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Modern Outdoor Kitchen Islands – Essential Facts & 12 Ideas

By Jayme Muller

July 26, 2022

modern rta outdoor kitchen

You’re entertaining the idea of an outdoor kitchen project and you’re wondering…

What aesthetic do I want my outdoor kitchen island to have?

Rustic fits a certain taste… But what you’re really after is a modern outdoor kitchen.

Over the last decade… We’ve seen the number of requests for modern outdoor kitchens increase significantly.

It’s easy to see why.

The sleek, streamlined aesthetic is almost universally pleasing.

In the journey of outdoor kitchen ownership… You’ve seen there are many aspects of your project to consider.

modern rta outdoor kitchen

Allow us to simplify this process. To start… Let’s outline what modern and contemporary design is all about.

Skip to Design Ideas

Basics of Modern Outdoor Kitchen Design

Before we rattle off about modern design… It’s important to understand the meaning of the terms used.

Modern: Relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past. A departure from traditional styles.

Modern Design: A popular era of design from the 1950-60’s with the focal point on minimalism and clean lines.

Modern Architecture: A style of building that emphasizes function and a streamlined form over ornamentation.

Contemporary Design: Constantly evolving to reflect the popular styles of present day design. Currently, minimalism in shades of gray, beige, and white are in vogue.

Although the terms are different… “Contemporary” and “modern” are often used interchangeably.

Considering present-day design is quite similar to modern design… It makes sense.

In some cases, the differences are nearly indistinguishable. Especially when it comes to outdoor kitchens.

Now… What do the experts have to say about this?

The Expert Take on "Modern"

If you’re building a home or planning a backyard renovation… You will of course want to consider the overall aesthetic of your outdoor living room.

From style, to color, to landscape elements… All should be visually cohesive.

Traditional vs. Modern Outdoor Kitchens

Before comparing these two styles… We have to insert a caveat.

What is considered a “modern” or “contemporary” design will invariably change over time. It’s driven by popular opinion, which never stays the same!

In our experience of over a decade… We’ve seen several trends come and go. Sometimes even in the matter of a season or two.

First, let’s turn our attention to the traditional style.

Traditional outdoor kitchens may be built from stone, brick, or stucco cladding. They could also be assembled using traditional PVC outdoor cabinetry.

Stone and brick give you that iconic rustic look. It’s jagged and imperfect… Just as nature intended.

In our current day and time… Modern outdoor kitchens focus on clean lines. They’re also more geometric than irregular stone or stucco.

So, what are the “cool” outdoor kitchen designs like these days?

Let’s see what’s in… And what’s out.

Design to whichever aesthetic you prefer

Traditional or Modern? Try both by using our free 3D Design Tool to try out your outdoor kitchen ideas.

What's In

Colors: Homeowners can’t get enough of black, white, and blues right now. These unassuming shades mesh perfectly in any backyard.

Finishes: We’re seeing a ton of mottled concrete, vertical wood slats, and thin white stone outdoor kitchen finishes.

Countertops: The most popular countertop finish right now is concrete. Thickness is also playing a role in the modern look. Right now, we’re seeing either thin 3/4″ countertops… Or super thick 2.5″+ countertops. 

Some homeowners take it a step further with waterfall countertops. Waterfall countertops quite literally “fall” to each side of the island.

What's Out

Tile: While extremely popular in the past… Tile simply hasn’t been able to keep up in the design world. Tile outdoor kitchens and countertops don’t match the clean lines commanded from contemporary design. 

Not to mention… As a countertop material, tile is hard to keep clean.

Flagstone: If you’re not familiar with flagstone… It’s a flat type of natural stone often used for patios and walkways. Flagstone’s irregular shape and color have fallen out of favor in recent years. 

Stucco: In some areas of the country… Stucco is a mainstay. (We’re looking at you, Arizona!)

But for the rest of the country? Stucco has fallen out of favor. Most homeowners prefer a sleek, polished look. 

Loud Colors: While some homeowners may love a pop of color… It can be pretty polarizing. Especially in terms of contemporary design… More subdued hues are in style right now.

Modern Grill Island Manufacturers

Despite the rise in popularity… Modern outdoor kitchens are difficult to find!

Most US based prefab outdoor kitchen manufacturers focus on a traditional design. You’ll commonly find stone, stucco, and brick finishes.

That said… Manufacturers of modern outdoor kitchens exist! Take for example Brown Jordan and Urban Bonfire.

Brown Jordan Aesthetics

Brown Jordan offers a line of outdoor kitchens under the name “Elements”. The design of these grill islands is solidly in the modern aesthetic.

The Elements collection offers modular cabinets you assemble together. Made from powder coated stainless steel… These cabinets are offered in a variety of eye-catching colors.

These grill islands are quite minimalistic. Clean lines, smooth surface, and a simplistic grill is featured with every model.

Now let’s turn our attention to Urban Bonfire.

Urban Bonfire Aesthetics

These folks are headquartered in Montreal, Canada. Like Brown Jordan… Urban Bonfire offers modern modular outdoor kitchen cabinetry.

Compared to the Elements line… These grill islands are considered more contemporary. Urban Bonfire outdoor kitchens feature subdued tones, clean lines, and thin countertops.

As for modern materials, Urban Bonfire utilizes powder coated aluminum for their cabinets.

Modern Not Modular

urban bonfire logo

What if you don’t want a modular outdoor kitchen… But you still want it to be modern?

We’ve got you.

At RTA, we’ve been intentional about bringing new options to homeowners. An outdoor kitchen island is such an important investment… You shouldn’t have to compromise on your project.

So, what are our modern outdoor kitchen designs?

Let’s take a look.

RTA Modern Grill Island Options

Before we dive into our modern options… Let’s share a bit about RTA in general.

First, we’ll take a look at our flagship line.

These ready-to-assemble outdoor kitchens are manufactured with high performance concrete. They’re solid… Durable… And built to last.

Not to mention, easy to assemble! With a friend or two to help and a power drill… You’ll be grilling in the matter of a couple hours.

We also released a new product last year called MOKs. 

MOKs stands for “modular outdoor kitchen island system”.

MOKs is a lightweight modular product that can be assembled in as little as 30 minutes. Talk about “mok” speed!

Like our flagship line… MOKs is built to last. These panels are made with marine grade composite. No matter the weather… You don’t need to worry about rust, rot, or corrosion.

If you’re looking for a modular outdoor kitchen that’s more durable… MOKs is your answer.

Now… What makes an RTA outdoor kitchen modern? 

Modern is All in the Finish

We’ll be transparent here. We didn’t always have modern designs available. 

Through listening to what our customers want… We quickly realized there’s a significant demand for contemporary finishes. 

It’s a classic case of, “you asked, we answered”. 

Modern Concrete - Gray
Modern Concrete - White
Plank - Dark Gray
Plank - White

For our flagship line… RTA offers finishes in modern concrete and plank style. You’ll find our modern concrete in gray and white… And the plank in white and dark gray. These shades are perfect for your contemporary backyard!

What about MOKs? 

You’ve got the clean lines… The smooth surface… The ultra-thin countertops… And shades of black, white, gray, and beige. MOKs oozes modern design. 

What more could you ask for?

We’d argue RTA has some of the best modern options out there… But we’ll let you decide that for yourself!

At this stage… You may be looking for some inspiration.

Let’s review some modern outdoor kitchen ideas to get the juices flowing.

Modern Outdoor Kitchen Design Ideas

In this section… We’ll give you just a taste of what is possible with outdoor modern kitchen design.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for… Reach out! Our outdoor kitchens are far more customizable than you’d expect.

Mike Pyle's Modern Backyard Oasis

modern outdoor kitchen by pool in backyard under pergola

Mike Pyle of HGTV’s ‘Inside Out’ is showcasing the best of contemporary design here!

This concrete modern outdoor kitchen island fits perfectly in the backdrop of Mike’s backyard.

We don’t know about you… But we feel relaxed just by looking at this photo!

An outdoor living oasis indeed.

An Iron Chef's Concrete Modern Outdoor Kitchen

That’s right… We partnered with an Iron Chef on their outdoor kitchen!

And it’s a beauty indeed.

They opted for our classic line in modern concrete white. You’ll also notice the clean edge, thin countertops for a sleek look.

We can only imagine the incredible dishes being made on this outdoor kitchen!

outdoor kitchen design for the chef in you

Do you create your own recipes? Let us give you the tool to create your own outdoor kitchen, for free.

Modern Concrete Outdoor Kitchen Island

Stuck between a charcoal and built-in gas grill

Why not both?

This contemporary design fits perfectly in this homeowner’s backyard.

The modern concrete white meshes beautifully with the gray tones of the deck and house siding… Yet stands out enough to be the focal point of your outdoor space.

Modern Outdoor Kitchen with Pizza Oven

Who doesn’t love pizza?

This design is a great example of packing in a ton of cooking functionality… Without sacrificing on the modern aesthetic.

You’ve got a pizza oven… Grill… And smoker. It’s the perfect trifecta in outdoor cooking heaven.

And how about that white modern concrete finish?

It’s looking quite luxurious in this homeowner’s outdoor space.

Tamara Day's Modern Luxury Outdoor Kitchen

tamara days outdoor kitchen idea brought to life

Last year… We were honored to work with Tamara Day of HGTV’s Bargain Mansions on her outdoor kitchen project.

Tamara has had an outdoor kitchen on her wish list for a long time… And it had to be perfect.

If we may say so… This modern outdoor kitchen island looks amazing!

Let’s take a closer look at this layout.

This design features a beautiful, black plank finish. The light gray concrete countertop serves as a nice contrast to the dark hue of the finish.

On the left side of the deck… There’s the main piece of the outdoor kitchen. An L-shape layout fitted with a grill, power burner, sink, and bar island.

To the side, there’s a separate linear island with a pizza oven and smoker.

You’ll even find a matching fireplace on the other end of the deck. This set up is amazing for entertaining guests.

If you’re looking for luxury… Keep this design in mind!

L-Shape in Navy Blue

How about a change in scenery?

Here, one of our MOKs units is featured. If you’re looking for an outdoor kitchen in tasteful blue… Look no further.

Coupled with an ultra-thin white countertop… This design would be an elegant addition to anyone’s backyard.

Interior Designer Kerrie Kelly agrees. Here’s what she had to say about this exact outdoor kitchen: 

“The coloration blends so seamlessly with what’s happening indoors. We have a navy blue island inside, we have Dekton countertops inside. Now, out here, we have white countertops that coordinate. We have a navy blue body, and the same stainless colored appliances that we have inside.”

Mina Starsiak Hawk's White Plank Outdoor Kitchen

We loved working with Mina on her outdoor kitchen! If you’re not familiar… She’s the star of HGTV’s Good Bones.

Mina was looking for an outdoor living setup for her son’s third birthday. It’s easy to see how perfect the party was!

This modern setup involves three separate linear islands.

One is fitted with a gas grill and power burner… The second is designed with a pizza oven and fridge… And the third has two refrigerators.

There’s no shortage of refreshing beverages at the Starsiak house!

We love how clever and unique this layout is. Don’t be shy to split up your islands!

Modern L Shaped Outdoor Kitchen from Bless'er House

Lauren and Robert of Bless’er House chose MOKs for their backyard.

This design makes a great showing of a pure white outdoor kitchen. It’s simple, light, and always a crowd pleaser.

Fitted with combo storage, refrigerator, gas grill, and pull out trash… Everything you need is in one place.

And we must say… This design looks quite charming with the house in the background.

Modern sTONE OUtdoor kITCHEN WITH WATERFALL COUNTERTOP

This galley outdoor kitchen features the cutting edge in modern design.

While the stacked stone finish is a more traditional approach… We’d like to draw your attention to the bar island with dining space.

This is a great example of a waterfall countertop.

An outdoor kitchen that would have normally been considered traditional… Is transformed to become perfectly on-trend with a waterfall countertop.

If you’re looking to impress your guests… Consider adding this feature to your outdoor kitchen.

Small Modern Outdoor Kitchen

Looking for small modern outdoor kitchen ideas?

This design is a great option for you! It’s an l-shape layout, yes… But the islands themselves are not very large.

You’ll have everything you need contained in a small footprint!

Not to mention… How great this gray modern concrete looks in the backyard. The dark gray corners are a sleek addition to boost the aesthetic even further.

Overall… Looking good!

Urban Outdoor Kitchen

Many people believe they aren’t able to have an outdoor kitchen in an urban area.

Not so!

This outdoor kitchen looks beautiful in the cityscape.

With a grill, storage, and pull out trash… You’re well equipped for grilling a great meal in style.

Outdoor Kitchen with Modern Pellet Grill

This outdoor kitchen is modern in more ways than one.

First, you have the sleek design in a beautiful beige hue. It’s an excellent option for the contemporary aesthetic.

We also have the addition of a modern pellet grill. With a digital control panel… You can use this grill much like you would an oven.

It can set and hold temperatures beautifully. So not only can you grill… You can bake, sear, and smoke.

Talk about versatility.

Feeling Inspired? Put It In To Action!

Use our 3D design tool for free and bring your outdoor kitchen inspiration to reality.

Designing a Beautiful Outdoor Kitchen

Alright. You’ve seen a bunch of designs.

When thinking about your own outdoor kitchen… You may be looking for some specific advice.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind…

Keep it Timeless

While it may be tempting to go all-in on the latest trends…

You may end up regretting it in the future.

It’s one thing to truly love the aesthetic… It’s another to buy into a trend solely because it’s trendy. Do you know what we mean?

Of course, we’re not arguing against modern outdoor kitchens! That completely defeats the purpose of this article.

What we are saying is to balance contemporary with timeless. Build something that will look great in your yard… No matter what the current trends are.

By taking this balanced approach… We know you won’t be disappointed!

Neutrals are Nice

mike pyle in front of his modern outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

While in a similar vein as keeping your design timeless… There is some distinction here.

You don’t want your design to be polarizing. Something you look at and go… “I’m either going to immediately love this or hate it.”

Long story short… Don’t make your outdoor kitchen like licorice.

Make it more crowd pleasing. Something like ice cream.

Enough food similes.

Point is… Your outdoor kitchen island design shouldn’t be jarring.

Odd geometry and loud colors may seem like a good idea now… But you may end up strongly disliking it later!

Remember the Why

group of friends gathered around modern outdoor kitchen

Why are you investing in an outdoor kitchen?

Odds are… You want to cook outdoors, host barbecues, or spend more time outside. Perhaps a combination of all three.

This may seem way too obvious… But just bear with us here.

We’ve seen some pretty wild outdoor kitchen designs over the years.

While they may seem cool… Many of them get in the way of functionality.

If your outdoor kitchen isn’t functional… It completely defeats the purpose of why you purchased it.

No one wants an expensive outdoor kitchen they can’t really use.

Moral of the story?

The aesthetic of your outdoor kitchen should not compromise functionality.

Speaking of functionality… Let’s wrap up with some more information on RTA.

Modern RTA Outdoor Kitchens

You may be curious to learn more about what we offer here at RTA.

To recap… We specialize in manufacturing outdoor kitchens from high performance concrete. We also offer a sister line of grill islands made from high density composite resin.

To say we focus on quality is an understatement. Our modern outdoor kitchen materials are designed to last.

We understand you want to get the most out of your investment. That’s why we offer a limited lifetime warranty on all of our outdoor kitchen structures.

Don’t just take the praise from us.

High Praise from Designers and Homeowners Alike

We are the go-to outdoor kitchen manufacturer for industry disrupting design firms. Yardzen and Tilly recommend our products for their outdoor space designs.

You’ll see our outdoor kitchens popping up everywhere! Several HGTV hosts and designers have trusted us for their outdoor kitchen projects. You’ve seen a few examples of this above.

When experts from the design world are flocking to our outdoor kitchens… You know you’ve stumbled upon something great.

Homeowners like you are also raving about RTA. We have 95 reviews and counting on Google, with a solid 5 star rating. Check it out!

When it comes to a contemporary style outdoor kitchen… We’ve got you covered.

As you’ve seen… Our modern concrete finish looks beautiful in just about any backyard. You may prefer the plank finish or a MOKs style design.

No matter what you choose…

RTA outdoor kitchens offer the best balance of performance, durability, aesthetics, and price.

Full stop.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Let’s get started on your outdoor kitchen!

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