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Come on Baby Light My Fire

Ways to warm up the outdoors

By Deann Hammer, Broadway Design

The Pacific Northwest has an abundance of nature at our fingertips. We love to be outdoors and enjoy the water, mountains, and singsong of birds.

However, when the sun goes down, temperatures drop—and it gets chilly. There are a number of options for outdoor heat that can help us warm our souls both inside and out.

Gas Lanterns

Gas lanterns were a staple in New Orleans and the South, and have now made an entrance on the West Coast. These charming fixtures are beautiful on a front porch or back deck, as they have a living fire inside of them and add warm light to any space. You will need to plan ahead when installing them, as they require a gas line to be installed inside of your walls.

Built-In or Free-Standing Outdoor Fireplaces

You can buy a cinder block kit to build the fireplace structure to accommodate a real wood-burning fire, or you can plumb it for gas for an easier gas log set. Look at the shipping cost, as these blocks are concrete and are delivered on pallets that are very heavy! These units will typically need to be faced with a ledgerstone or brick. Sometimes they are covered with plaster for a more Spanish or modern look. sells stone cladding.

Outdoor Gas Fireplaces

There are gas outdoor fireplace units you can purchase from a fireplace shop that can be framed in with wood, but make sure they are protected from the rain/elements, preferably under cover, as the water will damage your pilot light. After framing, these gas prefab units are then covered with stone surround to emulate the fireplaces we see inside a house, adorned with glass doors or a glass panel.

Stone Fire Pits

Stone fire pits are the easiest way to roast a marshmallow or burn wood in open air. Kits can be purchased at Morrison Gravel with a metal ring inside in various sizes. Make sure to measure your space first so that there is enough room to walk around the fire pit while also being able to accommodate a few Adirondack chairs.

Pre-Made Metal or Stone Chiminea-Type Wood-Burning Units

There are various options available online for small metal wood-burning free-standing units. I have found that the front opening of the unit needs to be fairly small, or you will get a horrible back draft of smoke spewing at your face. The best units have small front openings to end the smoke up through the flue and out of the way.

Propane Heaters

Propane heaters are a terrific way to heat up a space. There are tall units that sit on the ground (with wheels for ease of mobility), or if you have a covered porch, installing ceiling heating units are very effective. These are typically hung between 6- to 8-feet apart and have a metal shield on top that deflects the heat downward toward your seating area. They can be hard wired in on a thermostat, which allows you to have more control over your heat than a free-standing unit that can easily be blown out by strong wind.

Fire Pit Tables

These can come with a built-in space for a propane tank under the table, or a hose that leads to a gas hookup on your house. Fire pit tables are a quick and easy way to add fire to a dinner party.

You can enjoy the outdoors long into the cool evenings with a little fire. It’s up to you to decide which works best for your space and lifestyle.

Deann Hammer is the owner of Broadway Design, a boutique interior design firm in Gig Harbor. She and her team craft spaces that are tailored to each client's personality and lifestyle, while mindful of their budget, creating a perfect harmony between aesthetics and function.

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