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Fire Pits Refashioned
Contractors and Manufacturers Endeavor to Bring this Classic Feature into the Modern Age


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Technology and customers' desires to have less traditional, more individualized outdoor living areas have led to the appearance of some very distinctive looking fire pits recently. Some come ready to install and others are designed and built by creative landscape professionals working with industry suppliers for the various elements to produce one-of-a-kind fire features.





Pushing the Limits with Fabulous Fire Pits

By Kayli Hanley, Ewing Irrigation and Landscape

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After a customer approached Micah Dennis, president of Paradise Restored Landscaping, with a request for an outdoor element that displayed both fire and water, he and his team did just that, starting with an enclosure made with CMUs and veneered with cultured stone that houses a fire pit with fire glass and a water feature with gazing balls; one of which was plumbed to allow water to flow over it onto a bed of river rock. In addition, a reflection wall was constructed from COR-TEN metal behind the enclosure. The wall directs the heat of the blaze toward the people sitting on the other side and reflects an orange glow from the fire pit and a blue glow from a light shining on it from behind the fountain. Photo: Micah Dennis
(This article was edited due to space limitations and editorial considerations. The entire original article can be seen at: bit.ly/FabulousFirePits1)


Although any style of fire pit has the potential to brighten someone's home, some contractors are bending the boundaries of traditional fire pits. Working with distributors, they are able to build artistic masterpieces that draw family and friends together--away from the noise of life and into a quiet place of meditation and togetherness.

Following are four examples of this.

Aesthetics
Company: Paradise Restored Landscaping

When functionality and natural beauty meet, fireworks happen. When Micah Dennis, president of Paradise Restored Landscaping, received an invitation to blend usage and aesthetics, he was all in.

"The clients asked for a fire pit with a place to set their drinks down," Dennis said. "Their property is very naturalistic, and I wanted to create an organic shape to complement the landscape, but maximize its usability. We wanted it to look like the boulders were there and we built the fire pit around it."

The pit runs 8 feet long by 5.5 feet wide by 14 inches deep. All of the main components were purchased from Ewing Irrigation and Landscape. About halfway down what would normally be the outside wall of the fire pit sits an additional ledge to set drinks on. Constructing it took extra thought and patience.

"That ledge on the fire pit was not the natural size of a block," Dennis explained. "Every single block was hand cut to make the ledge fit together seamlessly."

When standing in the living room or kitchen, the fire pit outside is the focal point.

"When I build a fire pit, I want it to pull you outside. Once you are outside, I want you to live in an outdoor area as if you were inside," Dennis said. The naturalistic shape and features of the pit helped to enhance the surrounding nature.

"You just can't beat the shapes you find in nature," Dennis said.



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Built out of cultured stone and boulders by Paradise Restored Landscaping, this pit was designed to mirror shapes found in nature. It is 8' long by 5.5' wide by 14" inches deep. Photo: Micah Dennis


Multiple Elements
Company: Paradise Restored Landscaping

There is something significant about taking things back to the basics. Dennis did just that when he created a piece that incorporated the elements of fire and water, based on a customer's request.

"We took their idea and made it happen in one piece," Dennis said. "This piece highlights fire, water, metal and wood and is symbolic of the elements of life."

On one side, the fire sits nestled in a bed of fire glass to emphasize the sparkle of the flame. On the other, water gurgles out of a gazing ball onto a bed of river rock. Cultured stone is fitted neatly around the perimeter of the pit. It measures 6 feet long by 4 feet wide by 18 inches tall. Combining the seemingly contradictory elements did not come without challenges.

"You have to be able to control the water and not make it too intense so it doesn't splash onto the fire," Dennis said. "Likewise, you have to control the fire so the heat doesn't melt the elements of the water."

Through trial and error Dennis worked out an optimum spacing between the two features and inserted a small wall in between them. The stark contrast between the wet and the dry is beautiful. Dennis believes the piece creates a purpose in his customer's backyard.

"It extends their indoor living to the outdoors," he said.

Dennis encourages fellow contractors to think of the outdoors as a living room.

"Always include a fire pit. I don't think there should be an outdoor spot without one," he said.



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Due to space concerns, Nick Williams of Cutting Edge Landscape Inc. designed a fire pit that can retract into the ground when not in use (inset). To emphasize an industrial impression, its sides are built out of a sturdy steel rust. Fins on top of the burner help the flame rise upward, protected from the wind. The two-month installation process included testing the best way to build the piece, modifications such as guides that brought the pit out of the ground evenly and straight, and drilling out holes in the metal to reduce its weight. Photos: Nick Williams


Custom Shapes
Company: Cutting Edge Landscape Inc.

Nick Williams of Cutting Edge Landscape Inc. was approached by a pair of customers who had a picture in hand and a dream in their heads. "They sent us a picture off of Pinterest and asked, 'Can you build this?'" Williams said.

Excited by the design challenge, Williams embarked on creating the envisioned masterpiece for his customers. It was specifically built at seat height in order to be a gathering spot in the backyard.

"You can never have enough outdoor seating," Williams said.

He suggested factoring multi-use into the design if that's what's important to your customer.

"The shape was free formed out of concrete and built from scratch out of custom stone," Williams said.

A minor challenge Williams encountered due to its custom shape was finding the right size pan to sit inside the pit that could hold fire glass. "We had to design and fabricate a custom pan for the fire glass to be installed into. This took some time, but wasn't difficult," Williams explained. From the stainless steel burner, to the fire glass that sparkles underneath the pit's open flame, every aspect of the piece was carefully crafted to contribute to the finished product's overall ambiance.

"It's the little touches that make it different than something you would randomly buy somewhere else," Williams said.



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To build this fire pit, Cutting Edge Landscape Inc. free formed the shape out of concrete, installed natural stone around the outside of the pit and then sealed the stone to help enrich the colors and prevent it from turning green in Oregon's cold winters. Because of its custom shape, the pan had to be designed and fabricated specifically for it. A stainless steel burner completed the feature. Photo: Nick Williams


Movement
Company: Cutting Edge Landscape Inc.

Space is precious. Many contractors realize that for some yards, space becomes the deciding factor as to whether a fire pit is installed or not. Williams took what could be considered a limitation and created a desirable, one-of-a-kind, modern-day hearth.

"The design was something I just thought up in my head. Sometimes a fire feature or structure can take up precious space. I wanted flexibility," Williams explained.

To solve the problem of space, Williams designed a fire pit with the capability of sinking into the ground when not in use. The pit is activated with a key fob and stops at any height of your choice. The flame ignites via a custom burner that keeps it consistent (inspired by William's knowledge of irrigation manifold construction). The sides are built out of a sturdy steel rust to achieve an industrial feel. From start to finish, the pit takes 21 seconds to fully extend and measures 4 feet long by 2 feet wide by 4 feet deep.

Although the initial design and build for the project took some time, the finished pit puts on a spectacular show. The industrialize steel rises out of the ground accompanied by a stunning, lineal, 8-foot flame, wowing guests and the homeowner alike.

"The first night I completed it, I probably watched it go up and down 50 times," Williams said. "I just love watching it."

A Worthy Investment
Contractors like Dennis and Williams have taken what was considered an age-old staple for campgrounds and created backyard works of art. Their art carves out a space where family and friends can trade the constant noise and demands of the 21st century for hearty laughter and meaningful conversation.

Their ability to build that kind of meaning into somebody's life is inspiring, and that inspiration is made possible by building fabulous fire pits.





Fresh Looks from Factories

By Mike Dahl, LC/DBM

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The Boreal model from The Outdoor GreatRoom Company features a fan that circulates the heat out through the bottom, and a wave shaped burner. Multi-colored LED under-lighting is optional.


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Options are the key for the Urban fire pit series by Housewarmings Outdoor. The self-contained units come in round - in two different sizes - and linear. Each of the two color choices has two different stone finishes available if preferred.


Not all projects, or all contractors, are afforded the luxury of custom designed and constructed fire pits. But manufacturers are starting to provide a middle ground by producing models that can begin to compete with the built-from-scratch ones.

For the brother and sister team behind Bobé Water and Fire, creating designs that will be appreciated by up and coming homebuyers comes naturally. Julie Crone and Kris Kesler conceive and manufacture the products they like and need because they are the next generation of homebuyers.

With features such as a gas burner that replicates the look of a wood-burning fire pit, and advancements such as a remote-control Fenix fire ignition system built with a custom engineered microprocessor utilizing 12-volt technology, this manufacturer based in Phoenix strives to fabricate products that are alternatives to what Kessler and Crone feel are the typical fixtures of the past. Their ever-expanding offerings now include a line of tiki torches, and a series of fire pits that are see-through.

Modern, minimal and elegant are words Solus Décor uses to describe their fire pits. Hand-cast, fiber reinforced concrete gives their designs, which are available in ten colors, a smooth, polished surface.



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Clean profiles are part of the intended design of fire pits by Solus Décor such as the Halo series. Fiber reinforced concrete that can be cast in ten colors is hand finished and results in differing surface variations.


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Sonoran Waters Custom Pool and Spa of Scottsdale, Arizona, installed this fire table from Bobé Water & Fire. It was constructed of COR-TEN steel: a material that forms a stable rust-like appearance when exposed to the weather. This eliminates the need for painting. Other materials available are copper, hand-hammered copper and stainless steel that can come with a number of powder coatings.


Manufacturers are incorporating other innovative touches into their fire pits to help set them apart. The Outdoor GreatRoom Company has two new models that illustrate this. Their Boreal Complete Heat has an internal fan that spreads the heat throughout the unit and out the bottom to help warm feet.

And in a case of technology lending itself to a look that is uncharacteristic with these fire features, the Alcott fire pit table has a supercast top that looks like antique timber, and a base that resembles whitewashed wood. Both models are in production and are scheduled to be ready for shipping this month.



As seen in LC/DBM magazine, November 2017.






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