Don’t begin the project of designing an outdoor kitchen without first consulting with the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) for design tips. In its 2019 Outdoor Kitchen Consumer Profile, the not-for-profit trade organization compiled the results of a 15-minute online survey of a panel of 303 national respondents who either have completed or are planning to build an outdoor kitchen. The respondents are homeowners, age 21 to 70, with a budget of $5,000-plus for an outdoor kitchen that includes at least one of the following items: a sink, cabinets or built-in storage with doors or drawers, a countertop or food-prep surface, a dishwasher, an ice maker, a fireplace, or a pizza oven. According to Rebekah Zaveloff, founder of Chicago-based KitchenLabs and a member of NKBA’s Insider program, “the three key elements of an outdoor kitchen are fire, water, and air. When you can bring together all three of these elements—a fabulous grill, running water, and a food prep area, and fresh air, well, that’s when outdoor kitchen living really hits its mark.”
Here are other key takeaways from NKBA’s annual report, including top trends and current costs for outdoor kitchens (also known as ODK, for those in the know).
1. Professional Consult
Homeowners are researching home improvement websites, magazines, TV shows, specialty retailers, and contractors and consulting with designers and/or garden specialists before breaking ground on their outdoor kitchens. And nearly all respondents (85 percent) use professional installers.
2. Size and Spend
Most outdoor kitchens range between 100 and 400 square feet and are situated immediately outside the home—sharing an exterior wall (with proximity to the indoor kitchen for ease of prep and cleanup)—and cost an average of $13,000. However, 25 percent of respondents report constructing high-end ODKs and spending upwards of $30,000 on the project.
3. Planned Usage
“Family-friendly” and “casual” are the top requests for the look and feel of ODKs, as the majority of respondents plan to use the space for family meals or small gatherings (with less than 10 people) at least a few times a week for three seasons out of the year.
4. Main Design Concerns
Overall appearance, the flow of the space, shelter for privacy, and material and product selections rank as critical considerations when constructing ODKs.
5. Key Components
- Countertop/food-prep surface
- Infrastructure elements, such as electricity, water, drainage, and gas lines
6. Top Trends
- Fixed overhead structures such as pergolas, made with stone or brick walls
- Built-in under-counter refrigerators
- Built-in natural or propane gas grill with stainless-steel finish and add-ons like side burners or warming racks
- Built-in cabinetry with stainless-steel, metal, or wood doors
- Natural stone for countertops and flooring
- Counter-height and bar-height counters
- Counter/bar seating and conversational seating, versus the less popular freestanding dining tables
- Overhead/ambient light
7. Room for Improvement
Challenges cited by respondents include:
– Ease of food prep in cooler months
– Options for dealing with insects
– More/better selections for counters, cabinets, storage, and appliances
Additionally, some said they wish they’d invested more time and money on counters and cabinets, overhead structures for privacy and weather protection, better temperature and lighting solutions, and increased space. For the full NKBA 2019 Outdoor Kitchen Consumer report, visit NBA.org.