One of the greatest pleasures of summer is enjoying outdoor meals and parties, which sometimes include gathering around an outdoor fireplace. Nostalgia simmers as we recall campfires from childhood at the beach or a campground.
Sometimes our home “campfire” is made in a real masonry fireplace built of stone or red brick or in a much smaller portable fire ring or chiminea. No matter what form the fireplace takes, the delight and magic of an outdoor blaze is one of those lifestyle ingredients that says fun.
In addition to its charm, however, an outdoor fire also can take the chill off an evening spent on the patio. And in investigating fireplaces, fire rings and other traditional ways to have a fire on the patio or deck I have discovered something special.
A truly exceptional product now on the market offers the opportunity to achieve an indoor fireplace and an exterior fireplace at the same time. The feature that makes this possible is a window in place of the typical fire-screen front. It is a weather-tested/hurricane-rated piece of glass that achieves the see-through aspect of this particular firebox. The illusion of gracious space is easy to achieve as you gaze inside from your outside position. With lights on in the house, the entire outdoor patio expands beyond the real space.
Because there is no additional venting required for this unit that has a 38,000-BTU input per hour, it then becomes possible to design window glass directly above the fireplace itself.
As shown in the accompanying photograph, the relationship between the indoor living room and the outdoor living room is seamless, which contributes toward expanding a smaller indoor entertaining space into the great outdoors in comfortable and practical ways.
When you offer a cozy temperature outside, guests will be much more inclined to linger and be satisfied with the outdoor experience. Of course there are other ways to achieve the same level of comfort, such as portable gas space heaters like those used in outdoor restaurants.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work to fashion great outdoor-adjacent spaces.
First, try to take the interior floor material right on outside the doors. This is one way to ensure a fluid transition between the indoor room and the outdoor one. If you have a material such as wood flooring or carpeting that won’t lend itself to this concept, however, then instead try to match up the color of each material to the other. It will accomplish a version of the same premise.
Next, make sure that you get the best outdoor kitchen equipment you can afford: a reliable barbecue that is gas or electric, an outdoor refrigerator and perhaps an outdoor ice maker. Manufacturers of major appliances generally have a stainless steel outdoor-rated model available for consideration.
For refrigeration units and ice makers, check into U-line, Scotsman, Viking, Dacor or Sub-zero. Barbecues come in varying sizes from companies such as Lynx, Weber, Brinkman and Char-Broil, which features the Patio Caddy that is perfect for apartment-size balconies or patios.
Think practically about comfortable-yet-durable out-door seating. There are dozens of stacking chairs and a few tables that fold up compactly for easy storage. Thus the smallest of spaces can be adjusted to accommodate an alfresco dinner party.
For afternoons outside, you’ll want to be able to control excessive heat, thus the enormous popularity of all sorts of umbrellas and canvas shelters that create much-needed shade. Misters like those used in places like Palm Springs or Phoenix are a more sophisticated and more permanent solution to high summer daytime temperatures. The gentle mist is carried through pipes on the outside of awnings and can lower the temperature significantly.
Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of “Big Ideas for Small Spaces.”