The Best Materials for Outdoor Kitchens
Among our clients, there is a list of certain features that make frequent appearances in our designs. One of these design features is an outdoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchens are great ways to increase the livability and function of your outdoor living space. Additionally, they create an opportunity to be creative with design. A large part of creating an outdoor kitchen is deciding what the best materials for your outdoor kitchen are.
While there are seemingly endless options to choose from when you’re deciding on features, some materials are better suited for outdoor kitchens and dining areas than others. Today we’ll discuss our favorite materials for outdoor kitchens and take a look at some of our favorite projects to date.
Let’s start with the classics. Tile is a mainstay in both indoor and outdoor kitchen design, and for good reason. A quality tile is versatile, durable, and highly customizable. While many may think of traditional indoor tile applications on backsplashes or countertops, outdoor kitchen applications can look a bit different.
One of the most common ways that we use tile in outdoor kitchens is to cover the walls of bars and islands. This application allows the face of the structure to act as a feature wall. Above, you can see exactly how versatile tile design can truly be. The clients in this project were eager to do something a little funky and add a bright pop of color to an otherwise neutral space. The tile selected is a bright blue, geometric design that makes the outdoor kitchen a centerpiece of the space.
However, tile doesn’t have to be loud and colorful to make a statement. The next project, seen above, uses tile to explore visual texture in the space. Long, narrow tiles are staggered around the walls of the dual peninsulas. A cool gray color keeps the overall effect sleek and modern, while the variation in pattern adds visual interest to the design.
In the space above, you see how tile stretches from the outdoor kitchen and wraps around the new outdoor fireplace. In keeping with the wood structure, the tile has an organic, stone appearance in shades of warm gray. It works to keep the atmosphere of the space grounded, while tying the kitchen and living room together visually.
Tile is one of the best materials for outdoor kitchens for many reasons. Whether our clients are looking to punch things up with a bright pop of color, or match a natural, organic ambience in their space, there’s a tile selection and application that will work for them.
When you think of concrete, what do you imagine? For most people, concrete is a material that they imagine is used solely underfoot on patios driveways. However, it is also one of our favorite materials to use in outdoor kitchens. Many people are surprised to learn that concrete is more versatile than they think. Modern concrete work comes in a wide range of colors and finishes, and is highly adaptable to suit different design styles.
In many of our projects, concrete can take the place of tile in outdoor kitchen areas. Below is an example of a modern outdoor kitchen space.
Here, the kitchen island has been finished in a deep gray concrete, contrasting the lighter pavers below. This same finishing is seen on the gas fire pit to the left of the island. The repeated use of concrete finishes ties these spaces together without making either feature compete for attention. Instead, the finished space is a harmonious example of how concrete use extends beyond driveways and patios.
Another one of our favorite materials for finishing outdoor kitchens are segmental wall blocks. You may be most familiar with segmental wall blocks for their common use in retaining walls or plants. However, at Water and Earth we like to think outside of the box.
Segmental wall blocks are great alternative options for finishing many types of outdoor spaces and are more versatile than you may think.
In the project below, you can see how segmental wall blocks have been used to finish the walls and facade of the kitchen island. The uniform finish is a great contrast to the mix and match pattern design of the pavers underfoot. Toward the back of the frame, you can see how the same segmental wall blocks have been used to create retaining walls for raised planting berms on the property.
In this next example, you can see a similar application of segmental wall blocks wrapping around the edge of an outdoor bar. Not only does the blocking create the facade, but it also structurally constructs a raised bar elevated above the main counter space for additional seating.
This project is also a great example of how versatile segmental wall blocks can be not only in function, but design. Several different tones create a high-contrast pattern along the facade, picking up both the darker tones of the counter top and the lighter finish of the paver patio.
The final outdoor kitchen material we feel deserves a nod is stucco. Sometimes overlooked in favor of other materials, stucco has stood the test of time in indoor and outdoor architecture for good reason. Modern applications of stucco feel a long way from outdated designs of decades past.
Today, stucco can be elevated to bring a clean, modern, low profile finish to outdoor kitchens. Below, you see just one of the many ways stucco can be modified. Here, the stucco selected matches the pavers below. From the cool gray color to the subtle stamped tile effect, the result is a seamless transition from countertop to patio.
Even more traditional applications of stucco can look appropriately modern when skillfully incorporated into the design. Below, a more traditional take on stucco finishes the walls on this outdoor kitchen counter. The textural finish adds visual interest, while the surrounding countertops and geometric tiles below keep the finished product looking fresh.
At the end of the day, the best materials for your outdoor kitchen will be the one that works for you and your design. All materials come with their own set of benefits, drawbacks, and price tags. Understanding what materials will create a functional, cohesive space is critical to creating a backyard that you love. Thankfully, from bold tile to traditional stucco, there are plenty of great options to go around.
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