only the ones you want to create the desired mood.
Whatever you decide, it’s worth considering the lighting early on in the design process and not leaving it as an afterthought. The lighting will play an important part in enhancing the overall look and feel of your pergola, helping to create the perfect outdoor kitchen and dining oasis,' advises Mara Rypacek Miller, managing director, Industville Ltd.
2. Modify a potting table into prep space
Freestanding furniture is a key element to consider when putting together a DIY outdoor kitchen. They are a good way to test the water so to speak in regards to having a more extensive outdoor kitchen installed.
You can use potting tables initially, they're versatile and often come with a shelf and drawers. You can pick a potting table up from Amazon with prices starting as low as £28. Zinc tops make great prep areas and you can place two different designs side by side for extra width.
3. Add a decorative aspect with tiles
Pretty up your outdoor kitchen with a spot of DIY tiling, it's perfect if you don't want a rustic-looking outdoor kitchen and want to introduce some colour and pattern. They also make a wonderful food prep surface.
If you're wondering which type of tile to choose due to them being outside Ruth Webber, brand director and colour expert, Bert & May recommends considering the purpose of the area.
'In places like the kitchen and especially outdoors, cement, porcelain or marble tiles are hardwearing and well suited to high-traffic areas making them suitable to floors and splashbacks in addition to wall applications.'
If this is your first time tiling consider sticking to a simple pattern that will be more forgiving. If you're working with a small space, Ruth says: 'Our glazed tiles have a reflective and undulating finish and are great for making a small area feel larger.'
4. Consider a double use bespoke bar
It might be that you already have an outdoor bar, in which case you can give it a double use and cook in it too or have the BBQ set up next to it. You could use it for salad and nibbles prep and store items on shelves inside. A set-up that doubles up is ideal for entertaining as you can pass drinks and food across the bar to guests.
Place a couple of bar stools to create a social hub and pop a drinks trolley nearby that can be wheeled around easily for guests.
5. Ensure you have some worktop space
Do give yourself space to prep – it doesn't need to be a huge area as you can use your table as backup, but a small space beside the oven or BBQ will ensure you keep some essentials separate. An easy DIY fix is to try your hand at a spot of brick laying or using breezeblocks to construct a hardwearing outdoor kitchen.
'Outdoor kitchens are one of life’s little luxuries – space allowing, they are the perfect way to combine cooking with entertaining, allowing you to mingle with guests while prepping an evening meal. Counter or tabletop space is a must, versatility allowing this element to be used as a bar, buffet or a seated high table with outdoor bar stools,' says Francesca Morris, senior buyer, Garden Trading.
'Finishing touches ensure your outdoor kitchen is not just a decorative feature but practical and convenient. Consider if you need a sink, access to herbs and spices, space to store firewood – all of this will influence your layout,'
6. Build around a statement BBQ
A good place to start is with a Big Green Egg BBQ or a similar BBQ like the Kamado Joe. It can be used all year round and cooks everything from pizza to paella. This style of BBQ is beloved by BBQ enthusiasts.
You can build around one to create a DIY outdoor kitchen with house bricks and a marble off-cut, you can ask the supplier to cut a hole within so it will fit your BBQ perfectly and give you the most stylish worktop to boot.
7. Or invest in a table top oven on wheels
We're big fans of anything on wheels – it makes life much easier as you can wheel your DIY outdoor kitchen to wherever you need it, making it even more practical for your garden dining needs.
This is one of the easiest DIY outdoor kitchen ideas because it is as simple as adding some castors to a table or shelving unit. If you are planning to use it to place your BBQ or pizza oven on top just make sure that the material is heat-resistant and strong.
8. Build in your own BBQ
It you enjoy grilling over charcoal, a simple yet very effective idea is to create a grill area with breeze blocks. Have a base grill for your charcoal and two upper ones for cooking.
Pop up some hanging rails for your essentials like spices and utensils – having them to hand is always a bonus when the grill is hot and sizzling. Tray tables are a versatile piece to have nearby too, they can be used for condiments and side dishes or as a spare table if extra guests appear!
9. Don't neglect your key lighting
As the light fades you don't want to cut your outdoor dining short so remember to invest in a few task garden lights as you would inside, to the main cooking area of your DIY outdoor kitchen.
‘Add an ambient lighting effect to your garden and outdoor kitchen by opting for lighting that casts directional pools of light upwards and downwards, such as our ‘Falmouth’ design. Perfect for exterior areas where you have added colour and interest with freshly painted walls, and the depth of colour is illuminated, creating a cosy and cocooning environment just as you would experience inside your home,' advises Hollie Moreland, creative director, David Hunt Lighting.
10. A wall-mounted bar can be a serving area
Pallets are one of the most versatile items – you can use them to make outdoor furniture like coffee tables and sofas, or adapt one to use as a wall-mounted bar. Although a bar space is an essential for outdoor dining, it can be adapted to use as part of your outdoor kitchen design.
If you add strong fixtures to your design you can add a thin layer of slate to use as a worktop which gives you vital space that frees up your table.
Can you build an outdoor kitchen yourself?
You can definitely build an outdoor kitchen yourself and how involved you get with it depends on how high a spec you want to create. Great DIY outdoor kitchen ideas can include simply setting up some prep areas next to your BBQ. They can be potting tables with zinc tops that give your instant workspace and vital storage. If you then love your outdoor kitchen and want to take it further you can look into more permanent fixtures. One key aspect though to consider from the start is a hard surface to place your DIY outdoor kitchen on – like a patio or decking area.
'Although it is much cheaper than hiring a professional, laying a patio yourself can be a tenuous task that leads to results that may not be exactly as you like. A professional will make sure the sub-base is fit for purpose and laid using the right materials that are suited to your tile choice,' says Amanda Telford, marketing manager at CTD Tiles.
Do I need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen?
As long as your DIY outdoor kitchen falls within the 2.4 permitted development then no as it won't be considered as a permanent structure, especially if there's no canopy that might cause issues with neighbours.
If your house is listed it might be worth checking with your local authority if you want to make your outdoor kitchen more permanent.
Does an outdoor kitchen add value to a property?
The answer to this is most definitely yes, because it's adding invaluable and more appealing space to your outside area and creating an alfresco eating element on a more permanent basis.
Having a space that flows from the interior to exterior is becoming a must-have that aids our well-being. The rise of more eco-friendly log burners and patio heaters has extended the summer months into autumn so we can spend more time outside too.
'Generally a good garden, lovely terrace and quality outdoor kitchen are all a plus for the value of your property. The higher value bracket the property is in, probably the more true this is,' says Caroline Burvill, director, Gaze Burvill.
Happy alfresco cooking!
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Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events.
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