The Outdoor Kitchen Living Dining Space

I thought I was never going to be able to show you my new outdoor kitchen what with all this crappy weather. Technically there was nothing stopping me from showing you, but bare furniture, BBQ covers and a tarp over the pizza oven just ain’t that photogenic. But yesterday the sun poked its head out and looked like it might hang around so I did my best headless chicken impression and spent an hour dressing it up real pretty, while praying the rain would hold off just long enough for me to get a few decent pics. Which I did, just keep your eyes off the deck and ignore any leaves, muddy dog prints and chicken poo. There’s only so much I can edit out.

The Outdoor Kitchen Project

When we bought Holly Cottage in 2010 this is what this section of the garden looked like.

The outdoor kitchen before image of garden

Phase I – The Summerhouse

After a few failed Percy Thrower style gardening attempts I realised that it was never going to be more than a dark boggy area where nothing would grow. But on the plus side you get a great view of the fells from there so I just built a summerhouse on it.

Outdoor kitchen and nordic style summerhouse designed by Amelia Wilson
The summerhouse at Holly Cottage – photograph by Jeremy Phillips for Real Homes magazine

This also gave me the opportunity to give Mr W the bar I’d been promising him since we bought the house, especially since I’d turned the original planned location for said bar into a wetroom….

Outdoor kitchen and scandi style summerhouse designed by Amelia Wilson
The summerhouse at Holly Cottage – photography by Jeremy Phillips for Real Homes magazine

Now Mr W is retired and we both live in Cumbria we eat dinner together almost every night, and despite what you think about Cumbrian weather we do manage to eat outside quite a lot. Which is what led me to thinking about an outdoor kitchen. Originally it was going to be a simple cooking area on the patio behind the house with a pizza oven and space for BBQ’s. But then I had ‘duh’ moment, you know when you realise how dumb you’re being. I design internal kitchen, living, dining spaces for customers all the time, why not extend the deck outside the summerhouse and have all of this in my garden?

Phase II – The Outdoor Kitchen

So this was the extent of the deck before.

Nordic scandinavian summerhouse and outdoor kitchen designed by Amelia Wilson
Photograph by Jeremy Phillips for Real Homes magazine

….and this is it now

Outdoor kitchen living dining space designed by Amelia WilsonI did spend ages looking at gorgeous outdoor tiles and synthetic decking, but my budget just wouldn’t go there so traditional decking it was.

The Design

Now I don’t know about you but when we eat outside it always involves half a dozen trips back to the kitchen for things we’ve forgotten. So when I started planning this I just asked myself what I would have in a regular kitchen.

eMoodboard for outdoor kitchen

So we have an oven and two BBQ’s which means we can bake, roast, fry or grill pretty much anything. My step-daughters partner baked a mean dessert for us recently made from croissants, custard and cream. Bloody delicious. Email me if you want the recipe.

Outdoor kitchen living dining space with pizza oven designed by Amelia Wilson

The supplier of the pizza oven also supplied a stand for it. But it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the stand shown on their website and was quite frankly a piece of junk (I’m still trying to get my money back). So in collaboration with the landscapers Coombe & Sharpe we came up with a chunky rustic style stand made from sleepers.

Pizza oven in outdoor kitchen on stand made from rustic sleepers

A kitchen needs a sink and I found a huge Belfast sink in my local reclamation yard. It was very stained so I just tarted it up with a couple of coats of tile paint. The landscapers built me a stand to match the pizza oven stand, and Mr W added the tile splashback for me.

Sink in outdoor kitchen living dining space

The tap is fed from a water butt that collects rainwater from the roof, and drains into a ditch in the field behind the garden. We can’t drink the water but to be honest the sinks main purpose is to be a massive ice bucket for parties as we only have a small fridge in the summerhouse. But I can rinse stuff under the tap and water my plants using it so it has a few other uses.

Reclaimed belfast sink in outdoor kitchen

I probably put more thought into the fence than anything else. I wanted this to be an extension of the summerhouse structure, so the slats needed to be horizontal not vertical, and the same width as the horizontal planks that the summerhouse is made of so that it flowed. I also wanted gaps between the slats so I could hang stuff on it, and to let light through and glimpses of the greenery behind, while giving some protection against the rain but letting the wind through so it wouldn’t blow down. I won’t be painting the fence, I want it to weather so that it looks like silver birch. I wish I’d done that with the summerhouse and the original deck but hey ho you learn.

More importantly the fence is my kitchen cupboards and shelves with storage and containers for utensils, cutlery, plates, condiments and herbs.

Storage and hanging space in outdoor kitchen

Hell there’s even a magnetic knife rack.No more traipsing back to the kitchen for the bread knife just as you’re about to serve up the hot dogs…..

Utensil holders in outdoor kitchen

You can’t beat IKEA for kitchen paraphernalia. It’s all steel so it shouldn’t rust, but if it does it’s easily and cheaply replaced.

Hanging herb pots from IKEA in outdoor kitchenJust before I left London I was walking through the Kings Cross area on my way to an appointment when I came across this table on the pavement outside an office building next to a pile of rubbish bags. Long story short it was outside the Diesel HQ and this was an ex display table they were scrapping. A few smiles and a promise to return the next day with a vehicle and suddenly I was the owner of one very cool industrial style table. A bit of Hammerite and some outdoor varnish and voila one kitchen counter, or island since it can be moved.

Industrial style metal table in outdoor kitchen

I already had an outdoor dining table so I just moved this up to the deck in true open plan style so nobody has to leave the party to check on dinner.

Dining area in rustic outdoor kitchen

If it’s just the two of us there are also a couple of adirondack chairs for me and Mr W to have pre-dinner drinks. Above these is possibly my favourite thing in the outdoor kitchen – the huge industrial style outdoor mirror made specially for me by the lovely and very talented Ursh of Refunk’d. I love the way it reflects the garden so that it looks like a window.

Industrial style outdoor mirror made by Refunk'd for Amelia Wilson


Obviously the sun is the main light source in an outdoor kitchen but this is a 24hr kitchen so we also have wall lights along the fence and the front of the summer house. There are deck lights all the way round the perimeter and on every step to prevent nocturnal accidents…. and these beautiful fairground lights which give off a surprising amount of light. I also have an abundance of candle lanterns.

Large garden mirror designed by Amelia Wilson and made by Refunk'd

Soft furnishings are what really makes an outdoor space look inviting, and in this part of the world you need a plentiful supply of throws and blankets if you want to use your space after the sun’s gone down. I also have a fire pit and a chimnea which we bring up onto the deck when it’s really chilly.

Soft furnishings in outdoor kitchen I’m still humming and haa’ing over outdoor rugs. I obviously want them but not sure how practical they are when I’ve got chickens and two dogs, and its where to store them when I’m not using them?? I do think the ‘living room’ looks a little bare without one though……

Lounge are in outdoor kitchen living dining space

And this was the reason I bought Holly Cottage – the view.

View from deck in outdoor kitchen living dining spaceSo what do you think, did I miss anything?


A not so typical English garden

Beate is still with us so I’m starting to think she’s just more like her namesake (my friend Beate Schmitt) than I realised. Both ladies are smart, (chicken Beate was the first to find the water butt). Both like to avoid the crowds, (chicken Beate prefers the nesting box to the perch at night). Both enjoy a quiet moment, (chicken Beate sometimes like to stand quietly in the corner of the pen). Perhaps I have an uncanny knack to spot a chickens character traits early on. I wonder if there is a market for this unusual skill – Mrs W, chicken whisperer?

Turns out my chickens also provide great party entertainment as my weekend guests spent hours trying to outwit each other with new chicken names. The clear winners being Margaret Hatcher, Yolko Ono and Princess Lay-er.

We had fabulous weather for the BBQ yesterday and when the sun finally went down we lit the fire pit, the chimnea and the stove in the summer house so the festivities could continue in the garden until after midnight. The garden was one of the things that attracted me to Holly Cottage when we viewed it. But only because of the size and the views of the fells; thankfully I could see the potential, Mr W couldn’t. The former owners had made some disastrous design choices including rows of fruit bushes mid garden, a huge potato field in one corner which I think was once a compost heap, and randomly placed fences. They had also neglected some areas completely, leaving me with mounds of brambles and weeds to deal with. Every year for the last 4 years I have tackled a new area with the help of Alan my local landscaper, and the major re-modelling is now complete. I describe myself as an interior design fanatic, but perhaps I should drop the ‘interior’ as I don’t limit myself to the house. Rooms should be designed to be both beautiful and functional and the same principle applies to gardens. I have a particular fondness for incorporating unusual articles into my garden design. Currently these include a mangle, old pot manholes, and cable reels.

Old pot manholes purchased for £10 each from a local farmer
Old pot manholes bought for £10 each from a local farmer


Poultry feeder bought on eBay - now a planter
Poultry feeder bought on eBay – now a planter


Maple tree enclosed in a cable reel salvaged from the roadside
Maple tree enclosed in a cable reel salvaged from the roadside


Dolly tub planters - one purchased on eBay, one salvaged from a stream!
Dolly tub planters – one bought on eBay, one rescued from a stream!


Old apple trays bought on eBay and nailed together to create a plant stand
Old apple trays bought on eBay and nailed together to create a plant stand


I completed a new project just in time for the party – a bar table made from an old oak whiskey barrel and a table top I salvaged from the local tip. (The guys at the tip recognise me now and let me take items that catch my eye). I sanded, aged and waxed the table top using a homemade oxidising solution and liming wax. I did the same with the barrel and then painted the iron hoops with black Hammerite. The result is a beautiful soft blue-grey finish that blends into its surroundings.

Pine table top salvaged from local tip
Pine table top salvaged from local tip
Oak whisky barrel purchased online
Oak whisky barrel purchased online
Finished table
Finished table


Table top finish
Table top finish


So I just need some bar stools to go with my new bar table. I have the bases, as I bought a set of 6 in a junk shop in Greenwich. I’m now on the hunt for the perfect seats. I’ve toyed with tractor seats and sanded tree stumps but I think I can do better than that. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!


Cast iron pub bar stools from a junk shop in Greenwich
Cast iron pub bar stools from a junk shop in Greenwich