covered outdoor kitchen with rustic style and natural wood and stucco finishes

Rustic Outdoor Kitchens

How to Make a Rustic Outdoor Kitchen


Outdoor kitchens vary widely in terms of style – from cutting edge modern to simple and rustic.  What actually qualifies as a rustic kitchen design?

A rustic outdoor kitchen generally refers to a simple, plain outdoor kitchen that is made of unfinished or roughly finished wood.  Rustic design is aged and casual while comprising rugged materials in their most natural forms.

However, within the category of rustic outdoor kitchens, one can envision several variations of rustic style.  Rustic elements of design can be applied to outdoor kitchens in a mountain home cabin setting, at a white clapboard lake house, at an Italian villa or even at a desert adobe hacienda.  The style can also reflect the simplicity of a farmhouse kitchen, using natural woods to give it the farmhouse vibe with a rustic white picket fence and shiplap so common in today’s interpretation of farmhouse style.

The style arose naturally, and it harkens back to a time when people recycled goods or built them from the ground up. The majority of the items were sourced directly from the earth and hence had a naturally organic and rustic appearance. Rustic design may appear weighty and dark in this traditional meaning. Today, however, a more contemporary rustic style with a light and airy, simple outdoor kitchen appearance has arisen.

One of the most prevalent materials used to create a rustic style is weathered, raw wood. Individual cabinets, ceiling beams, and a wood pergola can all be used to incorporate this into your outdoor kitchen design on your backyard patio.

A heavy reliance on wood tones and finishes, on the other hand, can make a space feel dark and weighty. A rustic color palette comprises basic and earthy colors that generally balance white and neutral colors pulled directly from nature to soften the area.  Natural materials, such as wood, tile, or stone, will create the most realistic effect in terms of flooring in rustic outdoor kitchen decor.

Design Elements for a Rustic Outdoor Kitchen

Traditional and dark to light, trendy, and elegant, rustic design can be found. While each iteration of the design style will have its own personal appearance, there will be certain similar design elements and embellishments. To get you started, here are some rustic design features and decorating ideas.

• Natural wood, tile or stone floors, exposed wood beams on your outdoor kitchen roof, brick  or stacked stone  walls, fireplaces, and wood columns are examples of raw, natural materials.

• Wood cabinetry – Rustic design benefits from large, strong wooden cabinets. Mixing reclaimed wood  or pallet wood with recycled and vintage decor will offer visual interest as well as a charming, comfortable rustic appeal.

• Natural fabrics such as burlap, cotton, and jute — Once your floors and key wooden cabinetry are in place, add softness to the outdoor kitchen space with natural fabrics like burlap, cotton, and jute. These can be utilized as outdoor decorating curtains, bar stools, or seating nearby. Any cloth can be treated with a stain and water repellent to help it last longer outside.

• Non-shiny metal — In rustic settings, it’s ideal to avoid luster and sheen. Instead, choose non-shiny metals for your light fixtures and hardware. For example, repurposed metal and industrial hardware will give the outdoor space a more vintage air. Wrought iron cabinet pulls provide a natural contrast to the rough wood.

How to Build a Rustic Outdoor Kitchen

The three typical ways to get a rustic outdoor kitchen built are DIY, build from a kit, and by hiring a professional backyard kitchen designer to build it for you.

DIY Rustic Outdoor Kitchen Built from Scratch

If you’re the handy type and rough framing doesn’t scare you, this will be the most cost effective way for you to build a rustic outdoor diy kitchen on a budget.

You will need a framing plan for your outdoor kitchen layout and a materials list.  Most DIYers who build from scratch choose 2×4 construction and waterproof any lumber cuts that will be touching the ground.

Where rustic design comes into play is with the materials you will use to finish the cabinets once they are built. Similarly, a rustic kitchen design will dictate certain natural countertop materials that will coordinate with the design.  Even honed granite countertops can be selected to reinforce a rustic style if that is your preference.

After applying concrete board to the framing to waterproof and weatherproof the frame, the cabinets will need to be skinned with the rustic elements that will cement your design choice.  Unfinished wood, heavy stone and natural bricks can all be used to face the cabinet boxes as rustic outdoor kitchen ideas.

Cedar, cypress, and pine are all good choices for rustic wood cabinetry.  Remember that the wood should be waterproofed or sealed so that it retains its color and won’t rot or become moldy out in the elements.  Selecting wood that is has natural pest repellents is also a good idea.

As for countertops, live edge wood countertops can be a great option.  Porcelain tile with a matte finish is also a good choice not only because it is weather and water resistant, but because it can withstand being close to hot grills and smokers without damage. The emphasis for your outdoor kitchen countertop should be natural, earthy and understated.

Rustic Outdoor Kitchen BBQ Kits

Outdoor kitchen kits can be used to build a rustic outdoor kitchen – even for those that are not very handy. There are various types of outdoor kitchen kits depending on your level of skill and the amount of time and effort you want to devote to building a kit kitchen.

The types of outdoor kitchen kits are:

    1. Frame only kits – preframed ready to finish

These kits consist of a plan and all the materials needed to assemble a frame for an outdoor kitchen or outdoor kitchen island.  You can find very simple kits consisting of a 4-6′ run of cabinets that might hold a grill and undercounter refrigerator.  It is up to you to then finish the cabinets with a fireproof sheathing material such as concrete board and your choice of rustic-look skin – be it wood, tile, brick or stone.

Frame only kits require the most DIY skills of the four types of kits available as after the kit is built, the most work needs to be done to complete the build.

2. Ready to assemble Kits

A step up from preframed kits are ready to assemble kits.  These kits contain everything except the appliances including the frame, the waterproof sheathing and finishing materials.  To get the rustic look you are looking for, you have to find a kit that has the look you want in their offerings.  Your choices in wood, stone or tile might be more limited, and this will take some more investigation on your part to find the rustic style that suits your desired look.

3. Prefab modular outdoor kitchen kits

Modular outdoor kitchen kits are for the DIYer who wants a more finished product with fewer steps to construct the kitchen. These kits come mostly pre-assembled and require minimal DIY skills. The cabinet modules need to be arranged according to the type plan you purchased whether a bbq kitchen island or a u-shaped grilling station with two pizza ovens. Cabinets will need to be leveled after placement, and the appliances will need to be installed.

Prefab kits are usually available as a package that also include outdoor kitchen appliances.  You select a prefab kit based on the size and shape kitchen you want and the type and number of appliances you need to complete your outdoor kitchen.  Modules are typically available for pizza ovens, charcoal or gas grill, or wood burning oven.

As with ready to assemble kits, the style selection in prefab modular outdoor kitchen kits is limited to what manufacturers are offering and the rustic style you are seeking may or may not be available.

Professionally Built Rustic Style Outdoor Kitchens

The third, and most expensive, option for building a rustic outdoor kitchen is to hire a professional to build an outdoor kitchen for you.  This involves every step of the process from idea generation, to layout, to final design and materials selections, to permitting and construction.

A professional firm will be able to guide you with your outdoor kitchen ideas and translate them into actionable designs and plans.   If you are looking for an exceptional outdoor kitchen result, and aren’t the handy type, this is your most custom option.  You can specify a covered outdoor space with landscape lighting and a grilling station or two and your plan will be customized to your exact requirements.

The other advantage of using a professional firm is that they might have ideas for your backyard space that you hadn’t thought about. They will be able to integrate landscaping designs into your plan that will maximize your views and the functionality of each al fresco area that you use for entertaining.