Modern Outdoor Kitchen Ideas — 5 Architectural Alfresco Cooking Spaces You Need to See

These outdoor kitchens are contemporary and cool, seamlessly integrating functionality, aesthetics, durability and the ability to host a good party

A modern outdoor kitchen under a gabled roof
(Image credit: Joe Fletcher. Design: Malcom Davis Architecture)

Depending on the way you like to live and entertain, there's a great modern outdoor kitchen waiting to be explored. From open, integrated designs to mid-century, and rustic glam, there are several aesthetics you can draw from and fill the outdoor space with bliss.

To make this space a natural extension of your home, take a look at these few interesting ideas. While some are great design ideas for an outdoor kitchen, some showcase ways to complement your backyard landscaping.

1. Create a lounge-style space

An outdoor space with seating, a fireplace and a kitchen

(Image credit: Jenifer McNeil Baker. Design: Maestri Studio)

If you have a large backyard, make the most of it by expanding its potential. Along with a kitchen, consider an outdoor living room or a lounge. Add a small outdoor fireplace to cozy up the setting with lounge chairs.

'Extending your kitchen, dining area and even seating outdoors is desirable as we crave connecting with nature,' says Shelagh Conway, principal and founder of Triple Heart Design. 'For the seating, look for elements that can withstand the harsh changes year over year to minimize the expense of upkeep. Plus, your appliances need to be rated for outdoor use.'

2. Install a gabled structure with eye-catching lights

A large outdoor kitchen with a gable roof

(Image credit: Joe Fletcher. Design: Malcom Davis Architecture)

If you live in a place with extreme weather conditions, it's best to go in for a covered outdoor kitchen. Usually, a covered grill gazebo is a great idea for creating a functional and attractive space. You could go in for a corrosion-resistant steel roof, that will last long, and stand strong against high winds, rain, and snow. But if you want your outdoor space to be the focal point, go in for more interesting-looking structures.

'We drew on the forms of the gable roof barns found in the Northern California wine region and added distinct modern detailing to create the ultimate outdoor kitchen and entertainment area,' says Malcolm Davis, founder of Malcolm Davis Architecture. 'The exposed lines and steel moment frame balance the space in an orderly and logical way. Corrugated polycarbonate skylights at the barn ridge ensure the space is well-lit all day.'

3. Design a secondary kitchen outdoors

An outdoor kitchen with a long dining table, and a pantry

(Image credit: David Wakely. Design: Andrew Mann Architecture)

Homeowners are becoming more serious about their outdoors and how this space serves the home and family. These aren't just spaces used seasonally but ones that contribute wholly to the home's needs. In that respect, outdoor kitchens have become like secondary cook rooms, with full-fledged appliances, outdoor dining, and even a pantry. Of course, these structures need to be built with a lot more care, so that the outdoor gadgets and stored food do not perish.

'This is a residence in Sonoma, which tends to receive harsh sunlight,' says Andrew Mann, founder of Andrew Mann Architecture. 'To help minimize, we designed a solid wood and concrete structure, which keeps the rear and inside of the house comfortable and cool. The wood and concrete blend into the garden steps and walls to become one integrated design.'

4. Go for an indoor-outdoor kitchen

An indoor-outoodr kitchen

(Image credit: William MacCollum. Design: Whipple Russell Architects)

A kitchen positioned in between the indoors and outdoors can serve several functions, and also become quite the focal, talking point of the home. The space can cater to two separate areas, and offer flexibility and accessibility. Want to give it more layering? Consider a bespoke outdoor kitchen countertop or backsplash to make it look like the home's crowning jewel. Add beautiful recessed lighting for a sparkle.

'The outdoor seating space provides all the elements; water, fire, and artful landscaping that brings nature up close while enhancing privacy,' says Marc Whipple, founder of Whipple Russell Architects. 'Cooking and entertaining can be done in the full outdoor kitchen and dining area, with fireplace seating around a distinctive fire feature under-lit with LEDs. We worked with lighting designer John Fox to help us realize our ideas for the edge lighting on the slab stone in the wine room, and also at the barbecue and kitchen where we have concealed edge lighting by the backsplashes.'

5. Choose a sunken design

A sunken outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Patrick Wong. Design: Jobe Corral Architects)

A great way to create a cozy outdoor kitchen is by choosing a sunken design. Constructed slightly lower than the deck, the outdoor BBQ and kitchen space will feel more welcoming, embracing and fun.

You can further enhance it with high-quality materials, durable flooring, and designs. Plus, take a look at the best outdoor furniture brands that can help soften the space even more.

'This outdoor kitchen in a lake access property in West Austin, respects the scenic and lush setting with a minimal structure that protects the views,' says Ada Corral, principal at JOBE CORRAL ARCHITECTS. 'The kitchen incorporates a pizza oven that is positioned to align with the fireplace of the main house. This allows the solid areas to be grouped to further maximize views. Using stainless steel and stone for the cabinetry makes the kitchen low maintenance while a mahogany ceiling adds warmth to the space. The areas surrounding the kitchen were renovated with new stone pavers, pool upgrades, landscaping, and a fireplace with an outdoor seating area.'

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Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.