Entertaining in the summer is always more fun outside. Whether you’ve got a few friends stopping by or are hosting a big 4th of July family reunion, just having everyone outdoors makes the party summery and relaxed. But while the kids have water balloon fights and slurp drippy popsicles, don’t be stuck inside in the kitchen, away from the action. Cooking summer food can be such a pleasure outside, and an outdoor kitchen makes things simple and fun.

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Nothing makes outdoor entertaining easier than having a fully equipped outdoor kitchen and dining area. If that sounds like too much of an expense, bear in mind that it doesn’t need to be extravagant; a little careful planning can even make a small space functional and inviting.

Planning an open-air kitchen means thinking about an upgrade from just your basic barbeque. You’ll need counter space to prep and enough room to stand and cook, somewhere to stash utensils and condiments nearby–don’t make your guests run back inside for the ketchup. Casual bar seating is a nice touch, letting you chat while you chop. Lighting options for dining are flexible–paper lanterns or a few intimate candles will do the trick–but including bright task lighting in the cooking area can also make your night so much easier; try something battery operated or solar powered for portability.

Some outdoor kitchens take things to the next level, bringing the indoors out with fully equipped sinks and refrigerators. And then there’s the ultimate outdoor accessory: the fireplace. If you’re custom-designing an outdoor kitchen, make sure it reflects your style: the rooftop kitchen below by Zakrzewski + Hyde is sleek and modern, while a rustic table reflects the sculptural organic shape of a nearby tree in a space by Arterra Landscape Architects.

Even if you don’t have the space or budget for a complete overhaul, steal some ideas from the luxury homes: hang gauzy curtains around the space, make a comfortable lounging area with cushions and throws, or even break out the tools to build a simple pergola. And if you’re able to provide some rooftop coverage, even better: it’ll be a perfect place to watch the kids catch fireflies, or sit back with a glass of wine during a summer rainstorm.



source: Urrutia Design | photo credit: Jason Wells


source: Highgate House, via Houzz


source: Molly Wood Garden Design | photo credit: Trina Roberts


source: Mr. Mitchell


source: Mr. Mitchell


source: Tim Davies Landscaping | photo credit: Grab Photography


source: Sandy Koepke


source: Outhouse Design | photo credit: Katrine Mardini