Outdoor kitchens continue to grow in popularity among American homeowners, especially in the Chicago area. From expanding usable living space to increasing property values, there is no downside to installing a fully-functional kitchen that you can use for your family or your friends. Here are the five most important elements to include in your outdoor kitchen plans.

Comfortable & Functional Seating

Seating is a must-have when it comes to an outdoor kitchen. After all, outdoor dining is the goal, and you do not want your guests sitting directly on the patio or lawn. There are a wide-array of seating options to consider. Having a large family-size table with six to eight chairs depending on the number of people you host is common. Do you want a counter with bar seating as part of your outdoor kitchen? It is also a great idea to keep folding tables and chairs in a storage shed for those bigger get-togethers.

High-Tech Grills & Cooktops

The grill is the star of the show, and if you are struggling to choose between charcoal and gas, there’s no reason why you can’t use both! In fact, modern outdoor kitchens may feature all sorts of cooking options, including a classic charcoal grill, a wood-fired pizza oven, and a classic gas rangetop. This way, you can prepare your entire meal outdoors – the main course, the sides, and even the dessert!

A Sink & Wet Bar

Outdoor food prep and dining can get messy, especially if there are children involved. Do not run in the house every time you need to rinse a dish or wash your hands; instead, install a full outdoor sink! While you are installing the plumbing for the sink, it is easy enough to accommodate a wet bar, too. These functional spaces are designed to provide hot and cold water on demand, which makes cooking, serving, and bartending much easier. Freestanding bar and sink combos are quite affordable and functional, even for small outdoor living spaces.

Beautiful Lighting

Outdoor entertaining during the summer months is easy enough thanks to extended daylight, but as the days get shorter, there is no need to move your gathering indoors. Beautiful outdoor lighting can keep the get-together going well beyond sunset, and when installed by a landscaping and lighting professional, you can rest assured that the accents, focal lights, and safety lighting are all perfect.

Firepit, Fireplace, or Patio Heaters

While your grill, rangetop, and pizza oven provide ample cooking options, you will also want to think about keeping your guests and family warm as the temperatures begin to fall. A centrally-located firepit or fireplace will provide ample heat in smaller spaces, but if you are building a large outdoor kitchen to entertain bigger groups, patio heaters may be the better option. You can place these several feet apart to keep everyone nice and warm, even in the coldest months.

Outdoor kitchens bring the indoors out, which is ideal for hosting barbeques, birthday parties, and other celebrations. Your home will be the envy of the neighborhood, and thanks to these five elements of a successful outdoor kitchen, you may find yourself preparing every meal in the backyard.