Fire away! How to create an outdoor fireplace



If you want a garden look that’s bang on trend this summer, think “inside out”. Take your living room into the garden with an all-weather sofa and chairs from Cozy Bay from ACHICA. Then complete the look with a stylish fireplace to keep off the chill in the evenings or on cooler autumn days.

Choosing furniture is the easy bit, but how do you go about installing a fire? To find out I asked Tony Young, MD of Urban Fires and top garden designer Laara Copley-Smith for their expert advice.



 



Where is the best place to position a fireplace?

Laara says: “My clients are often looking for ‘interior-exterior living spaces’, where a terrace or patio area close to the house is integrated with the interior, creating an easy and practical space to locate an outdoor fireplace. The exact location will depend on the size of your terrace and specific garden style, but simplicity in the design is key to creating harmony between the fireplace and how it sits with the rest of the garden. Tony adds: “You can also use a fireplace as a focal point at the end of a garden, or one of our gas firebowls in the centre of a sheltered seating area away from the house.”



Should I choose a gas or log fire?

Tony says: “Most of our clients who live in towns or cities prefer gas, as it produces no smoke and is both clean and efficient, offering instant heat at the touch of a button. Gas fires also work well with lighter coloured paving and furniture, and are either connected to the main gas supply in the house or you can use LPG cylinders if required. In a more rural or traditional setting, you may want to opt for a log fire. Log fires can look very contemporary, too, but remember you will need a chimney, while our gas fires work without a flue.”



How much space do you need for a gas fire?

Tony says: “Gas fires are great for small gardens, and all you will need is a vertical structure of 350mm deep about one metre wide to hold the firebox. In fact, my barbecue is deeper than my fireplace at home. And you can choose from one of our standard models with a built-in facia or we work with designers, such as Laara, who can create a bespoke design to suit your individual style. You can also opt for our artificial coals, or commission a sculptor like Cathy Azria to design a special feature for the fire.”



What type of planting would you recommend to frame an outdoor fire?

“This more traditional design incorporates a stone mantel, black-coated galvanised firebox and ceramic logs, set with a beautiful leafy green wall,” says Tony.

Laara says: “I personally like clean and simple designs, following the ‘less-is more’ principle, where the outdoor fire is uncluttered and becomes a sculptural element in itself. Framing the fire with evergreen or structural shrubs works very well, as does clipped topiary, which help to balance the architecture of the fire surround. If you chose perennial planting that dies down in the winter you have to consider how this will look at that time of year.”



What style of fireplace would you use in a country garden?

Laara says: “Again this depends on the size and style of the garden, whether the fire is going to be close to the house or if it will be set in a rural location within the garden. The possibilities are endless and really there are no two gardens and fire designs which will be the same. I am currently working on a rural site that looks out over expansive open pastures. The property is a brick and timber barn, with a long terrace at the back and wide steps leading down to a lower semi-circular terrace, which opens out onto the lawns and views over the countryside. Central to the semi-circular lower terrace will be a circular, cast iron firepit, with seating arranged around it. In the evening this lower level is less exposed to the breeze and offers a more intimate space. When it is dark it will be spectacular, with the light, flames and heat from the fire, and the night sky.”



What long-term care does a gas fire require?

Tony says: “Our marine-grade stainless steel burners are completely waterproof and use water-resistant electronics, which means you don’t have to disconnect and remove them in winter. They are also designed to last.”

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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert

View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert