outdoor kitchen, EP Henry

How to Design & Build Your Dream Outdoor Kitchen

Whether you’re designing a new outdoor kitchen and patio or adding a kitchen to your existing patio, here’s what you need to get started.

There’s something special about cooking a meal outdoors with the breeze at your back and then sharing that meal with family and friends on a sunlit patio. 

This desire to live life outdoors has propelled outdoor kitchens with grill tops, refrigerators, custom cabinets, and even dishwashers to the top of just about every homeowner’s wish list.  

Helping that wish come true is one of the reasons we love our work here at Penn Stone. And it’s not only because we love a fresh steak seared over an outdoor grill. It’s also because outdoor kitchens can quickly become complex projects when homeowners don’t enlist the help of a professional.

If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen project, here’s what you need to know to ensure the project runs smoothly and you achieve the kitchen of your dreams.


Outdoor Kitchens are Not DIY Projects. Invest in a Professional Design Advisor & Contractor 


“Designing and building your dream outdoor kitchen takes careful planning,” said John McGrann, Owner of Penn Stone. “We meet homeowners who walk into our showroom expecting to walk out with their outdoor kitchen. In reality, though, the first step isn’t to make a purchase; it’s to have a conversation.”

A conversation with your hardscaping showroom’s design advisor is often the best way to get your design ideas out of your head and onto paper. At Penn Stone, that means getting to know Amy Bitar, our in-house hardscaping design advisor.

“We start by talking through how the homeowner will use their outdoor kitchen and what’s most important to them about cooking outdoors,” Amy said. “Then, we work through the design and planning process, bring in the right contractor for the project, and work together to create a kitchen that’s perfect for their needs.”


What to Consider When Speaking with an Outdoor Kitchen Design Advisor 


When starting work with a homeowner, Amy asks a series of kitchen design questions as they embark on their outdoor kitchen design journey, including:

What’s Your Style?
Are you dreaming of a traditional cabinet style that looks and feels like an indoor kitchen? Or are you looking for a kitchen that feels like an organic extension of your landscape?

What are Your Priority Features?
There’s practically no limit to the number of features you can tack onto your outdoor kitchen. So, it’s important to determine your priorities. A few features to consider include:

    • Sink
    • Refrigeration
    • Kegerator
    • Pizza oven
    • Added grilling & cooking options
    • Seating
    • Storage
    • Trash disposal
    • Anything else on your wish list

Determine which of these – or any others – are priorities so your kitchen meets your most important needs.


Where Your Outdoor Kitchen Project Begins Depends on Your Existing Outdoor Space


Outdoor kitchens can be built in one of two ways: designed as part of an entirely new outdoor space or added onto an existing patio. 

1. Designing a New Outdoor Space

When your backyard is a blank slate, the outdoor kitchen design possibilities are just about endless. To create your kitchen, you’ll first need to design and construct an outdoor patio that considers the kitchen’s type and size.

This is where a design advisor and contractor can guide you through the entire process; everything from creating a welcoming patio design to planning the proper location for the water, electric, and gas lines.

2.  Adding a Kitchen to an Existing Patio

If you’re adding a kitchen to an existing patio, you’ll still have plenty of design options. The size of the existing patio is the main structural consideration, along with the infrastructure you’ll need to add to run your kitchen’s water, electric, and gas lines. 

A design advisor and contractor can help you maximize your existing space and determine the best ways to add your utility lines without disrupting the current patio.


Decide on the Type of Outdoor Kitchen: ‘Built-In’ or ‘Freestanding’


When the patio is in place and it’s time to choose your outdoor kitchen, you have another decision to make: to install a Built-In or Freestanding outdoor kitchen. 

There are benefits to both types, so the decision lies more in how you see yourself using the kitchen space and whether or not you’re working with an existing patio.

When to Choose a Built-In Outdoor Kitchen

Built-in masonry kitchens are beautiful. They’re built to be a part of the patio, with stone and building materials blending the walls of the kitchen right into the floor. 

The results are well worth the wait but be prepared for long lead times if you choose a built-in kitchen. Once materials are delivered and your project lands on your contractor’s schedule, the kitchen must still be built which takes additional time. 

Once the project is completed, you’ll have a custom outdoor kitchen that perfectly fits your space and needs. 

When to Choose a Freestanding Outdoor Kitchen

If you’re adding a kitchen to an existing patio and not looking to reconstruct any portion of that space, installing a freestanding outdoor kitchen is the way to go. Freestanding kitchens sit directly on the patio floor and are beautifully designed with features like cabinet doors and hardware that mimic the styles of custom indoor cabinetry.

At Penn Stone, we work with outdoor kitchen manufacturers like Challenger Designs who offer high-end finishes and modular cabinetry options for a custom layout. Like with a built-in kitchen, there can be long lead times from the manufacturers. But once your freestanding kitchen arrives, your contractor can get it set up in one day and have you cooking outside by dinner time.

Visit Our Showroom to Get Your Outdoor Kitchen Project Started


Designing and installing an outdoor kitchen the right way means careful planning and guidance from a team of professionals. And it starts by meeting with Amy Bitar at Penn Stone to get your ideas on paper and connect with a contractor. 

Schedule an appointment with Amy or stop into our showroom at 190 West Ross Street, Lancaster, PA and let’s bring your dream outdoor kitchen to life together.

Stay up to date!

Sign up for our newsletter to follow along with us.