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Fireplaces are popping up in unusual places these days. This slate-sheathed beauty has taken its place as the focal point of a patio. This slide show features three prime examples of this trend.
This dramatic slate-covered fireplace commands the surrounding patio and spa. Overhead, a fir-and-steel arbor creates a "ceiling" over the space, enhancing the feeling of an outdoor room. Underfoot, bands of exposed aggregate add interest and texture to rosy-hue, acid-washed concrete.
This imposing fireplace is the focal point of this home's bluestone patio. Located just outside the family room, the fireplace was begun with a masonry kit, which offers the look and longevity of a traditional brick fireplace but with less hassle and a lower investment. The split-face Tennessee fieldstone veneer faces the unit. Luxury features include a gas starter, ledges to support cooking grates, and a firewood storage platform in the rear.
The owners of this home are enthusiastic proponents of outdoor fireplaces. "They create wonderful places to gather and talk with your family," the husband says. "You'd be surprised how easily the conversation flows without distractions like a TV or Nintendo."
This distinctive fireplace evokes the traditonal Southwestern kiva style. The arched firebox, beehive shape, and stucco exterior are all reminders of the hearths that Pueblo people gathered around 2,000 years ago.
The fireplace serves several practical purposes beyond its role as a focal point. The massive hearth, along with its adjacent walls and a trumpet-vine-enveloped pergola, helps create privacy for the patio. On cool nights, the fire is a warming presence.
The vine-covered pergola helps soften a privacy wall along one side of the patio, while offering cooling shade. Potted plants offer soft relief from the smooth, hard surfaces. This fireplace began with a prefabricated metal fireplace, a less costly alternative to traditional masonry. Concrete blocks and a stucco cocoon completed the structure.