Create a comfortable patio space that helps you get the most enjoyment from your fire pit.
By Karin BeuerleinMore in Outdoors
Fire is a natural invitation to a gathering, so when you incorporate a fire pit into your landscape, it's important to think about where you put it and what you'll surround it with.
"A fire pit is an element that stands on its own," says Los Angeles landscape designer Mitch Kalamian. "It's very functional and makes a great patio concept. But I always pay attention to where I place it in the landscape."
Whether you're choosing a sleek contemporary gas model or a portable wood-burning fire pit, siting and seating are critical to creating a space you'll enjoy year-round. Be sure to consult city codes to find out whether you need a permit and whether there are restrictions on where you can put your fire pit on your property.
"A fire pit needs to be part of a patio," Kalamian says, "but it tends to be something you sit around after dinner, so I don't like for it to be included in the main dining area. It's best to create its own separate space."
Ideally, this space should be easily accessible from the main area, but not too close to it, and the path between well-defined. Kalamian has seen his share of bad fire pit locations: "I saw one recently where the fire pit was at ground level directly adjacent to the dining area. It was basically a hole in the ground with chairs around it—it was a foot below the surface. Someone's drinking too much or the kids are out playing and suddenly you have a disaster on your hands."
Keep in mind that while a fire pit has a practical function, it also serves as a focal point, preferably from the interior of the house as well as the exterior. "If you can, locate it where you can see the fire from a distance—say, from your living room," Kalamian says. "That way you can enjoy it even in inclement weather."
You may also want to set up an opposing feature, such as a small water fountain, across the yard to complement your new fire pit patio. "Balance in the yard is huge," Kalamian says. "It's really important to your design. Don't put everything on one side of the yard or it will feel lopsided.”
Finally, consider the direction of the prevailing wind before you break ground. Even if you're using a gas-powered pit that doesn't emit smoke, a continual stiff breeze can direct the heat uncomfortably onto half your guests while the others can't get warm. If you have a strong crosswind, you may need to plant a windbreak or even put the fire pit on the side of the house rather than in the back yard.