Outdoor Fireplace Design Ideas

Over the last decade, outdoor fireplaces have continued to be a rising trend in outdoor living design. A fireplace provides an elegant focal point that visually transforms a patio into an outdoor living room, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. When planning an outdoor fireplace, there are a number of options to consider.

Custom-Build versus modular units

Custom outdoor fireplaces can be built using a variety of masonry products, including nearly any Belgard retaining wall product. The benefit to a custom-built fireplace is that you have the design flexibility to create any size or style that suits you. Belgard also offers the Belgard Elements™ line of modular fireplaces that are pre-built in a factory setting, shipped in sections and installed with a pallet loader. The benefits are lower installation costs and a shorter construction window.

This custom-built fireplace, constructed with Celtik® Wall, features a raised hearth, symmetrical arched built-in wood boxes, and built-in low-voltage lighting for ambiance. A row of smooth-face block adds a contrasting element to the rough-hewn look of the design.
Belgard Elements™ fireplaces, such as this one from the Bristol™ Series, offer a custom-built look for a fraction of the cost. Custom-built elements, such as the landscape wall and water features in this design, can be added to enhance the custom-built look.
USE interior design principles

To enhance the “outdoor living room” feel, employ interior design techniques when designing your outdoor fireplace and surrounding patio. Examples include accessorizing the room or creating a faux rug in the paver design.

A semi-circular design of Mega-Arbel® pavers creates the look of an inlaid rug in front of this Brighton™ Elements fireplace and Bristol™ Elements wood boxes.
Research Local building codes

Codes will vary by municipality, but in general terms, gas-burning fireplaces have fewer restrictions and can typically be placed anywhere in a design, including directly against another structure. Wood-burning fireplaces typically need to be placed at least 10 feet from another structure. Some building codes require additional safety measures or restrict the use of wood-burning units altogether.

The chimney of this wood-burning fireplace from the Bordeaux™ Elements collection was extended upward to comply with local building codes, due to its proximity to another structure.
Built-in outdoor gas fireplaceS

An economical option that can typically be installed anywhere is a built-in gas fireplace, which can be built on the exterior of the home, on a porch or under a pavilion.

The built-in outdoor gas fireplace on the left was designed to emulate the look of an indoor fireplace using Tandem® Modular Grid. The same wall product was used to build out an adjacent outdoor kitchen. The design on the right used Weston Stone® retaining wall block with accents of Urbana® Stone and Mega-Arbel® pavers to emulate the look of a freestanding Bristol™ Elements fireplace. The same paver and wall products were used throughout the design to tie the look together.
Think outside the box

When creating a custom build, consider how you want to use the space and work with your contractor to come with with creative solutions and ideas.

This custom fire feature is both a fireplace and a brick oven. A built-in overhead light adds a dramatic look to the piece while providing ample light for operating the brick oven in the evenings.
This outdoor living room incorporates dual open-sided European-style gas fireplaces, constructed using Tandem® Wall. The same wall product was used to build seat walls around the perimeter of the patio, as well as columns for the pavilion, tying all of the outdoor rooms together into one cohesive design.
Consider built-in seating

Built-in seating is one of the leading trends in outdoor design and makes an excellent addition to an outdoor fireplace, adding both form and function to an outdoor room.

This custom natural stone fireplace is flanked with two seat walls, constructed with Celtik® Wall. The rough-hewn face of the Celtik® Wall adds a textural element to this eclectic design.

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Next week: If your yard is sloped, come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog for ideas on using terraced design to create more usable space.

Top 10 Outdoor Living Design Trends

This outdoor living design incorporates several of the most popular trends this year: permeable pavers, fire pit,
This outdoor living design showcases several of the most popular trends this year: low-maintenance landscaping, Subterra® Stone permeable pavers, a fire pit, low-voltage lighting, and a built-in cooking area with ample seating and counter-top space. A permeable system can be designed to incorporate rainwater harvesting to be used for irrigation to create the ultimate eco-friendly patio.

In the annual national survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), landscape design professionals are polled regarding the outdoor living project types and individual design elements that have the highest demand. The results of this year’s survey are in, and for the third consecutive year, eco-friendly projects dominate the top 10 project list. And although it’s no surprise, internet connectivity made its way into the must-have list this year. In terms of individual design elements, the overwhelming majority of the design items have to do with making outdoor areas more livable. For the third consecutive year, fire pits and fireplaces top the list of most popular design elements.

RANKING PROJECT TYPES DESIGN ELEMENTS
1 Drought-tolerant plants Fire pits and fireplaces
2 Native plants Wireless/internet connectivity
3 Low-maintenance landscapes Lighting
4 Edible gardens Outdoor furniture
5 Permeable paving Seating/dining
6 Reduced lawn areas Built-in grills
7 Fire pits and fireplaces Planters, sculptures, garden accessories
8 Water-efficient irrigation Counter space
9 Wireless/internet connectivity Outdoor heaters
10 Rainwater/graywater harvesting Stereo systems
This outdoor kitchen design incorporates drought-tolerant plants,
This outdoor kitchen design incorporates the popular items of drought-tolerant plants, festive overhead lighting, ample prep and serving space, a large seating area, and a wood-burning fireplace. The kitchen, fireplace, and built-in wood boxes are all constructed with Celtik® Wall to create a coordinated look.
This outdoor kitchen is fully connected
This highly livable outdoor kitchen is fully appointed with all of the modern conveniences of the indoors, including the must-have elements of internet connectivity, dining space, multiple outdoor cooking surfaces, ample counter space, and both ambient and overhead lighting. Tandem® Modular Grid was used to construct the kitchen base and a partial wall to house and protect the television from sun and weather for ultimate game-day viewing.

Outdoor Living Trends in New Home Construction

For over a decade, the gradual trend has been for homeowners to transform the formerly open backyards of existing homes into definable “outdoor living” spaces. In new home construction, however, this phenomenon has grown exponentially in more recent years to the point that outdoor living has becoming a standard feature at just about any price level. Although upgraded outdoor living spaces are more common at higher price levels, new construction home buyers at all levels want to know that they’ll be able to live in and enjoy their outdoor spaces. According to builders, realtors and landscape architects, some definable trends have emerged as being “highly desirable” to potential buyers.

Indoor/Outdoor Convergence: For several years, the trend has been to create outdoor living areas that mimic indoor living. This has evolved in a way that with many new home designs, there is no distinct separation between the indoor and outdoor spaces, but more of a fluid separation between the two areas. These types of designs might incorporate floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls, stackable doors or floor materials that contribute to that sense of flow. For example, Belgard Porcelain Pavers were designed for outdoor use, but coordinate with a line of interior porcelain tile, which allows for the same flooring aesthetic to be used both inside and outside of the home.

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Multiple floor-to-ceiling glass doors and Ardesie porcelain pavers make this porch feel like a continuation of the home’s interior living spaces.

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Fully Functioning Kitchens: Although this trend is more typically seen in higher priced homes, smaller homes are jumping on the outdoor kitchen bandwagon, even if on a smaller scale — like with a simple built-in grill. But for mid-level homes and above, buyers want an outdoor kitchen with all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen, and then some. In luxury homes, the outdoor kitchen often costs more than the indoor kitchen, with amenities that incorporate everything from dishwashers to brick ovens. In many cases, the outdoor kitchen also functions as an outdoor bar and includes items like roll-top beverage coolers, kegerators and wine refrigerators.

This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.
This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.

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Integrated Audio/Visual and Lighting: New homes of every price range are incorporating outdoor televisions and sound systems, even if on the smaller scale of an outdoor-rated bluetooth speaker system. Mid-level homes and above are taking the trend to the next level with outdoor sound systems that are integrated with the interior of the home so that the same music can be played inside the home as outside, which follows the indoor/outdoor convergence trend. With the rapid advance of smart phone technology, this can be taken to an even higher level with systems that can operate off of a mobile app to control every electronic aspect of the outdoor living space, including TVs, sound systems, lighting, fire features and pool equipment.

Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner's mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.
Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner’s mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.

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Intimate Outdoor Spaces: Home buyers are interested in having a relaxing outdoor living area where they can socialize and unwind, creating a trend towards more cozy seating areas, often incorporating a fireplace or fire pit. Some experts relate this trend to the fact that there’s typically a TV in every room of the house, so a cozy outdoor space away from a TV can be a place to escape. Unlike expansive outdoor kitchen spaces, which may be limited to luxury homes, an “outdoor retreat” can be created on a smaller budget and appeals to buyers at all levels. In fact, a cozy outdoor space can easily be created by adding a freestanding wall or two. With the help of a few staged furnishing, potential buyers can get a feel for how they would live in the outdoor space.

The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot.
The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot. This same sense of intimacy can also be created with the use of a freestanding wall, which can help define the space and create the illusion of an interior room.

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Sustainable Design: According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, this year’s top trends in landscape design include both rainwater harvesting and the use of permeable pavers. Although a standard permeable paver installation simply allows water to filter through the paver joints into the ground below, a permeable paver system can be designed to also harvest and recycle rainwater, converging these two trends into one and allowing the reclaimed water to be used for garden irrigation and other uses. Current top landscape trends also include native plants and low-maintenance landscaping.

A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.
A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.

Build Custom Outdoor Kitchens and Fireplaces with Less Hassle

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Custom outdoor kitchens and living rooms continue to gain in popularity all across the nation. The modular design of the Belgard Elements collection allows you to create a custom look in a fraction of the time and for significantly less cost than building from scratch on site. Couple that with the fact that homeowners can spread the cost out over time with Belgard Preferred Payment same-as-cash options, and designer outdoor living spaces suddenly become much more affordable for a wider range of homeowners.

Belgard Elements are built in a controlled factory setting and shipped in pieces on pallets and install in a matter of hours, once the footings are in place. Constructed with Belgard pavers and walls and coordinating Echelon Masonry, the Belgard Elements line blends seamlessly with Belgard patios and poolscapes to create beautifully cohesive outdoor living designs.

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But, don’t just take our word for it! See what contractors across the country are saying:

Clint Tucker, Sugar Hill Outdoors – Auburn, GA

“Belgard Elements are easy to move with a forklift. You pop two stones out, run the forklift under the base of the fireplace, or the log boxes, take them to where you created the footing, set it into place, and they’re ready to go. On one project, we installed a fireplace with matching woodboxes, a very nice grill island with a stainless steel grill, and a brick oven with a log box underneath. Had we done this with a more traditional masonry product, it would have taken close to a month. All of that would be out of most people’s price range if it was done in true masonry.”

John Brightenstine, The Paver Company – Rancho Cordova, CA

“Belgard Elements really add a wow factor. And because they’re made with Belgard products, they coordinate with other Belgard hardscapes to tie everything together.”

Andrew Vear, PaverCrafters – Reno, NV

“So often with a lot of custom construction projects, everything takes two weeks. Installing an Elements fireplace takes about two hours because the modules are prebuilt. It looks exactly as it does in the catalog. You just can’t build anything like that by hand. And, I don’t have to go shopping for any other materials. Everything that I need is right in the kit.”

Rod Trahan, La Pavers – New Orleans, LA

“Outdoor kitchens are gaining popularity in our area. The Elements line has the potential to go through the roof. It’s faster, safer and cheaper to install and ties in with the pavers. Building this project by hand would have taken at least three or four times longer. Plus this way, the customer knows exactly what they’re getting.”

For more on the benefits of Belgard Elements, check out our Belgard Elements Outdoor Kitchens blog.

Green Movement Drives 2015 Outdoor Design Trends

Subterra
This outdoor living space incorporates many of this year’s top 10 design trends, including Subterra® Stone permeable pavers, a centrally placed fire pit, downturned low-voltage hardscape and landscape lighting, and low-maintenance landscaping. 

The results of the annual nationwide survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) indicated that concern for the environment appears to be driving the design trends of 2015, with eco-friendly or sustainable practices dominating the top 10 trends in this year’s survey. Here are the top 10 design trends reported by the survey, in order of popularity.

1. Native plants: Back in the 70s and 80s, it was typical to see lush green lawns and tropical plants in the gardens of dryer climates. Today’s homeowners, however, are choosing plants that more easily thrive in local conditions, without having to overtax the municipal water supply.

2. Drought-tolerant plants: Even in wetter climates, homeowners are choosing plants that require less water.

2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)
2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)

3. Edible gardens: With an edible garden, a homeowner can grow more of their own food, requiring the purchase of fewer food items at the grocery, and thus requiring less use of natural resources to get those foods to market.

4. Fire pits/fireplaces: Although not necessarily an avenue to help improve the environment, fire pits and fireplaces do offer a gathering spot where people can spend time together enjoying their outdoor environment.

Although fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth highest in overall outdoor living trends, they rank number one in popular design elements.
Fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth most popular in overall outdoor living trends, but rank number one in terms of most popular design elements.

5. Low-maintenance landscapes: Today’s homeowners want to spend less time mowing, weeding, and watering their yards and more time enjoying them.

6. Permeable paving: Permeable pavers offer an attractive way to reduce flooding and improve the quality of local waterways by allowing stormwater to percolate through a graduated bed of aggregates into the ground below, removing pollutants in the process.

With permeable pavers, water soaks into the pavement system instead of running off.
With permeable pavers, water infiltrates into the pavement system instead of running off.

7. Water-efficient irrigation: Multiple technologies exist that automatically sense the amount of water needed and help avoid unnecessary over-watering, thus conserving water use.

8. Rain gardens: Rain gardens offer an attractive, natural way to reduce the burden on urban and suburban sewer systems caused by stormwater runoff.

9. Lighting: Many of today’s outdoor lighting options include energy saving features, such as solar power, low-voltage output, or timers. The light fixtures themselves often incorporate design elements intended to reduce resulting light pollution.

10. Rainwater/graywater harvesting: Many municipalities now offer rain barrel programs to conserve outdoor water use. In addition, a permeable paver system can be designed to harvest and reuse rainwater for irrigation and graywater purposes.

PICPstorage
A permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) system can be designed to incorporate water harvesting and recycling.