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Portable fireplaces make outdoor space user-friendly

July 25, 2005|by CHRISTINE BRUN /Copley News Service

On warm summer or early autumn nights, a fire to take the chill off makes valuable outdoor spaces even more user-friendly. Most people think if they live in a small home they have to forgo an outdoor fireplace, but there are ways to enjoy grilling and warmth in yards, patios and decks with limited area.

The first is the Quarry Cast Hearth Nook. This item forms a noncombustible background for a small or medium gas stove installation. Made of aggregate composition, it forms six tiles up the vertical surface and four on the floor under the yet-to-be-added stove. The tiles form an L shape. There is an attractive border, and it looks rather like the background for a wall-mounted fountain.

The pad alone retails for less than $300, and the entire assembled Hearth Nook retails for under $700. This might be a good approach for a covered porch or another area where you don't want to burn wood and risk flying sparks.

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Out in an uncovered area or on an open deck or balcony, think about portable campfire pits. There are many styles on the market that can fit practically any budget. Start with the real propane-powered portable campfire, ideal for backyard campfires and barbeque areas.

The Yukon Legend campfire can be set up in literally minutes and burns in a clean, safe way. It is a ring of galvanized aluminum with ceramic logs that give an instant campfire ambience. Build up rocks or bricks around the metal to lend a more natural look. In locales where a wood-burning fire would be prohibited, this is a great substitute.

Along the same lines is the Portable Campfire II. The 20-inch-diameter steel unit weighs in at less than 30 pounds, and the high-density ceramic fiber logs that come with the unit are designed to withstand the rigors of weather. They are not affected by rain, snow or blistering summer sun. You actually can cook on these logs without harming them in any way. The complete unit sells for around $280.

Shown here is yet another type of portable unit, but a unique one designed for the warmth and romance of actual wood-burning. The California Campfire is a blend of natural California redwood, a welded iron log grate and retractable stainless steel spark screen that can be removed for grilling.

The pit on wood wheels is 40 inches long by 31 1/5 inches wide and 17 inches high. It weighs around 170 pounds, and while billed as movable, would take considerable effort. The wood facade remains cool to the touch even when a fire is burning, an added plus if children are involved. The unit sells for around $740 and comes with a vinyl cover for protection. Visit www.californiacampfire.com for more information.

My favorite style of small outdoor firebox is the chimenea that dates back to 17th century Mexico. Chimeneas were once used as ovens to bake bread and as outdoor fireplaces in mountainous regions. Most versions today are still made of red clay, but a few are made of more durable materials.

Check out the Superb Gas Chimenea, which features a rugged cast-aluminum body and cast-iron burner with realistic gas logs. This model of an old favorite will last in the toughest weather conditions.

In all cases, make sure that your portable fire source is safely clear of overhanging branches or combustible housing materials. Don't have a fire when fire danger is high and the wind is blowing. Clean out your campfire bed before using it.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at cbaintdes@hotmail.com or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

Copley News Service

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