5 Fiery Backyard Focal Points

BY JULIA HASKINS ON APRIL 16TH, 2017

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Extend the entertaining season into a chillier month or simply enjoy the outdoors a little later into the night. An outside fire fixture will set the scene. Here are five smart ways to light up the night.

Outdoor fireplaces

An outdoor fireplace is one of the simplest ways mimic the warmth of an indoor setting.

“It provides a very realistic aesthetic, almost like it’s a real wood fire,” says Becky Scribner of Hearth & Home Technologies, a Lakeville, Minn., producer of hearth products.

Fireplaces also allow for a variety of personalization. “Consumers can choose whatever finish they want around the fireplace,” Scribner says. “Any sort of material, as long as it’s not combustible. River rock, stone, cement – the possibilities are really endless.”

Consumers might opt for the traditional brick style, but Scribner recommends a high-grade stainless steel model for homeowners whose homes are near salt water and other damaging natural forces.

Pizza ovens

Pizza made in a traditional oven can never quite match the chewy pies and thin crispy crust that the heat from a pizza oven creates.

A simple pizza-oven kit delivers pizza-making fun to the backyard. These kits typically include everything you need to assemble your own custom pizza oven, including oven chamber and vent, dome and floor insulation, mortar, chimney, door and thermometer. Stand and enclosures must be built on the site.

Freestanding pizza ovens designed for outdoor use are another option. The gas- or propane-fueled Artisan Fire Pizza Oven from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet turns out a Neapolitan-style pie in less than three minutes. The unit is designed to sit on an outdoor countertop.

The type of oven contributes to the taste. In a direct fire oven, the flames and ash adjacent to the pizza creates a distinctive smoked wood taste. An indirect fire oven has a fire chamber separate from the food chamber, so pizza emerges with no scorched edges.

Fire tables

Fire tables are the perfect combination of function and aesthetics. “You can treat them like a regular table, but they’re focal points, and they provide warmth,” says John Xo’chihua of Aztec Artistic Productions in Portland, Ore.

There’s a primal attraction to a fire table that tends to bring people together. “It’s something that people want to gather around,” Xo’chihua says. “You have a surface you can set things on when it’s not being used as a fire table. A lot have a cover and can be used as regular tables.”

On tables topped with a long, linear burner, Xo’chihua explains, the flame tends to blow over in breezes. On tables with round burners, the flames tend to burn more consistently and also provide more heat.

Fire bowls

Just like a fire table, a fire bowl can be the perfect entertaining focal point and used to hold drinks. Willie Wilson of Concrete Habitat, a Spokane, Wash., company that fabricates concrete-like material into counters and accessories, likes to decorate the rims of his company’s fire bowls with touches like polished crushed glass. “That’s fun because it reflects the flame and adds a little more ambiance,” he says.

The shape of the fire bowl may be simple, but not all bowls are created equally. They’re available in a wide variety of materials and designed for use on the ground or on a tabletop. Most are propane- or gas-fired.

Burner options include a manual valve key ignition, an open gas valve, a match-lit ignition and an electric ignition.

Standing lights and torches

Mimic the breezy feel of an island destination with a fiery torch, either using a real flame or an LED bulb. Take wind, rain and other forces of nature into consideration when choosing the best light source for your outdoor living space.

Standing lights and torches are some of the easiest to install backyard focal points, rarely involving extensive setup.

Try placing them in different spots to experiment with the effects: around a patio table, posted at the entrance to the backyard or placed in planters for to emphasize the outdoor foliage.

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