Outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchens: getting the layout right

Layout dos and don’ts for the outdoor kitchen

Photo courtesy Enigma Interiors


Gabrielle Chariton

As homeowners’ enthusiasm for open-plan living extends to the outdoors, we are seeing a surge in the popularity of dedicated alfresco cooking spaces. While the outdoor kitchen was once synonymous with luxury homes, it’s becoming the new must-have lifestyle addition across the mid-range of the housing market.

But while this space is called a ‘kitchen’ it differs from a regular indoor kitchens in a multitude of ways. By necessity, outdoor kitchens are often tucked into one edge of a deck or patio adjoining the living areas of the home, although they are sometimes installed within stand-alone cabanas. Despite the limited space inclusions can range from barbecues and specialist hotplates right through to a plumbed sink, fridge and sometimes even dishwashers. From a functional point of view the outdoor kitchen must facilitate the efficient and safe preparation and serving of food plus offer adequate seating and dining. That’s quite a big ask.  

Another complication is that while clients might be very specific regarding their functional requirements for the indoor kitchen, they’re often unsure of how the outdoor kitchen will be used and unable to provide the detail that’s necessary to creating a layout that’s well-matched to their future needs.

That means you need to be the expert and guide your client based on your own knowledge of how the space should ideally function. A great reference point is HIA’s Outdoor Kitchen Checklist, a comprehensive resource developed by industry professionals in response to the growing demand for outdoor cooking facilities. 

outdoor kitchen Photo courtesy: TAK Acquisitions
Outdoor kitchen Photo courtesy: Enigma Interiors

When it comes to optimising layout, the checklist covers the following subjects:

  • Consideration of traffic flow and space allocation for seating/dining. Ensuring that thoroughfares around the cooking space remain clear and there’s sufficient space for pulling out chairs without blocking access.

  • Allowing space for food preparation, cooking and serving functions by including a benchtop preparation area and landing space around various appliances.
    Consideration of storage requirements including short- and long-term food storage, crockery and cooking utensils. Ensuring storage is adequately sealed for protection from rodents and insects.

  • Considering the clearance from the dining table/bench and walkways when placing barbeques and cooktops. This includes consideration for how ventilation will be managed, such as keeping the appliances away from the entry to the internal home to prevent fumes being drawn indoors.

  • Waste management solutions to identify where food scraps/rubbish/recycling facilities will be located, ensuring these are well-sealed from rodents or insects.

  • The positioning of refrigerators and wine coolers away from direct sunlight and heated/heating appliances.

The HIA Outdoor Kitchen Checklist looks at all aspects of design and construction for outdoor kitchens including how to address potential issues, minimise risks and ensure that the outdoor kitchens you design or build will be functional, safe, and durable in the long term. HIA K&B members can download it here

Not an HIA member yet? By joining Australia’s largest national association for the residential building industry, you’ll get access to a range of member benefits, as well as industry products and business services designed to help you manage, operate and grow.

Related Articles

A New York state of mind

This display kitchen encapsulates emerging international trends, combining a relaxed industrial aesthetic with a focus on ergonomics.

The cook and her kitchen

Using just three simple ingredients, Farquhar cooked up the perfect kitchen for celebrity chef Maggie Beer.

Luxe lifestyles

A focus on customised, client-centred design makes it easy for home buyers to imagine all the things life could be in an award-winning Averna Homes residence.

Drawn to life

This home, built with a focus on the aesthetic qualities of raw construction materials, effortlessly welcomes the outdoors in.

Join more than 120,000 like-minded subscribers