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Rustic Outdoor Kitchen: 5 Radiant Ideas & Design Principles

By Gabrielle Desmarais

December 7, 2023

You’re looking to add an outdoor kitchen to your backyard… But not any ol’ design will do.

Whether your backyard is already filled with farmhouse-style charm… Or you’re dreaming of string lights and potted plants…

You won’t take anything less than a rustic outdoor kitchen.

Lucky for you, it’s easy to infuse a rustic aesthetic into your BBQ island… As long as you know what you’re looking for.

And that’s where we come in.

As a prominent outdoor kitchen company… We’ve designed thousands of outdoor kitchens over the years, many of them rustic.

In fact… Some of our finishes are designed specifically to match the rustic aesthetic. (But that’s neither here nor there.)

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know for designing a rustic outdoor kitchen… And get to view multiple examples to inspire your creative mind.

With all that said, let’s begin.

Quicklinks:

What Makes an Outdoor Kitchen Rustic?

The beauty of an outdoor kitchen is that it can be molded to your exact desires.

And when you’re after a rustic look… There are several elements to keep in mind.

The finish, appliances, and countertop all play a role in how your island will appear.

The key is to dial in all these elements… So the result is an undeniably rustic style outdoor kitchen.

Rustic Island Finishes

close up of stone outdoor kitchen

The most prominent feature of a rustic island will be the finish.

By far, it covers the most surface area… So this is the most important piece to nail.

Thankfully, this is quite easy to achieve.

Wood, brick, and stone finishes are far and away the best options for a rustic look.

All of the above will fit right at home in a modern farmhouse… Or any other aesthetic that puts a homespun touch at the forefront.

And the nice thing is… Wood, brick, and stone can be tailored to the exact design you need.

There’s an abundance of different types of wood, stone, and brick out there… Truly allowing you to take a carte blanche approach to the aesthetic.

So the look is solid… But the trouble is, some of these options have problems from a material perspective.

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Issues with Rustic Island Finishes

naturekast polyurethane resin wood finish

We’ll just say it right out of the gate.

Brick and stone are excellent masonry options (albeit expensive)… But real wood is an absolute no-go for an outdoor kitchen, no matter how rustic.

This is true on several levels.

Most importantly, wood is an unsafe choice for use in an outdoor kitchen.

You’re surrounding a grill (that can reach temperatures in excess of 1,000°F) in a highly combustible material.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the issue here! There’s no other way to spin it… A wood outdoor kitchen is a serious fire hazard.

But safety aside…

Wood is also a poor choice if you want your island to last for decades.

Wooden islands are susceptible to rotting, warping, swelling, and termite damage. So it’s only a matter of time before your island shows its age… And encounters significant structural issues.

So does that mean the wooden look for your rustic island is off the table?

Not necessarily. There are ways to get the look of a wooden outdoor kitchen… Without the wood. (But we’ll circle back to that later.)

For now, let’s turn our attention to appliances.

Rustic Outdoor Kitchen Appliances

Appliances are where the rustic outdoor kitchen design can get tricky.

Why?

Because there’s a bit of a discrepancy between achieving a true rustic look… And the availability of the appliances themselves.

Copper and brass outdoor kitchen appliances are undoubtedly the most authentic. Over time, they’ll develop a patina and grow ever-more into that rustic look.

But they’re rare to find. You might be able to find a copper outdoor kitchen sink or faucet… But good luck getting a copper grill!

Plus, being unprotected in the outdoor environment… Brass and copper will require more involved upkeep.

So what does that leave you with?

Stainless steel. More specifically, 304 stainless steel.

This material is built to last in the outdoor environment… And won’t rust or corrode on you. (It won’t develop a patina, either.)

The only ding is that it won’t be a perfect match for that authentic rustic design.

That said… These appliances are readily available, high quality, and you’ll have a consistent look for your island.

However, there’s also a couple appliances that actively detract from a rustic look.

Avoid wine coolers with glass doors and bright blue LED lights… Or anything with bright LED lights, for that matter.

This will push your island toward the contemporary end of the design scale… And that’s not what you’re after.

At the same time… There’s also a couple out-of-the-box appliances to consider to meet that homespun feel.

Unique Appliances for a Rustic Look & Feel

man putting pizza into outdoor pizza oven

A true rustic outdoor kitchen goes beyond its shallow exterior.

It’s also about getting that rustic feel when you’re using it.

And there are a couple excellent appliances out there to help you achieve it.

Namely, a pizza oven or a kamado smoker.

We’ll start with the pizza oven.

Particularly if you spring for a wood-fired option… There’s no better way to connect directly with our primitive, fire-managing instincts.

The rollicking, piping-hot fire is the epitome of a rustic cooking experience.

And we’ll also mention… You don’t need to limit your pizza oven to slinging pies.

Depending on the model you choose… You can also bake artisan bread.

That experience is a surefire way to directly connect to the village bakers of old. And you’ll quite literally end up with a rustic loaf of bread!

It’s a similar concept with a kamado smoker.

You’ll manage a fire with charcoal instead of wood… But the billowing clouds of smoke will set the stage for a rustic, homey feel.

And the food you can make in a kamado is absolutely incredible. For example…

Smoked mac and cheese and brisket are that stick-to-your-ribs type of comfort food to really bring that rustic feel home.

Aside from the feel… Some pizza ovens and kamado smokers actually do have somewhat of a rustic look.

If you do some shopping around… You’ll find models without all the glitz and glamor, favoring a more unsophisticated feel.

Alright. Now that you’re acquainted with rustic outdoor kitchen appliances… There’s one factor remaining to consider.

Rustic Countertop Options

How are you going to “top off” your rustic BBQ island?

It all comes down to your outdoor kitchen countertops.

There’s a great many options to choose from… And conveniently, most of them will be right at home with a rustic aesthetic.

Concrete, granite, stainless steel, and tile are the most common materials you’ll encounter.

In particular, concrete and granite are both fantastic choices.

They exude a rustic feel… And are extremely durable in the outdoor environment. You won’t have to fuss much about maintenance, either.

But stainless steel and tile are a different story.

Stainless steel is plenty durable… But it just doesn’t work for a rustic aesthetic.

You can get away with stainless steel appliances, but if you also spring for a steel countertop… The rustic look will get all but completely lost.

Tile is the exact opposite.

Tile countertops can strongly contribute to a rustic look… But they’re a fragile choice.

Tile countertops crack and pop off easily… And the grout is nearly impossible to keep clean and sanitary.

Moral of the story?

You can’t go wrong with concrete or granite.

Now that you’ve learned how to zero in the rustic look of your island… How about some decorations?

Rustic Outdoor Kitchen Decor

While keeping all of the above design principles in mind will allow your rustic outdoor kitchen to stand on its own… If you really want to sell the look, the right decor will be important.

So let’s talk about some rustic decorating ideas.

If you’ve got plenty of counter space… It’s a smart idea to adorn your island with potted marigolds, sunflowers, and other rustic flowers.

Same goes for lighting. Warm light from a flickering candle or lantern will seriously level-up the homey vibe.

You can also go for table settings and towels with subtle, nature inspired hues. Olive drab, burgundy, and goldenrod are all excellent choices to experiment with. (These colors are also stunning for the fall season!)

And speaking of seasonality… It’s also worthwhile to decorate your island with season-appropriate baubles.

Pumpkins and cornucopias are the quintessential rustic decor choices for fall… While a rustic summer look could be pulled off with sunflowers in a mason jar and gingham napkins or hand towels.

But you don’t have to just zoom in on the outdoor kitchen. You can transform your entire space to become a farmhouse-styled paradise… And further enhance the aesthetic of your island.

Adding some wrought iron bar stools or chairs to a bar island are an absolute shoo-in… And sell that rustic feel in full.

An outdoor fireplace or fire pit will further bring that coziness to the fore. It will also give you and your guests the perfect excuse to stay outside all night long!

And to bring it all home… Consider setting your island under the cover of a gazebo or pergola.

Not only are these features rustic in their own right… They can be decorated with string lighting, hanging plants, or any other number of rustic decorations.

Starting to get the picture?

If so… Let’s take a peek at some ideas.

Rustic DIY Outdoor Kitchen

Pick your layout, appliances, and finish to create the perfect look to match your backyard. Use our free 3D design tool to get started today.

Rustic Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

It’s one thing to read about what an outdoor rustic kitchen looks like… It’s another thing to see it for yourself.

So without further ado… Let’s take a look at some farmhouse kitchen ideas for your inspiration.

Rustic Farmhouse Outdoor Kitchen Idea

There’s no other way to put it. This brick outdoor kitchen is a stunner.

In fact, it checks nearly all the boxes for a classic rustic BBQ island!

Of course, you have the reclaimed brick finish. Going for white over red gives this island a rustic, yet solidly refined look.

This homeowner also opted for clean edge granite countertops to fully seal in that rustic sophistication.

The granite itself provides the lovely rustic element… But with a polished, clean finish.

And it just so happens that this island includes both of the rustic appliances we mentioned earlier!

Starting from the left, we have the spacious pizza oven.

We’re sure you could easily imagine yourself tossing in a delectable pizza (with all your favorite toppings)… And sinking your teeth into that first gooey, addictive slice.

And when this photo was taken, it appears to be a picturesque fall day.

It’s the perfect setting for baking a rustic loaf of bread… And slathering the fruits of your labor in a thick layer of European butter, as it melts into the open crumb.

Looking back to the island… The kamado smoker is over to the far right.

All manner of smoked delights are at your fingertips… Plus, you’ll get that undeniable rustic feel of managing a fire.

But even if you’re not feeling up to the task… This island has a gas grill and power burner for easy and quick cooks.

All in all… This rustic outdoor cooking space is one for the books.

Key Takeaway:

If you’re interested in a modern farmhouse vibe… Consider using a white brick over the traditional clay red. You retain the rustic feel, while also bringing in a modern touch.

Quaint, Country Style Rustic Outdoor Kitchen

This small outdoor kitchen area is simply oozing with an abundance of rustic charm.

The greenery, small dining area, (and the adorable corgi!) certainly capture your attention… But let’s hone in on the outdoor kitchen for a moment.

As you can see, this homeowner opted for a weathered wood finish on their island.

But wait… Isn’t wood a bad material for your outdoor kitchen?

Yes.

However, this outdoor kitchen is not made from wood. It’s made from concrete!

Had you fooled, didn’t we?

Anyway… The “wooden” finish on this island is right at home with the rustic aesthetic. It also matches beautifully with the exterior of the home, yet enhancing it at the same time.

And despite being decked out with stainless steel appliances… This outdoor kitchen doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb at all.

You’ll also notice that this homeowner has an Ooni outdoor pizza oven tucked into the side. (Although, it’s not part of the kitchen!)

Taking a step back… Just about everything in this outdoor living room gives off a rustic vibe.

Potted plants and greenery completely surround the space… And the pendant lighting gives off a nice glow of warm light.

Not to mention, the bistro table provides a tasteful pop of color to bring it all together.

There’s also a coziness just due the fact that this is a small space. Certainly, you can easily imagine yourself curling up to a cup of coffee and a nice book… Or perhaps just enjoying an afternoon tea with a friend?

Either way… There’s no doubt in our minds that this is a rustic space to keep at the forefront.

weathered wood ash outdoor kitchen on deck
Key Takeaway:

Surrounding your outdoor kitchen with greenery makes your island feel more rustic… And also creates the illusion of it becoming a part of the natural environment.

Covered Rustic Outdoor Kitchen

outdoor kitchen on patio under a pergola with weathered wood umber finish in texas

Looking to put your rustic outdoor kitchen cabinets under cover?

You’ll want to look closely at this example!

Like the previous idea, this island features a weathered wood finish… But this time, it’s with an umber hue, rather than ash.

And we have to say… It’s a perfect match for the wooden pavilion it’s sitting under.

But first, let’s take a closer look at this patio kitchen.

This island is outfitted with several stainless steel appliances, including an outdoor refrigerator.

But what’s really unique here is the hybrid grill.

This appliance is essentially a dual grill head… With a charcoal grill on the left, and gas grill on the right.

So you can get the convenience of gas… But switch over to charcoal when you want some more rustic fare.

We’d even go as far as to say that the charcoal grill side even looks a bit rustic!

The wrought iron chairs and dining table solidify that farmhouse look… And it’s brought to completion with that wooden pavilion we mentioned.

Without the roof, this outdoor kitchen area would still be rustic in its own right… But the pavilion adds that wow factor. (You know what we mean?)

No matter what you’ll be cooking up… The rustic feel clearly shines through here.

hybrid grill in outdoor kitchen on patio in texas
Key Takeaway:

A stunning wood pavilion, gazebo, or pergola will greatly enhance the rustic feel of your outdoor kitchen. This structure sets the stage for a homespun feel… And you can always enjoy grilling, rain or shine.

Southwestern DIY Rustic Outdoor Kitchen

Rustic doesn’t always have to mean that you’re giving off a farmhouse feel.

Depending on where you live… Rustic could mean something quite different!

And this southwestern backyard couldn’t be a more perfect example.

There’s nothing about this outdoor living space that screams “farmhouse”… But it does scream rustic.

It all starts with the stacked stone outdoor kitchen. It’s got that rugged, weather-worn look to it we all know and love.

And although the appliances are stainless steel… The natural look of this island wins out handily.

This is also helped by the homeowner’s selection of chiseled edge, brown concrete countertops. That chiseled finish brings further continuity to the rustic stone look.

Plus, the cabinetry itself features understated decorations that really take things up a notch.

The outdoor bar has a delightful set of under-counter lighting… Firmly selling that southwestern rustic charm.

We’d also be remiss not to mention the wooden bar seats, which further add to the rustic flair… And fit right in with the desert landscape.

close up of rustic outdoor bar island with lighting

Zooming out a little… The tiled dining space, golden sand colored chair cushions, and paver patio all add to that southwestern rustic look.

So if you’re looking for a rustic outdoor kitchen with a southwestern twist… This is a space to watch out for.

Key Takeaway:

Every locale has a unique spin on the rustic look. Don’t be afraid to include design elements unique to your location. Not only does this create greater harmony between your design and the environment… It also makes the aesthetic personalized to you.

L-Shaped Rustic Outdoor Kitchen Paradise

patio paver idea with pavilion and outdoor kitchen

Let’s wrap up the list with a design idea you won’t soon forget!

Just about everywhere you look… The rustic aesthetic is on full display.

But as usual, let’s begin with the outdoor kitchen.

Just like the previous example… We’re presented with a stacked stone island in a terra brown hue.

Yet, it’s giving off a completely different rustic feel. (Which speaks to the versatility of this finish!)

This grill area is giving off a fantastic refined farmhouse vibe… Complete with a stainless steel built-in grill, flat top grill, outdoor sink, refrigerator, pull out trash… And even some access doors.

The overhead lean-to matches beautifully… And still allows an abundance of sunlight to shine through.

But what really gives this area the chef’s kiss of perfection… There’s a square fire pit that identically matches the outdoor kitchen finish.

It’s a small touch… But one that truly makes this space a standout.

But going beyond the outdoor kitchen island… There’s even an outdoor dining and seating area under a stunning gazebo.

The curtains give this area an easy-breezy vibe… And also provides an intimate atmosphere when the curtains are closed.

Other small details include the rustic paver patio… And a stone waterfall to enhance the refined rustic aesthetic.

All in all?

This alfresco cooking area is truly a model for rustic design.

l shaped rta outdoor kitchen with fire pit
Key Takeaway:

Go beyond making your outdoor kitchen rustic. Truly transform your outdoor patio area into a full-on rustic paradise. You and your guests will feel fully immersed in the rustic vibe… And you’ll enjoy your outdoor kitchen space that much more.

Your Rustic Outdoor Kitchen DIY: Step One

rta outdoor kitchen paired with an alfa pizza oven that is ready to enjoy

After learning just about everything there is to know about a rustic outdoor kitchen… You’re probably chomping at the bit to get started with your very own island!

So allow us to share with you where to get started.

What’s step one?

It depends on your answer to this question:

How did you feel about all the outdoor kitchens you saw in this article?

If you’re head over heels in love with the aesthetic… You’ll be glad to know that you can recreate the same exact thing in your own backyard. (With hardly any effort!)

Every island you saw today is a ready to assemble outdoor kitchen from RTA Outdoor Living. (That’s us!)

Our outdoor kitchens are made with high performance concrete that’s rated for 100 years… Backed by a limited lifetime structural warranty… And can be customized to match the exact rustic feel you’re looking for.

Weathered wood, stacked stone, reclaimed brick are all classically rustic finishes fully at your disposal.

Not to mention… It couldn’t be easier to customize your rustic outdoor kitchen plans.

Every year, thousands of people create their outdoor kitchen plans with the help of our free online design tool.

In just mere minutes… This intuitive tool will guide you through creating your ideal rustic BBQ island design.

And by the end, you’ll be presented with a full 3D rendering of your dream island.

We’ll guide you every step of the way from there… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

Start creating your rustic outdoor kitchen, and we’ll be in touch.

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