8 outdoor fireplace ideas to turn up the heat on even the coolest of summer nights
Outdoor fireplace ideas are the ultimate way to turn your backyard into an entertaining space, using design to help you build the alfresco living space of dreams
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Outdoor fireplace ideas can cater for a range of backyards and budgets. So before deciding on a design, it’s worth considering any specific requirements you might have. For example, a semi-enclosed model, such as a chiminea or ceiling-mounted fireplace, might be a good option for exposed yards and blustery coastal spots, while a simple bowl design could be sufficient in a more sheltered outdoor space.
‘Choosing an outdoor fireplace can also be about more than placement and safety,’ says European Home’s founder Holly Markham. ‘Now, you can find designs that really enhance the beauty of your outdoor space, with organic forms and sculptural features that look just as good when not in use.’ For Holly, a fire is a must-have whether indoors or out. ‘Fireplaces provide a gathering place and appeal to people because of their warmth and visual allure. They encourage conversation and relaxation, and there is simply an emotional and universal draw to fire.’
They are a wonderful companion to an outdoor kitchen, or a place to gather in their own right. But do think about what it takes to run them. When it comes to fuel, a wood-burning outdoor fireplace will bring the atmospheric sounds and smells of a real fire, while a gas-powered model is quick to ignite, smokeless and easy to extinguish. For a more eco-friendly option for your backyard, consider a bio-ethanol model, which has similar features to a gas fire but with the added benefit of a renewable energy source. Whatever fuel you choose, there area wealth of different styles to choose from, whether you go for an off-the-shelf fireplace or a bespoke design. We’ve complied a few to ideas to help you get started below.
8 outdoor fireplace ideas
1. Make a statement with steel
Canadian multi-disciplinary firm Ancerl Studio created a beautiful bespoke outdoor fire from weathering steel as part of the garden scheme for this Toronto home.
‘The custom Corten steel fireplace anchors the backyard and provides contrast to the soft cedar hedges lining the perimeter of the garden,’ says principal architect Nicholas Ancerl of the striking design, which is enhanced by the steel’s natural patina, and fits perfectly onto this urban patio.
‘The wood-burning fireplace was conceived not to only allow for kosher cooking, but also to create the perfect gathering point for a romantic summer night or an evening roasting marshmallows with the family.’
2. Create a secluded conversation pit
When landscape designer Pete McGarr, of Feraland, created this sunken firepit area, he chose to tuck the space away at the end of the home’s leafy yard. ‘It’s a rustic reinterpretation of the conversation pits that were often typical of mid-century living rooms,’ explains Pete, who used decking boards and steps cut from larch, and added a sweet chestnut pergola, both of which were locally sourced from sustainably coppiced woodland.
’The sunken firepit is built from Victorian clay pavers with a sand and oyster pebble floor, while the cushions made from vintage grain sacks.’
3. Integrate a fireplace into a deck
We love the design of this outdoor area that extends from one of Muji’s modular buildings. This particular Muji Hut model features a wide deck that extends the entire length of the prefab single-room home. ‘There no steps between the interior and the outdoor area, where the fireplace forms part of the deck,’ say the building’s designers. ‘This creates a strong connection between indoors and out.’
The fireplace itself is a novel form of outdoor heating - it is made from Ōya stone, a type of Japanese rock formed from lava and ash. ‘The boundaries between outside and inside are eliminated and the entire living space is enlarged by the design.’
4. Build an indoor/outdoor fireplace
‘This is one of our favorite moments at Autocamp Russian River,’ say the team at Anacapa Architecture of this indoor-outdoor firepit area that they created as part of their design for an upscale California campground. ‘It perfectly encapsulates our constant effort to connect our built and natural environments with minimal disruption between the two’.
The custom fireplace was built specifically for the project, and features a gas-powered, ground-level fire pit with a hood above that extends up through the ceiling of this semi-covered space.
‘Relaxing by a fire with good company, feeling a slight breeze, and taking in captivating views are great examples of the feeling we try to achieve through our designs.’
5. Keep it contemporary with a fire table
‘Outdoor fireplaces come in all shapes and sizes to suit all tastes,’ says garden and landscape designer Simon Orchard. He added this sleek gas-powered fire table from Solus Decor to a sunken seating area in one project.
Made from polished concrete, the design elevates the flame while offering the functionality of a coffee table, a central point of an outdoor living room. Behind the fire table is a bespoke water feature, designed by Simon to further enhance the sense of tranquility in the space. 'Water is a great addition to any garden. It adds a sense of drama and the calming sound is a great way to drown out traffic if you live in a built-up area.’
6. Opt for an oversized outdoor hearth
‘This contemporary courtyard garden is a peaceful retreat from the city, extending the living space beyond the walls of the house and into the landscape,’ says James Lord, founder/partner of landscape architecture studio Surfacedesign Inc.
Here, a concrete hearth creates a hub for gathering outside on the patio, which is composed of stone slabs interspersed with flowering thyme and sedum plantings. ‘The hearth itself is an abstract composition of pristine white concrete backed by the rippling surface of a black basalt fountain wall that slides behind the flame of the firepit,’ continues James.
‘At night, the courtyard is enlivened by a band of recessed lighting highlighting the floating architectural edges and washing the sunken plantings with light.’
7. Try a modern take on a chiminea
Searching for a slender firepit for a small backyard? Morsø’s cast-iron ‘Kamino’ fireplace could be the solution. Its sculptural design and tall flue chimney helps to direct smoke away from where you’re sitting, while the structure is light enough to be relocated to different positions in your garden when needed.
‘The Kamino outdoor fireplace can be moved and turned as the wind changes, and can extend the use of your patio from spring through to early autumn,’ say the designers of this contemporary chiminea, which can also be used for cooking with the addition of a specially designed grill.
8. Install a suspended outdoor fireplace
Focus fireplaces originated in the 1960s, when founder Dominique Imbert swapped his career as a history professor in Paris for a metal workshop in the French countryside. Creators of the first suspended fire, Focus has been at the forefront of fireplace design for over 50 years.
Dominque Imbert described this model, the Bathyscafocus, as having the the style of a fireplace from a lunar landscape,’ says European Home’s founder Holly Markham. ‘It was important for him to offer both beauty and uniqueness. He refused to produce a design if he felt that the result was not exceptional, and this one certainly brings outdoor living to a new level.’
Are outdoor fireplaces safe?
If you have small children running around, an elevated outdoor fireplace, or even a deep-set hearth, might be a safer choice than a low-profile firepit. Mesh spark screens are available for designs such as these, but it's always worth remembering how hot the bowl can get.
This should also be factored in when you decide where to place your firepit, as the radiant heat could affect surfaces such as wooden or composite decking. For those who love to barbecue, you might prefer a fireplace that can double as an outdoor grill, or even a portable version that you can take on trips and picnics.
Tessa Pearson is an interiors and architecture journalist, formerly Homes Director at ELLE Decoration and Editor of ELLE Decoration Country. When she's not covering design and decorative trends for Livingetc, Tessa contributes to publications such as The Observer and Table Magazine, and has recently written a book on forest architecture. Based in Sussex, Tessa has a keen interest in rural and coastal life, and spends as much time as possible by the sea.
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