Luxury Outdoor Kitchens On The Rise – NKBA
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Luxury Outdoor Kitchens On The Rise

This high-growth category is rapidly becoming a staple for many homeowners.
By Elisa Fernández-Arias

The outdoor luxury kitchen category continues to grow at a fast clip, according to NKBA’s first-ever qualitative Luxury Outdoor Kitchen report. What’s more, the recently released report highlighted how this high-growth category is accessible to all designers thanks to the transfer of most interior design principles to the outdoor space. 

Causes and Trends

The expansion of outdoor luxury kitchens is due, in large part, to the COVID-19 pandemic that drove more in-home entertaining and cooking, which propelled a need to expand into outdoor spaces to accommodate this shift.  “Spending $1000 on a meal downtown, in a mask, in a private box, ruined the experience of a high-end restaurant,” said Matt Herbert of Sherwood Outdoor Kitchens, who along with Emily Bell of Bell Design Studios, Isabella Blue of RISE Outdoor, John Cialone of Tom Stringer Design Partners and other designers participated in the qualitative report.  “People changed how they entertained at home. They want to be outdoors. The focus is on the experience now. And cooking at home is cooler than going to a restaurant. High-quality food, high-quality cooking, high-quality environment.”

“There will never be a home we design without an outdoor kitchen, ever.” —Sandra Gjesdahl, Bristol Design and Construction

And as the wellness trend has continued to gain momentum, consumers are increasingly seeking to connect with nature through their outdoor space – space that can also be used to increase the footprint of smaller homes.  The move into expanding outdoors has also  created a need for new products to enhance the space, including pizza ovens, all-year luxury cabinetry, UV-resistant countertops, and appliances that can withstand the elements. “There will never be a home we design without an outdoor kitchen, ever,” said Sandra Gjesdahl of Bristol Design and Construction, in the Luxury Outdoor Kitchen report.

Given the growth of the category, it should come as no surprise that luxury outdoor kitchens have become an expected “standard” for luxury home builds. “Most ground-up new projects are taking outdoor spaces into consideration,” noted Nar Bustamante of Nar Design Group, in the report. “New construction definitely includes outdoor living kitchens, pools, decks. It’s a priority.”

Outdoor is Accessible to All Designers  

What’s more, this high-growth category is accessible to all designers. The designers participating in this research had very diverse backgrounds and varying degrees of outdoor kitchen experience. Some designers began their careers as construction contractors, starting the project with this point of reference; some started out as architects, using these skills to create the outdoor space and then added finishes and appliances; and those who were kitchen and/or interior designers transferred their interior design skills to the outdoors, focusing on client needs and lifestyle to inspire them.

Many Interior Design Principles Transfer

Many interior design principles transfer to the outdoor space, making the luxury outdoor kitchen category highly accessible to nearly anyone with design experience.  First off, the design process is the same: a designer of the outdoor kitchen must understand the needs of their clients and how they entertain — thinking through functionality, flow of space and aesthetic, adequate storage, washing, prep, cooking, serving, and easy clean-up.

Additionally, both interior and outdoor kitchen design require building and coordinating a team of specialists. Designers need to find the right partners (which may be different from those used for the interior) and then coordinate the order and timing of each facet of the project. 

Designers also have to consider different ways to make the outdoor space – like indoor spaces– flexible so that the client can use it for different experiences. Partnering with a tech integrator is also important to ensure an easy, comfortable ambiance. 

“Outdoor kitchens take cues from the inside, acting as an extension of the interior,” said Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, one of the participants in the report. “The appliances are a bit different, but a lot of the same rules apply.”

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about these and other insights from the Luxury Outdoor Kitchen study, download the full report here. To watch the NKBA Summit on Designing the Outdoor Kitchen, go here to view the sessions on demand. 

This article is the second in a series of three articles about the Luxury Outdoor Kitchen, with the third and final installment scheduled to be released next week.