10 small outdoor kitchen ideas that will work in the tiniest of spaces

Our small outdoor kitchen ideas will make even the most compact space workable

outdoor kitchen with tiled wall, big green egg BBQ, good storage, crates, side table, plates, log store, chopping boards
(Image credit: Case Furniture)

If you're looking to upgrade your alfresco dining this summer, but are short on garden space, don't let that stop you from embracing some clever small outdoor kitchen ideas.

The best outdoor kitchen ideas will give you enough inspiration to turn a patch of your garden into a compact yet workable cooking space. Whether you are looking into how to make a mini outdoor kitchen on a balcony to house your new best BBQ or customise a tiny patio into an outdoor pizzeria, there are some clever tricks to blend that outdoor kitchen look with your small garden ideas.

'Creating a kitchen, whatever its size for the outdoor environment is the same as tackling an indoor kitchen, except that you have to factor in weather and climate – which in our country means a substantial amount of humidity!  So be sure to ask an outdoors specialist to make it – it is a different science in wood-working or construction terms,' advises Caroline Burvill, director, Gaze Burvill.

Even if you barely have room for the BBQ, it's important to have enough space for even a tiny worktop, it will give you that extra bit of help when cooking and serving. Read on for more small outdoor kitchen ideas that will inspire you to give it a whirl!

Small outdoor kitchen ideas 

Outdoor kitchens are on the rise, even here in sunny/rainy UK. We've got clever ideas that will inspire you to look at your small garden in a new way, and transform your dining space into one that you can cook in more permanently too.

From a BBQ on wheels to compact storage, our small outdoor kitchen ideas allow you to look at your space and make the most of it. 

1. For the teeniest garden start with a BBQ

outdoor space with BBQ on wheels, garden armchair, blue and white stripe cushions, planters, tiled stone floor

(Image credit: Future PLC)

To strip it down to basics, a small outdoor kitchen can simply be a BBQ in the garden. You can prepare the food in the kitchen and bring it through to the garden ready for alfresco dining. 

Choose a BBQ that's compact enough to fit into your space, and ideally with some worktop space each side that can at least hold drinks or enough space for a pile of plates. Soften it visually with plants to the sides. 

2. Choose a mobile kitchen

outdoor kitchen on balcony with table and chairs

(Image credit: Gaze Burvill)

When space is tight, an outdoor kitchen on wheels will be your best friend. You'll be able to move it about as and when, and it will fit into a small corner neatly. 

'Opening the door to an entirely new level of outdoor cooking experience, and featuring three cabinets and a marine-grade stainless steel mobile chassis, the A la Carte Mobile comes equipped with wheels, making it easy to find the perfect spot for cooking,' says Caroline Burvill, director, Gaze Burvill

3. Get on top of your storage

outdoor kitchen with tiled wall, big green egg BBQ, good storage, crates, side table, plates, log store, chopping boards

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're in love with your outdoor kitchen and want to make it a more permanent fixture, even if only for the summer months then your outdoor kitchen storage ideas will be key. 

In a small garden space the best option is to go vertical and keep your storage compact. Create shelves around your BBQ, they can double as worktop space and storage. Store items like chopping boards, salt and pepper, tableware, cutlery, glassware and logs. Keep napkins and tablecloths in the house in case of drizzle. 

4. Use white to create the illusion of space

balcony with white table and chairs, planters, outdoor kitchen to the right

(Image credit: Case Furniture)

As with inside, as with outside and the rule of white making a space look bigger is just as true with your small outdoor kitchen ideas. 

‘Working with a small outdoor kitchen area can be challenging, but by using a light colour palette, it can help to impose less on the space itself whilst still having a big impact. Choose slimline & lightweight furniture to help maximise the space you have – a tall bar table & bar stools offers great dining and entertaining space,' says Duncan Bull, design director, Case Furniture.

5. Make the most of every inch

small outdoor kitchen idea with BBQ in corner, planters, festoon lights, wall mounted planter

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Place a portable BBQ on something rectangular, it could be a purpose built unit, a narrow table or for a DIY outdoor kitchen idea, utilise a potting bench. The idea is that it creates worktop space as well as somewhere for the BBQ or pizza oven to sit. 

Rectangular shapes work best because they can fit snugly into a corner and you can then use the other walls for decoration like wall-mounted planters, pots and festoon lights. 

6. Consider opening up your current kitchen

kitchen with crittall doors to outside decking, doors open

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

Does your kitchen have a view of the garden or could open directly on to the patio or decking? If so, then make the most of this aspect and have crittall doors fitted so you can create a continuous flow from inside to outside. That way your interior kitchen essentially becomes your outdoor kitchen too. 

'The great outdoors can be thoughtfully integrated into the overall aesthetic of an indoor kitchen by thoughtfully considering your layout. If your kitchen is near your garden, or has a nice view, make sure the furniture layout makes the best of this by orienting towards the view,' says Katy Paul, designer at Tom Howley

'Your sink doesn’t always have to be positioned looking out to the garden, consider locating your dining area with the best view in the kitchen. Creating an indoor-outdoor living space will mean that dinner parties can extend outside into the garden, with all the essentials to hand in the kitchen.'

7. Opt for a modular system for flexibility

outdoor kitchen with modular system, Ikea, BBQ, cooking and storage areas on decking

(Image credit: Ikea)

Modular systems are always worth considering because the flexible nature ensures you can fit them in most spaces. 

L-shapes work well in small gardens and take up less of a footprint. Make sure you measure your area first to see what configurations you can use and mix up the storage options too. A good mix of drawers and shelving will serve you well. 

8. Invest in clever storage options

living space with trolley with plates, cocktails, cutlery on, view of outside

(Image credit: A Place For Everything)

Use multiple pieces that bridge the gap – like a serving trolley that can hold plates, cutlery and cocktails. It can be kept indoors mostly and wheeled out for when you use your small outdoor kitchen as another surface and storage area. 

'If space is at a premium in a small urban garden but you like the idea of a bar and outdoor kitchen area, why not add a space-saving fold-away bar or something a little bigger with storage space and a handy work surface for food prep,' says Simon Glanville, managing director, A Place For Everything

'If the inevitable British weather turns, a portable bar area or wheels might be worth considering alongside the traditional serving trolley for assisting with prep space for outdoor cooking. Consider high seating to complete the cafe-bar look with matching table space to serve from.'

9. Be clever with your layout

outdoor living area with outdoor kitchen, table, metal chairs, patterned tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Your layout is key when planning a small outdoor kitchen. It can be tricky trying to fit everything in especially when you need a good sized table to seat everyone. 

Keep the kitchen area to one side and zone it with coloured units, keep the furniture light and airy and distract the eye with patterned tiles that match the units – it will create a sense of cohesion whilst adding a decorative aspect. Use a mixture of materials for interest. 

10. Be playful with colour

outdoor kitchen with grey painted units , tiled worktop with sink, yellow watering can, pink and green stripe wall

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Treat your exterior decoration in a similar way to your interior – you can be as bold or as subtle as you like and why not use two colours together?

'As we continue to embrace our exterior spaces as an extension of our homes, consider the style of your outdoor kitchen area and inject a little colour. Earthy tones and greens work beautifully in exterior schemes because of their connection to the outdoors,' advises Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene.

Adding thick stripes of colour to a wall is a brilliant way of creating a statement as well as zoning an area in your garden. Opt for shades that are deeply evocative and celebratory of nature such as ‘Olive Green’ and the rich earthy shades of ‘Arras’ and ‘Nether Red’.'

How much does it cost to build a small outdoor kitchen?

This really depends on your budget and how serious you want to get with your outdoor kitchen elements. A BBQ or pizza oven can sit on top of a homemade-style structure and only cost the materials. 

If you want to go more in-depth and invest in proper outdoor units then naturally the costs will be much higher, even in a small garden. 

What is the minimum size for an outdoor kitchen?

This does depend on the space you have available and how many elements you want to incorporate. It can be teeny tiny and still work well enough for you to cook great meals for friends and family. 

'The key to a successful kitchen is space to move around it, with minimal squeezing past each other! So do allow yourself a bit of room to move around, even if it means sacrificing space for an outdoor kitchen sink. A bin is essential, with all the recycling etc, however, so definitely keep that!' says Caroline Burvill, director, Gaze Burvill

Does a small outdoor kitchen need a foundation?

Small or large, your outdoor kitchen will need to sit on some kind of surface, be it tiled, decked or concreted over. 

'Anything structural needs a good foundation, even a bicycle shed – so a stable, even, hard base with a small fall is essential,' adds Caroline.

'All our kitchen units have adjustable feet for small adjustments, as stone paving can have its own uneven texture. Ideally have your services – plumbing, electrics etc mapped and installed beforehand, so everything can hook up in the correct place. It is all in the planning. Of course if you just want a few cupboards and a pizza oven, then you don’t have to worry!' 

Sophie Warren-Smith

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.