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Summer Kitchen: What it is & Why Should You Want One?

By Jayme Muller

September 22, 2022

No matter what part of the year it is… we’re always looking forward to barbecue season!

We can already imagine having friends and family over to enjoy burgers…

But what about when it gets too hot to be outside grilling? If you’re from the south, you definitely know what we’re talking about.

What if we told you that there’s a solution to your summertime-grilling dilemma?

A summer kitchen grill might just be the perfect approach to enjoying the warm season outsidewithout the discomfort of the heat.

Note: They aren’t just for those in warmer climates! They’re fantastic for anyone who wants to cook al fresco year-round… even in the winter!

But before we get started talking about summer kitchens, it’s important to know what they are!

What Is a Summer Kitchen?

friends enjoying their outdoor kitchen after using free design tool software to create it

To give a simple definition… a contemporary summer kitchen is a covered area to cook separate from the main home.

It’s basically all the perks of an indoor kitchen… but outside!

This could include something as simple as a grill covered by a shade structure… or even a fully-functioning outdoor kitchen under a beautiful gazebo.

These days, the possibilities are limitless for an outdoor living space.

But what was their purpose?

History of Summer Kitchens

You may have been fortunate enough to come across one of these historic homes… but traditional summer kitchens have become quite rare (although they do still exist primarily in New England and the Midwest)!

Summer kitchens have been used throughout the US for a variety of different reasons.

Primarily made from wood or stone material… They were distinct small structures located next to the main houses.

Now that we’ve gotten into the history, where do they actually come from?

Where Did Summer Kitchens Come From?

Summer kitchens were invented by rich landowners in the early 1800’s with the purpose of being used by servants or slaves.

They were perfect for cooking for the multitude of people who would live on the property. They would cook there, then serve the food in the main house.

Soon, less-wealthy landowners began to build their own modest summer kitchens. They were especially common in New England, upstate New York, and the mid-Atlantic region.

Traveling pioneers brought them to the Midwest… and before long, they could be found across the world!

But why were they so popular? What was their purpose?

Historical Purpose of Summer Kitchens

By definition, they have always been separated from the rest of the house… but why?

As it turns out, they were outfitted with a variety of uses!

Summer kitchens were used in the 1800’s and early 1900’s when there was no AC.

As people cooked the majority of their meals in a fireplace or stone bake oven, it would get hot very quickly during the summertime.

Outdoor cooking served to keep the main homes cooler… and the smells of coal and firewood out of the main house.

During the winter… it could continue to be used for cooking or storing ingredients, dishes, and supplies. The space was used to can and pickle the harvest that had been brought in. Also to preserve food and to dry herbs.

Summer kitchens provided an extra safety measure. They were an extra precaution against a house fire since they were separate from the main house.

In addition to preparing meals… they often included a dining table to do other chores such as folding laundry or sewing, making them very useful.

Now that we’ve gone into their origins… you may be wondering why you’d want one built in modern times!

Have your own Summer Kitchen Idea?

Use our 3D design tool for free and bring your outdoor kitchen idea to life.

Why Summer Kitchens Are Still Relevant

It’s clear that summer kitchens offered a lot to homes in their humble beginnings.

They provided a separated workspace, spared the living area from the heat of an open flame, and even preventing house fires…

But how can a summer kitchen benefit us today?

The definition has changed… and so have they!

A Changing Definition

The term may be old, but summer kitchens are not outdated by any means! In fact, their purpose and characteristics have evolved over time, and now they are more common than ever!

They are alive and well… even if the ones today have evolved to better accommodate modern outdoor kitchen spaces.

The concept is very open-ended and has a lot of potential, so let’s get into what one can do for you today!

Benefits of a Contemporary Summer Kitchen

Even if it may not seem like it, bbq summer kitchens aren’t antiquated… They’re actually a timeless concept.

The ways they were beneficial in the past are still true today.

They continue to keep homes cool during the summertime months by keeping the heat outside… saving you money on your AC bill.

If you want to cook something more pungent, like fish, the smell will remain outside, rather than spreading the aroma throughout your house…

And it doubles as extra living room area for you and your guests!

As if it couldn’t get any better… It even adds value to your property!

It’s more than a grill island… You have the opportunity to spruce it up with anything you’d like!

Modern Summer Kitchen Design

modern outdoor kitchen by pool in backyard under pergola

With such a broad definition, there are so many possibilities!

All you need is a covered kitchen to create the perfect diy summer kitchen…

So let’s discuss the basics: the shade coverage, the kitchen, and the extras.

Finding the Right Coverings for You

Let’s dive into a few types of shade coverings!

The most popular choices are porches, pergolas, and gazebos.

Porches

If you happen to have a good-sized porch, you’re already set for the summer kitchen of your dreams!

Putting your grill island under a porch (or a lanai!) is a great option. Do your best to position your new cooking area near the edge so that cooking smells aren’t trapped.

Pergolas

an outdoor summer bar kitchen underneath a pergola in texas

Unlike a porch, a pergola or gazebo is detached from the home. That way, you can have your covered outdoor cooking area anywhere you’d like.

A pergola is designed to add shade to your space, but it does not provide complete coverage. Rather, they are structures with a roof covered in slanted bars.

You can grow plants in the roof, add fun lights for summertime nights, and more in this kind of shade structure… while still getting partial coverage from the sun and allowing the wind to blow through.

If you wanted full coverage, you could add a pergola cover… or consider a gazebo.

Toja Grid Pergolas

If you want easy customization, simple assembly, and great shade… consider looking into Toja Grid!

This company offers simple, modular designs for DIY pergolas.

You can construct their pergolas in under two hours, and they are classic, spacious, and beautiful.

They have standalone options as well as pergolas that attach to your home.

The customization allows for size variations… making them perfect whether you want a small summer kitchen or are working with a larger area.

This video goes into the perks of a Toja Grid pergola over some of the other options on the market.

Gazebos

Similarly to a pergola, a gazebo will also protect you and your furniture from the sun.

A gazebo will have a roof that provides full coverage from the sun. It can also protect against other elements, such as rain… while still allowing cool winds to blow through as the sides are open.

Many of these also come with netting or shades for the sides that can be used to enclose and provide shade… although we would suggest against using these while grilling!

Sojag Gazebo

If you’re looking for a gazebo, consider looking into Sojag!

They have a multitude of wall-mounted, hard-top, and soft-top gazebos, and even solariums!

Some of the more popular features they offer are a water resistant option, rust-resistant components, and a mosquito net.

A gazebo is a great option for outdoor shade, and Sojag makes it easy!

the easiest diy summer kitchen solution

Ready to design your summer kitchen? Use our 3D design tool to see what it will look like in just a few minutes.

Outdoor Kitchen

rta outdoor kitchen kit with concrete countertop

Now that we’ve discussed the ways to enclose it, we need to talk about the kitchen itself!

While there are a lot of options, we won’t get to all of them in this article.

For the purposes of this blog, we’re just going to discuss our solution… A ready-to-assemble outdoor kitchen kit.

Although there are plenty of ways to go about building an outdoor kitchen… We would love for you to call us about your outdoor kitchen area needs!

But no matter what outdoor solution you choose… you’ll want to upgrade it!

Taking Your Area to the Next Level

Once you’ve got everything in place, you’ll want to make it even better.

You might consider adding a little something extra to take advantage of the beautiful space you’ve constructed!

Here are some design ideas to upgrade your area:

  • Feature some chairs, outdoor couches, a table, or bar stools so that this can be a place for more than just cooking food… it can be a place for your community to gather!

  • You could feature a fireplace or fire pit for warmth on cold winter nights… and s’mores.

  • You could add a smoker or even a pizza oven for even more utility!

  • Of course, nice lighting is a must.

  • Add some beautiful plants around for a pop of color.

But don’t stop there! Make this space your own.

Let’s discuss some design aspects for your consideration.

Aspects of Summer Outdoor Kitchen Designs

There are so many things to consider when you’re designing an outdoor or summer kitchen!

Not only do you have to make an outdoor kitchen work well for your backyard… but you also need to figure out where to put it!

Perimeter or Satellite?

Perimeter Located Outdoor Summer Kitchen
Satellite Located Outdoor Summer Kitchen

First, determine where on your property you want your summer kitchen to be located.

Do you want it to be perimeter or satellite?

A perimeter outdoor kitchen is close to the house.

Meanwhile, satellite outdoor kitchens sit far away from the house.

Although whichever location you choose is up to personal preference… a perimeter placement will save money due to the shorter length of utility lines.

Full-Functionality Outside

If you want this kitchen to be a true standalone area to cook, it should work without needing to use your indoor oven and space!

If you enjoy using a feature inside… it can be used outside with the right utilities.

It’s a great idea to run electricity to your area. It allows for features like:

  • Lights

  • A built-in refrigerator

  • Or the ability to use common indoor appliances like mixers, blenders, microwaves, and so on.

If you’d like a sink, you have to get a water line running.

If you’d like to have an appliance such as a stainless steel gas grill without using liquid propane, you also need to ensure that a gas line is run.

The point is…

The possibilities are endless. You could install any number of outdoor appliances, just as you would in a normal house.

There are so many things you could do… so let’s go over a few ideas together!

Summer Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

With such an open-ended definition, the possibilities are limitless!

There are so many outdoor kitchen ideas to draw inspiration from…

For new ideas, we recommend looking at these beautiful examples!

If these aren’t inspiring, we don’t know what is!

This beautiful summer kitchen features an outdoor kitchen countertop with a nice, white finish.

Putting the island on the covered patio allows for an easy and beautiful cover.

The plants behind frame the space, making it cozy while maintaining a spacious feel.

a beautiful summer kitchen next to a covered pool

You can grill and chill right beside the pool in this gorgeous dining area.

We just love the pool cage over the whole outdoor patio area.

an rta summer kitchen under a covered patio with a fireplace

This example gives us so many small summer kitchen ideas!

It’s a relaxing area to be out of the sun.

The outdoor dining room table right next to the summer kitchen is a perfect opportunity for guests to eat food and socialize.

Now that you’ve seen some examples and have a better idea of what you want… let’s discuss how to get there!

The Easiest Summer Kitchen Solution

rta outdoor kitchen near swimming pool under pergola

There’s so much to consider in a summer kitchen island… but there’s an easy solution.

Designing and building your own shouldn’t be a long or difficult process.

You don’t want to have to hassle with contractors or deal with surprise costs.

Creating your space should be easy and enjoyable. This should be an exciting time for you!

Working with us isn’t just convenient… It’s the easiest home improvement project you’ll ever complete.

If you buy a simple shade structure like Toja in addition to our islands, grills, and other kitchen appliances… you could have your entire outdoor grill area built in one day.

If you want to know more, you can schedule a call with one of our designer .

They’ll give you the individual attention you need and help walk you through how to get your own start-to-finish.

Need help getting started?

Our expert outdoor kitchen designers are ready to walk you through your project from planning to hosting.

FAQ

Summer kitchens were detached from the main house and were primarily constructed to keep the warmth from cooking out of the main house during a time period in which there was no AC. This was especially beneficial during the warm summertime months.

Summer kitchens were primarily used in the 1800’s and 1900’s to keep warmth from cooking out of the main house, as well as to reduce the risk from from fires. It was used as a food storage room and provided extra space for household chores such as sewing and laundry folding.

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