The Wood-Fired Blog

Landscape Design Tips for Outdoor Kitchens and Pizza Oven Builds

Mar 29, 2023Posted by Forno Bravo

An outdoor kitchen is the ultimate ‘Room with a View.’ What is that view? Usually, it is of gorgeous landscaping. Following are several tips to consider when planning your outdoor living environment that will maximize the potential for your yard and gardens to be the most beautiful and functional backdrop for your wood or gas fired pizza oven and entertaining space.

With so many things to consider, we will try to help you narrow down your decisions to keep your project manageable, in-budget, and practical, but also whimsical and inspirational that will make you want to spend time in the outdoors.

First Decision: Go DIY or Use a Consultant?

In the era of Pinterest and Youtube, every home project seems like it can be done on your own. While there are many new tools and tutorials that can help, the first decision to make is if you WANT to take on the learning curve and time required to make your landscaping project successful. Do you have the tools, skills, and knowledge already, or is this something you want to acquire? If yes, great! Make a budget and a plan and jump on in. If not, professional help is available.

If you are looking for help, you can consult a landscape architect or a landscape designer. The primary difference between these two discipines is education and state licensing. (Learn more HERE.)

A landscape architect will have a bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree in landscape architecture from a university and be licensed by the state.

  • Have technical issues with your property? They are excellent in accommodating steep slopes, irrigation and drainage, retaining walls, and structures. On commercial properties, they can plan entries, parking, and hardscape designs like sidewalk placement as well, so get them involved early.
  • They are also trained in addressing special environments like wetlands or drought-prone areas, and historic preservation on unique sites.

Landscape designers, on the other hand, usually work on smaller residential projects and specialize in the “soft” elements (plants.)

  • Some landscape designers are self-taught, but most have taken courses in their field.
  • They can serve as a general contractor, help with material sourcing, and garden/yard designer, but to do any actual earth-moving construction, wall building, or electrical work, a licensed landscape contractor needs to be brought into the project.

Many masons, oven installers, and pool installers have a network of landscape architects or designers they prefer to work with and can recommend, or they may even have these resources in-house, to serve as a one-stop-shop for your project (ex. GPT Construction in Sacramento, California offers both masonry skills and landscape design.)

Picnic table-brick-pizza-oven

Hard and soft landscaping plus brick Casa100 pizza oven installation from GPT Construction

What to Ask When Interviewing Landscape Professionals?

It can be a little tricky finding the right landscape professional to work on your project – one that brings the right services and experience, but at a price point you can afford. Tim Davies Landscaping in Australia put together a great list of questions to ask to make the hiring process easier. Below is a summary of things to consider. (Click HERE to see their full article.)

What are your services?

  • Do they only offer design services (creating a master plan, electronic documents, renderings, and contractor drawings?)
  • Both design and construction services (including oven installation, if desired.)
  • Or do they do the whole project, as well as provide ongoing maintenance?

Sample rendering from design documents packet (by GPT Construction)

How soon can you fit my project in?

  • This is especially true in the early spring and towards the end of the year, which is the “in before Christmas” landscaping crunch time.

Can you estimate the cost of realizing the project?

  • Know your realistic budget, and assume materials will probably 3-5x what you expect they will be!
  • Ask how variations or changes mid-project are handled. What are typical design costs? Cost estimate for implementation of the plan?

What are some of your past projects?

  • Look at photo samples of their work and ask about their design philosophy.
  • Do they know outdoor kitchens and pizza ovens, and the rules associated with things like venting and clearance to combustibles?

Do you do on-site consultations?

  • Seeing the space can yield great ideas! (There may be a fee to do an onsite evaluation)

What would you like to see done with your garden?

  • Good designers will work with your aesthetic, but part of what you are paying for is their sense of style. You are paying for their ideas, even if you have a clear vision. Utilize their experience!
  • Always work backward from the largest elements (like a pizza oven or pool). It will set the budget, order of work, and available remaining space for plants and accent features.
pool-pizza oven-palm trees

Sample of placing the big items first in the plan

How long will it take to design and/or install?

  • Backlog, construction time, and complexity will all impact the timeline. If you have a big event coming up, plan in a large buffer for unexpected complications, like adverse weather or material delays, plus growing time for the best look.

How much maintenance will my garden need?

  • I “want to want to maintain this” is not a plan. Know yourself (skills and interest, time resources, or 3rd party cost) and plan a backyard or garden space accordingly.

General Considerations for Creating a Good Landscape Design with a Pizza Oven

Site Inventory

  • Review your site for key elements to highlight, keep, or avoid, and for a great location for your oven’s placement. Note: The oven will need to have a flat, level spot that’s close to your house and easily accessible to your indoor or outdoor kitchen.
  • Pull any permits and check for any utility lines or underground pipes before you start building.
  • Be aware of the “backdrop” — what’s happening around your oven in terms of light, moisture, wind, and view, as you will be spending quite a bit of time looking at all of this while you wait for food to cook or converse with your guests.

Style and Space

  • Your oven will need good clearance to combustibles (10′,) plus space for wood storage, food prep, and a seating/serving area.
  • You may also want to consider adding privacy around your cooking/dining area using fences, trees, or retaining walls for coziness.
  • The style of your landscaping and outdoor kitchen should be an extension of your house, both visually and functionally, potentially including colors, trim, or features that blend the two spaces. This will enhance continuity and unity. (i.e. You generally do not want a stark, ultra-modern garden next to an ornamental Victorian home, as the clash can be jarring and make both spaces seem smaller than they are.)

Beautifully designed balance of wild nature and comfortable outdoor dining. (By Fyffe Landscape Architecture)

This pizza oven kit, fireplace, and seating area blend seamlessly with the style of the house (By Fyffe Landscape Architecture)

Layout and Organization

  • Think about how you will actually use the space. Walk the easiest routes to the kitchen and dining spaces and plan your paths accordingly. Do you have kids? Pets? An outdoor fireplace or grill? All of these matter.
  • What about seating for guests who want to watch (or help) you cook in your wood fired oven?
  • Be sure to leave enough space between all of the elements, so you are not tripping over people, and have a good line of sight between your elements and guests.

Gerald Freeny’s backyard space is a great example of a well-spaced entertaining area.

Ground Cover and Watering

  • Using a hard surface (concrete, pavers, decking) versus a soft surface (grass, mulch, gravel) will change the look and feel of your space considerably. This will also change the budget, order of work, and irrigation/drainage requirements of the project, so it needs to be decided upfront.
  • If you are using soft cover in your yard or garden, consider natural grass mixes, drought-resistant species, or even artificial turf. (Kentucky bluegrass really is quite unnatural in most parts of the country and is typically difficult to maintain in terms of time and chemicals.)
  • Plan to group plants and trees based on water and shade needs to reduce maintenance and irrigation challenges.
    • Even with drought-resistant plants, do plan for watering 2x per day for most gardens (before sunrise and after sundown.)
    • Drip is more efficient, while spray systems cover more area in a shorter amount of time.

Add Lighting

  • Ambient lighting is warm and inviting, but keep it minimal and directed toward safety. For example, light paths, or planters with solar lights to reduce wiring.
  • Consider uplighting a tree or key feature, but usually, downlighting will help guests keep their night vision and make the space more magical after dark. You want a “glen”, not a disco tech!
  • Many people added lighting to their oven enclosure (if using a pizza oven kit) or to the food prep zone for one simple practicality – it’s hard to cook in the dark! Remember, the more practical and easy it is to use your oven and your backyard, the more you will use it.

Great mood lighting on this Premio100 pizza oven

This beautiful home setting looks like a park! Wow!

Landscaping Costs

  • A common question is, “Can I create a great garden cheaply?” Unfortunately, the answer is generally, no, unless you are merely modifying what is already there instead of starting from scratch. Some common landscape costs for a big project are design, clearing, soil prep, grading and drainage, edging paving, fencing, irrigation, lighting, planting (this is big one!),  and decking or covers.
  • Generally, plan that the more mature your plants and trees are at the time of purchase, the high the purchase price will be; the larger the tree you need to move or remove, the higher the cost will be, as well.
  • One budget option is to make a plan, add the key pieces, and then wait; go simple now, and add more each season. You can also DIY part of the work, but recognize that this approach has a cost in terms of time and materials too.

** REMEMBER — the value a beautiful yard, garden, and wood or gas fired pizza oven will add to your home and quality of life is priceless! The more you love your space, the more time you will want to spend in it, adding a richness to your life and friendships that is invaluable. Plus, these things can add a lot to the resale value of your home as well, for long-term benefits and return on your investment!

Classic Landscape Design Principals from the Experts

The first three principles of garden/landscape design apply to the overall feel of the landscape, including addressing simplicity vs. variety:

  • Proportion
  • Transition
  • Unity

The second set of principles pertains to controlling a viewer’s eye movement, including elements of sequence vs. emphasis:

  • Rhythm
  • Balance
  • Focalization

This oven and patio area by Alexis Zolner plays up the whimsy, and uses a combination of bright color and potted plants for flexibility, and greenery for grounding and stability to accent her outdoor space.

These two principles are achieved with the use of five landscape design elements:

  • Color
  • Form
  • Texture
  • Line
  • Scale

This yard has an interesting balance of colors, textures, features and proportions.

And ultimately, your choices of plantings that will flourish in your space are heavily influenced by:

  • Plant Hardiness Zone where you live – determines which plants will thrive where
  • Weather patterns – this ties to the zone, but can have extra elements (Hail? Wind? Very hot summers? Hurricanes?)
  • Conditions – Mountain, flat, desert, or coastal
  • Wildlife – for example, “Deer-resistant” plants typically aren’t! You will need other types of protection if you don’t want your yard to be a salad bar.

Planting Zone Map

Extra Resources




Have any questions?