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excerpt of "Fire Features - Lighting the Landscape " by Gregory Harris, LASN
Above: This new construction project included an outdoor kitchen, patio covers, balcony, driveway, vanishing edge pool, and four fire features. A pair of 42" diameter precast concrete fire bowls flank the sides of this vanishing edge pool. Concrete scupper bowls match the fire bowls and spill water gently into the ends of the pool. In the background, a freestanding pergola and custom fireplace create a viewpoint for the California nightscape. Photo by Paul Jonason
Outdoor living spaces continue to gain in popularity as homeowners look for ways to extend their entertainment areas from indoors to outside. One burgeoning feature to these outdoor spaces is the use of fire.
A recent American Society of Landscape Architects survey found that 94.2 percent of the respondents rated fire pits and fireplaces as somewhat or very popular as a residential design element in 2011.
Fire features, particularly fire pits, can be relatively low maintenance while adding flair to the outdoor space. In addition, the design of fire features can range from modest to extravagant, with many clients requesting fire features that combine fire and water.
"Restaurants are using fire features for visual effect, and it calms customers down during their wait for seating", says Scott Cohen, president and garden artisan of The Green Scene in Northridge, CA."
Cohen describes fire as the biggest trend in landscape design and construction for both residential and commercial projects. Cohen noted that fire features at residences are not exclusively fire pits. Exterior fireplaces are also a popular addition to the landscape.
"Fireplaces create an anchor for outdoor rooms", Cohen said. "They're nice to look at even when they're not in use."
Fireplaces can be functional as well as visually appealing because some homeowners use their fireplaces in conjunction with their outdoor kitchens. Fire pits are more of a decorative feature.
Fire and water tend to coexist when it comes to decorative fire features and the landscape. Many of Cohen's clients have fire features next to their swimming pools and hot tubs.
"This combines the reflective quality of water to fire," he said. "The water provides a mirroring effect for the fire."
Cohen, whose new book, Outdoor Fireplaces and Fire Pits was recently published, said he is seeing more requests from his clients to incorporate water and fire in the same landscape element.
This contemporary design demonstrates the use of multiple levels to create a stronger sense of outdoor rooms, the biggest trend in exterior design today. The bold fireplace burns round fireballs made from refractory fire clay. The mantle cavaliers out three feet and was cast in place of four-inch thick concrete following especially engineered plans.
Scott Cohen is author of many books that are loaded with design tips for creating your own terrific outdoor rooms. Scott Cohen’s Outdoor Kitchen Design Workbook is a comprehensive outdoor kitchen design and construction manual, and Scott Cohen’s PoolScapes is an insider’s walk through Scott’s top 25 projects. Also check out The Big Book of BBQ Plans, and Pool and Spa Perspectives, 3 volumes of our best perspectives, and Patios, Pergolas, and Pavilions.