Your pool is the center of your backyard. It’s where people gather and want to be.

But you also need a way to feed those people! That’s why an outdoor kitchen is the perfect accessory for a pool.

When you’re designing your perfect outdoor kitchen, consider these five ideas to create a space that’s beautiful, functional and enjoyable — all at the same time.

1. Elements to protect you from the weather

Outdoor kitchens aren’t just for use when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Maximize use of yours with a few design elements. Sheltered kitchens can protect you from the sun and rain. If you live in a hot climate, consider an overhead fan or even a mist spray system to stay cool while cooking.

2. Outdoor-friendly materials

When choosing cabinets, countertops and other surfaces, select materials that will hold up against the elements: that won’t fade in the sunlight or stain from rain and dirt, and that can withstand the heat of the grill. You’ll also want materials that coordinate with your home’s exterior and your pool area. Durable materials might include stainless steel — with the added bonus of matching your grill and appliances — marine-grade polymer and stone.

3. A special touch perfect for your family

Does your family live for pizza night? Consider adding a pizza oven to your outdoor kitchen. Do you regularly entertain family and friends at your pool? A beer tap might be useful. Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, a smoker or hibachi grill could be other fun additions.

4. A few practical items

Design your outdoor kitchen with practicality in mind. Include items like a sink, a warming drawer and plenty of storage to reduce trips back and forth to the indoor kitchen — and maximize your time poolside. Consider task lighting over your cooking area, or standup lamps near it, to enable use of your outdoor kitchen after the sun goes down.

5. Additions that set the mood

Your backyard kitchen can be as cozy and warm or exciting and entertaining as you’d like. An addition like a fireplace or chimenea can warm you on cool nights and create a welcoming space. An outdoor sound system can kick a pool party into high gear or set the stage for romance.

Not all backyard improvements have to break the bank. Check out ideas for enhancing your backyard pool for less than $5,000.

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