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Outdoor fireplaces now a must for trendy homes

The feature is new to Florida and can be expensive if it is a custom-built patio fireplace, but there are cheaper options.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 27, 2002


One of the hottest trends in home design earns the label figuratively and literally.

Outdoor fireplaces have become a must for new homes, say Tampa architects and builders.

"This is something that migrated here from California," said designer Tom Lamb. Outdoor fireplaces have been popular on the West Coast for several years, he says, and have become in vogue in Florida in recent months.

"It's something we're going to see as obligatory in a high-end home," Lamb says. "Just as a Jacuzzi is to a master bath, we'll see this as part of an outdoor living space."

Lamb has put outdoor fireplaces in two homes.

On Harbour Island, he designed a residence with a two-sided glass-enclosed gas fireplace that can be enjoyed either indoors in the living room or on the lanai. The home Lamb is designing for Outback founder Tim Gannon also will have a two-sided fireplace that opens to the lanai and a covered atrium.

Gannon's fireplace burns gas or wood and is framed with elaborate cast-stone to fit with the homes' Mediterranean style.

Lamb points out that Florida, like California, offers an ideal climate for using an outdoor fireplace. Winters are cool enough to require a bit of warmth, but not so cold that you don't want to go outside. The patio fireplace makes the outdoors more livable.

"It helps blue the line between indoor/outdoor spaces," Lamb says.

That's exactly what Rick Barkett had in mind when he asked WindStar Homes to incorporate an outdoor fireplace into the renovation of his Culbreath Isles home, where he's lived for 19 years.

WindStar will build a 42-inch wood-burning stone fireplace under a gazebo on the Barkett's lanai. Barkett expects it to be a romantic spot where he and his wife, or party guests, can warm themselves while enjoying the waterfront view -- his house is on a salt-water canal and five houses from the bay.

"When we have Thanksgiving or just have people over at the holidays and they want to go outside and have a cigar or have a drink, people don't want to freeze their butts off," Barkett says.

Jay Gabler, owner of Dagasa Build and Design is working an outdoor fireplace into the design of a traditional-style red brick home in Culbreath Isles that will be reborn with a Mediterranean look.

Interior designer Jay Tenuta is overseeing construction of a 9,500-square-foot home in Keystone Manor. The pool area has a stone fireplace with an attached oven for making bread and pizza.

A custom-built patio fireplace can be pricy. A prefabricated unit costs around $2,000, and "the sky's the limit" on the cost of the mantel, Lamb says, depending on its material and design. A fireplace built from scratch starts at about $8,000, he says.

There are other options for those with less deep pockets.

The Smith & Hawken catalog shows a backyard fire pit made of a copper basin resting in a wrought iron stand, $179.

Home Depot carries a wood-burning Mexican chiminea, which is essentially a big clay pot with a hole in the front and a chimney on top. It stands 2-feet tall and sells for $39.99.

And at Target, you'll find stainless steel screened fire pits starting at about $100.

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