Create a Focal Point with Firepits and Fireplaces in Your Landscape
March 11, 2022
Outdoor fireplaces and firepits extend your living space. They are also the perfect place to reconnect with family and friends and get back to nature.
Text by Kristin Amico
In order to create an outdoor entertaining area that invites friends and family to get cozy until the wee hours of the night, you need to do more than just light a fire and pull up a chair. “The right design really creates an extended space for living and a way to reconnect with family and friends and get back to nature,” says Graham Pellettieri, president of Pellettieri Associates, Inc., a second-generation landscape design and build firm based in New Hampshire.
Whether it’s three generations roasting marshmallows over a log-burning fire sheltered from the elements by a hand-carved gazebo, or a romantic after-dinner whiskey for two around a gas fieldstone fireplace, gathering outside creates lasting memories.
Design the Right Outdoor Entertaining Space to fit your Lifestyle
Pellettieri asks all of his clients the same question to get to the heart of the design process: “How do you intend to use the space?” He advises imagining the biggest social gathering you’ll want to host and orienting the space to comfortably accommodate that number of people.
To keep the party going after the sun goes down—and make the space practical for three-season fun—you’ll want to consider a fire feature. The choices are endless—from a sleek gas-powered fire table carved out of a single 5,000-pound slab of raw granite, to a rustic firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs, to a sculptural gas bonfire featuring hand-welded iron logs and pinecones.
Technology makes ambiance as easy as flicking a switch. For example, under-seat lighting can illuminate a custom bench, a sound system can pump out favorite tunes, and LEDs can be programmed from an app to change colors and create a party mood.
It’s possible to create a luxurious gathering space that is also green by selecting regional materials and native plants.
Consider locally sourced Vermont ledgestone or naturally appealing New Hampshire Granite both sustainable options. Pellettieri cautions that it’s important to not only choose a stone based on its aesthetic but to also evaluate how it will stand up to extreme temperatures, scratches, and time.
When it comes to foliage, Pellettieri doesn’t mince words. “We strongly lean toward native plantings,” he says. “If you introduce new materials from a distant area, invasive species can start to take over.” Native plants and materials are much easier to integrate and blend with their surrounding environment.
Find the Ideal Position on Your Property
Location is everything when it comes to adding entertainment space, especially if a flame is involved. First, Pellettieri advises learning your town’s laws concerning the minimum distance required between the house and a gas or wood fire feature. Next, pay attention to natural light, including angles of the sun, and sightlines of the sunset and star-studded night sky. Carefully consider safety needs such as ADA accessibility for a grandparent, foliage that may cause allergies to flare, and level grading and ample lighting so young kids can gather ‘round without the risk of tripping.
For those opting for a woodburning feature, it’s important to consider wind direction to avoid a setup where smoke blows into your guests’ eyes. “Think about the prevailing wind direction,” Pellettieri advises. “Where is the seating going to be in relation to the firepit?”
Since New England winds can notoriously gust, Pellettieri suggests choosing furniture that can be easily reconfigured if the smoke does start to blow. For more rustic firepits, he recommends placing boulders around the perimeter at varying distances from the flames so that guests can easily switch seats if the fire throws off too much heat or smoke.
Regardless of which direction you head, it’s important to visualize how the outdoor space will flow with your home’s architecture and style as well as the surrounding environment. “A landscape architecture firm should be your first call. They will help you to think about the relationship between your outdoor spaces and your home,” Pellettieri says.
Pellettieri Associates, Inc., pellettieriassoc.com
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