Outdoor kitchens are a great place for friend and family gatherings. These areas can be as simple as a portable barbecue grill or as elaborate as a covered structure with all the enhancements. To optimize this outdoor living space, it is important to design with the appropriate lighting in mind, so the area can be used day or night.
Outdoor kitchens require task and mood lighting. The first area to design will be the cooking surface and food preparation areas. Lighting these surfaces from above will be the best way to handle the task. Taller adjustable fixtures can be mounted to the counter tops aiming at the grill and prep areas.
For covered structures, fixtures can be installed on the overhead beams or recessed into the ceiling. Take care in the placement to avoid shadows. A good practice is to design this down lighting with a higher wattage and higher CRI (color rendering index) light sources. Superior color rendition on meats and produce will be key to an amazing food presentation. All fixtures for these areas should be controlled with a switch or a dimmer. Hardscape bar lights can be mounted above the accessories drawers and in the cabinets.
Now it’s time to set the mood. Many outdoor kitchens are built with bars which double as serving areas. Decorative pendants can be installed over these areas to illuminate the buffet and then dimmed to create a romantic ambiance. If there’s no overhead area to install the pendants, consider surface-mounting some standard path lights on either side of the bar.
Strip lights mounted to a cantilevered back splash can provide soft light on the counter top. Diffuser lenses and dimmers may be needed, depending on the reflectivity of the counter surface. Louvered or translucent step lights can be mounted to the walls one foot off the ground to provide pathway lighting.
Small post lights can be installed to the bar wall to provide path lighting and allow the bar stools to be seen in silhouette. When entertaining around an outdoor kitchen, you may encounter some flying insects. Several manufacturers have created low voltage mosquito repelling devices. Many of these devices can be powered by a normal 12-volt landscape lighting transformer.
Lastly, add some drama with fire! Many lighting designers choose a fixture that combines a garden torch with an electric downlight. These can be filled with citronella oil and will normally burn for about 3-5 hours depending on the wick and tank size.
The mood is now set; throw that shrimp on the barbie. And bon appétit!