Back of home large paver patio with outdoor kitchen and seating area Rogers

4 Tips for Designing an Outdoor Kitchen For Your Chicagoland Backyard

Are you dreaming of transforming your backyard into the ultimate outdoor oasis? With steaks sizzling on the grill, and family and friends chatting, an outdoor kitchen becomes more than just a culinary space–it’s the heart of your outdoor living experience.

Designing an outdoor kitchen is the perfect way to elevate your outdoor living experience and make the most of your backyard space. But where do you start? From selecting the perfect location to choosing the right materials, there is much to consider. 

Let’s explore four tips that can help you bring your outdoor kitchen plan to life. 

Consider the Location when Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

The first step in designing an outdoor kitchen is selecting the right location. Ideally, you want to place it in an area that is easily accessible from your indoor kitchen and entertaining spaces. It is also wise to consider proximity to utilities like gas, water, and electricity, as well as, wind and sunlight exposure. 

Do you have existing landscaping elements you already love like a patio or firepit? It is important to take these elements into consideration so that your entire outdoor space feels connected and all entertaining areas are easily accessible. 

For Chicagoland homeowners, it is essential to also factor in our climate. Position your outdoor kitchen in a spot that provides shelter from the wind, especially during the Spring and Fall months. Additionally, if you plan on using your outdoor kitchen throughout the year, consider installing a pergola or structure to provide shade in the summer and protection from the elements. 

brick kitchen and fireplace in backyard

How to Choose Materials for Your Outdoor Kitchen Plan

When it comes to selecting materials for your outdoor kitchen, durability is key. With Chicagoland’s dramatically fluctuating temperatures throughout the year, choosing the right materials is essential for your outdoor kitchen to last. Opt for materials that can withstand the harsh winter conditions as well as the hot summer sun. 

For countertops, natural stone such as granite is an excellent choice due to its durability and resistance to weathering. Stainless steel appliances are also a popular choice for outdoor kitchens thanks to their rust-resistant properties and eye-pleasing appearance.

If your outdoor space already has existing entertaining features or hardscape materials, it is important to consult with a landscape architect to ensure that your new materials blend seamlessly with your existing landscape features and your home’s architecture. 

small backyard with outdoor kitchen and swing set

Designing an Outdoor Kitchen: Don’t Forget These Awesome Features

Over the last several years, outdoor kitchen design has experienced significant growth, fueled by hundreds of new feature options and advanced appliances. A high-quality grill is a must-have for any outdoor kitchen. To make your outdoor kitchen both functional and stylish, consider incorporating some of these appliances to take your outdoor cooking experience to the next level: 

  • Pizza Ovens
  • Griddles
  • Side Burners
  • Smokers
  • Refrigerators
  • Dishwashers
  • Warming Drawers


Storage is essential for keeping your exterior kitchen design organized and clutter-free. Invest in cabinets or drawers made from weather-resistant materials like stainless steel. Built-in storage solutions such as pull-out trash bins and spice racks can also help maximize space and efficiency. 

Storage options help prevent extra trips back into your home while preparing a meal and make set-up and clean-up easy. The addition of warming drawers can help keep prepared dishes warm, yet also be used for storage after your meal is over. 

backyard pergola outdoor kitchen with paver patio next to pool


When it comes to lighting, recessed lighting in your outdoor kitchen itself can help provide illumination for cooking after dark. Consider adding lighting above work areas like the grill or sink, as well as ambient lighting to create a cozy atmosphere. 

backyard kitchen with outdoor lights

Make Your Exterior Kitchen Design Functional with Areas to Entertain

In addition to cooking areas, don’t forget to incorporate spaces for entertaining and relaxation into your outdoor kitchen design. If you do not already have an existing patio, be sure to discuss how many guests you plan to host so that an ample size dining space can be included in your outdoor kitchen plan. 

Depending on your preferences and available space, you could also include features such as a bar area with seating, a fire pit or fireplace for cozy evenings, or even a pergola for shade in the summer months.

Creating designated zones within your outdoor entertaining space can help maximize functionality and flow. For example, including separate cooking and preparation areas from seating and dining areas will prevent congestion and facilitate easy movement between spaces. 

falgstone patio in backyard with outdoor kitchen and seating area

Your Professional Outdoor Kitchen Design and Installation Team

Designing and installing an outdoor kitchen is a significant investment, so it is essential to choose a reputable and experienced team to bring your vision to life. Verify the company you choose is properly licensed and insured. We recommend requesting a landscape architect for exterior kitchen design because most outdoor kitchens include electrical and gas work as well as complicated design and construction.  

Choose a team that offers customization options to tailor your outdoor kitchen to your specific needs and preferences. Whether you have a small urban patio or a sprawling suburban backyard, your outdoor kitchen should be designed to maximize space and functionality. 

With the right team and careful planning, your outdoor kitchen will not only enhance the beauty and usability of your outdoor space but also provide endless opportunities for enjoyment and entertainment with family and friends for years to come. 


Ready to design your dream outdoor kitchen? Get started by filling out our contact form. Our experienced project directors will reach out to discuss your perfect outdoor kitchen and get to work transforming your backyard.

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Brian Jordison

Brian Jordison

Brian is a Senior Landscape Designer with James Martin Associates.