What is a back kitchen? Designers explain this new (and very practical) kitchen trend

A back kitchen is an increasingly popular kitchen design trend that involves adding a secondary, smaller kitchen space behind the main kitchen. This extra kitchen area serves as a versatile prep space and storage zone – giving home cooks much-needed extra room to maneuver, prepare ingredients, and store appliances and tools.

In recent years, back kitchens have steadily grown in popularity. Builders and homeowners alike appreciate the practicality and functionality of having an auxiliary kitchen zone just steps from the primary cooking hub. Back kitchens provide the perfect spot for messy prep work, quick grab-and-go snack making, storage organization, and more.

Read on to learn all about this innovative kitchen layout and how interior designers are embracing the back kitchen trend in stylish, functional ways. Discover the many benefits of adding a back kitchen and get tips for incorporating this special space into your own home.

What Exactly is a Back Kitchen?

A back kitchen is a secondary, smaller kitchen zone located just beyond the main kitchen. It’s essentially an extension of the primary kitchen but functions more as a utility space and storage room than a full cooking hub.

Back kitchens are also sometimes called “dirty kitchens” or “utility kitchens” because they provide extra room for messy prep work like cleaning vegetables, kneading dough, trimming meats, and more. Home chefs can relegate these messy tasks to the back kitchen, keeping the main kitchen clean for final cooking and plating.

These auxiliary kitchen spaces typically feature minimal cabinetry and appliances – just the basics like extra countertops, sinks, refrigerators, and storage cabinets. Back kitchens focus more on function than form, prioritizing versatile prep space over eye-catching design accents.

That said, today’s back kitchens are still stylish and thoughtfully incorporated into the overall kitchen aesthetic. Modern back kitchens may be more sparse but they complement main kitchens beautifully in both form and function.

Why Add a Back Kitchen? Benefits for Home Cooks

Back kitchens offer a wealth of practical benefits for home cooks and bakers. Here are some of the top reasons to consider adding this supplemental food prep zone to your home:

Extra Space and Organization

For avid home cooks, more space and storage is always welcome in the kitchen. Back kitchens provide additional countertops for food prep and organization while also offering bonus storage for appliances, cookware, pantry overflow, and more. With a back kitchen, you can free up precious space in the main kitchen and reduce clutter.

Specialized Prep Zone

A back kitchen gives you a designated spot for all your chopping, cleaning, and general food prep work. Keep the main kitchen counters clear for final cooking tasks by tackling the dirty work in your back kitchen. Trimming raw chicken and hand-kneading bread dough are just two examples of messy jobs perfectly suited to a back kitchen.

Improved Workflow

The extra counter space and storage capacity of a back kitchen helps streamline kitchen tasks. You can prep ingredients in the back kitchen, then easily transport them a few steps away for cooking in the main kitchen. This improved organization and workflow enables you to cook more efficiently.

Keep Mess Contained

No one wants a sink full of dirty dishes and flour-covered countertops in their beautiful main kitchen. A back kitchen lets you keep mess contained to a single utilitarian zone, so you can keep the primary kitchen clean for guests. Use your back kitchen for jobs like washing produce, proofing dough, marinating meats, and batter mixing.

Makes Entertaining Easier

When hosting parties or holiday meals, a back kitchen provides the perfect staging area for prep work, food assembly, and cleaned dishes. Keep the celebrations contained to the main kitchen while you utilize the back kitchen for less glamorous jobs. Your guests will appreciate not having to navigate messy countertops and piles of dishes.

Adds Resale Value

Extra prep space and storage capacity make a back kitchen highly desirable for home cooks and families. This versatile added zone can increase your home’s resale value. Savvy real estate agents market back kitchens as a top highlight of food-centric homes.

Back Kitchen Design Tips from the Pros

If you’re sold on the idea of adding a back kitchen, it’s important to incorporate this space thoughtfully into your overall kitchen design. Follow these tips from top designers to create a back kitchen that perfectly complements your main culinary space:

Prioritize Natural Light

While main kitchens often boast gorgeous natural light, back kitchens can end up dark if not strategically placed. Whenever possible, position the back kitchen to benefit from windows, skylights, and other light sources. This keeps the space bright, airy, and pleasant for prep work. If natural light is limited, utilize ample task lighting.

Maximize Organization

Organization is key in the efficient back kitchen. Outfit the space with storage solutions like cabinets, shelving, racks, pegboards and more to keep tools and appliances accessible but out of the way. Incorporate smart organizational must-haves like spice racks, knife strips, pan racks, and labeled storage bins. Have a plan for everything so your back kitchen doesn’t become cluttered.

Choose Washable Surfaces

Messy prep work will happen in your back kitchen, so be sure to choose surfaces that are easy to wipe down and clean. Stainless steel countertops, ceramic tile backsplashes, and laminate or acrylic cabinetry are smart options. You may also want a deep sink equipped with a garbage disposal.

Connect the Spaces

Create visual harmony between your back kitchen and main kitchen through cohesive elements like cabinetry styles, hardware, backsplashes, flooring, and lighting fixtures. An open doorway or pass-through window helps connect the spaces, too. Accordion-style doors work well for obscuring clutter as needed.

Consider Appliance Needs

A stove and oven usually aren’t necessary in the back kitchen, but reflect on what appliances you may want handy in this auxiliary zone. A second dishwasher could help streamline entertaining clean-up, while an extra sink, microwave, refrigerator, or freezer could boost organization and efficiency.

Don’t Skimp on Style

Just because back kitchens are highly functional spaces doesn’t mean they can’t also offer charm and character. Small touches like Café curtains, decorative vent hoods, accent lighting, and painted cabinets can give this work zone style. Tie the look together with the main kitchen through on-trend colors, patterns, materials, and finishes.

Back Kitchen Layout Options

Back kitchens can be configured in several different layouts to best suit your home design and needs. Consider these common back kitchen placement options as you plan:

Attached Back Kitchen

An attached back kitchen is directly connected to the main kitchen via an open doorway or hallway. This allows for easy transport between the two spaces. Attached back kitchens often utilize the same wall space and plumbing as main kitchens.

Transition Zone

With the transition zone layout, the back kitchen is separated from the main kitchen by a doorway, hall, or other buffer space like a walk-in pantry. This creates clear division between the two kitchen areas.

Around the Corner

Tucked just around the corner from the main kitchen, this back kitchen layout discreetly hides messy prep work while keeping the auxiliary space steps away from the action.

Down the Hall

Another option is placing the back kitchen farther down a hall or around several corners from the main kitchen. While less convenient, this can allow for a larger back kitchen space.

In the Garage

For an even more secluded back kitchen, some homeowners transform garage space near the main kitchen into a prepping zone. The garage back kitchen may require more extensive electrical and plumbing work.

First Floor/Basement

Finally, a downstairs basement or first floor back kitchen connected to a main kitchen on the second floor can be ideal. Food can be prepped below then carried upstairs to cook and serve.

Inspiring Back Kitchen Design Examples

Need a little design inspiration before tackling your own back kitchen project? Here are some stunning examples of stylishly incorporated back food prep spaces:

Rustic Country Charm

This homey back kitchen exudes country charm with knotty pine cabinets, checkered curtains, and pops of red. White subway tile and stainless appliances balance the rustic look with a clean, classic vibe in this attached kitchen layout.

Rustic back kitchen

Rustic country back kitchen

Bright Industrial

Exposed cinder block, steel shelves, and concrete floors give this stunning back kitchen an urban industrial edge. Abundant white paint keeps things airy and bright while vintage-look appliances add retro flair. Notice how the pass-through window seamlessly connects this large back prepping space to the main kitchen.

Industrial back kitchen

Bright industrial back kitchen

Organized Entertainer’s Dream

This spacious, beautifully organized back kitchen makes entertaining a breeze. Tons of storage, two dishwashers, two sinks, two refrigerators, and a handy pass-through window to the front kitchen streamline party and holiday meal prep. Pops of green prevent the all-white palette from feeling sterile.

Organized back kitchen

Organized back kitchen

Vintage Glam

Channeling Old Hollywood glamour, this stunning back kitchen dazzles with Art Deco pendants, cool blue cabinets, and a sleek stainless hood flanked by rounded tile. The adjoining café table provides additional meal prep space or casual dining for two with vintage flair.

Glamorous back kitchen

Vintage glam back kitchen

Rustic Luxe

This luxuriously cozy back kitchen delivers rustic charm with wood countertops, tongue-and-groove ceiling, and chic knickknack displays.Modern brushed brass hardware and fixtures keep the aesthetic fresh, while built-in shelving offers European farmhouse style.

Rustic back kitchen

Rustic luxury back kitchen

Minimalist Sophistication

Clean lines, crisp white cabinetry, and sparse metallic accents define this contemporary back kitchen. The discreet café curtains, modern knobs, and lean fixtures provide understated style perfect for urban homes.

Sophisticated back kitchen

Minimalist back kitchen

Frequently Asked Back Kitchen Questions

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about back kitchen design and function:

What size should a back kitchen be?

While back kitchen sizes vary, they typically range from 25 to 150 square feet. Identify your must-have features, then allow ample functional space around them. Even small 25 square foot back kitchens can pack in utility if thoughtfully laid out.

How much does a back kitchen cost?

Costs depend on size, layout, finishes, and existing infrastructure. Very basic back kitchen builds may run $5,000-$10,000. More expansive custom builds with higher-end finishes can cost $15,000-$30,000 or more. Have an expert quote your specific project.

What appliances should go in a back kitchen?

At minimum, include a sink, small refrigerator, and microwave. Optional extras include wine fridges, freezers, dishwashers, cabinet garages for small appliances, and drop zones for coffeemakers or mixers. Avoid larger stoves and ovens unless space allows.

Should back kitchen cabinets match main kitchen?

Cohesive cabinetry helps connect these two work zones visually. However, you can use more budget-friendly options like stock cabinets in the back kitchen area paired with higher end custom cabinetry in the main kitchen.

What flooring works best in back kitchens?

Durable, water-resistant choices like porcelain or ceramic tile, laminate, and luxury vinyl are smart back kitchen flooring bets. Save higher maintenance wood and carpeting for the adjoined eating spaces.

How can you add separation between main and back kitchen?

If you prefer some division between the front and back kitchens, incorporate elements like a half wall, island, closet pantry, folding doors, or hallway. This allows you to discreetly conceal messes as needed.

Make the Most of Your Own Back Kitchen

Back kitchens have moved from luxury feature to nearly essential amenity for passionate home cooks. This supplemental prep and storage space revolutionizes kitchen organization and workflow. By tackling messy jobs in the back kitchen, you can keep the main entertaining kitchen clean and clutter-free.

Today’s back kitchen designs blend seamless function and on-trend style thanks to smart layouts and material choices. Whether you’re aiming for country charm or sleek modern elegance, there’s a back kitchen aesthetic for every home. Explore your options and make this practical additional zone your own. Let your back kitchen become the ultimate assistant for all your cooking endeavors and celebrations.