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From tables to torches, creative fire features extend the outdoor living season

Wisconsin’s short outdoor season demands to be extended, and homeowners are doing so by adding warmth with creative fire elements like custom-built fire pits, fireplaces, tables and lanterns.
“Outdoor fire features have become more popular every year over the last five years,” says Mike Schumacher, landscape design and sales consultant at Lowney’s Landscaping in Appleton. “If planned correctly, people can use their features from March all the way through November.”
Eric Romenesko, owner of Elite Fireplace in Appleton, says the pandemic has significantly increased sales in outdoor fire features as more people want to socialize outdoors year round.
“There are a lot of people who spend the extra money to stick into their homes and upgrade things, so outside gathering places are becoming increasingly popular,” Romenesko says. “Last summer [manufacturers] were sold out of almost everything.”
While product availability is starting to improve, manufacturers are still behind, says Justin Konitzer, sales specialist at Darboy Stone and Brick in Appleton. Some products and materials are sold out by three weeks while others might take three months to arrive. Landscapers who create custom fireplaces and pits are booking into 2022, so it’s vital to plan ahead.
“If you are working on an outdoor design, get it in the works as soon as you can so you can enjoy it longer,” says Konitzer.
Konitzer says he is seeing more built-in outdoor gas fireplaces and pits being included in new construction plans than ever before, but it’s not required in order to achieve a cozy outdoor space.

“Planning for one in a new build is nice, but not everyone can afford that,” he says. “People are remodeling their existing outdoor living areas or expanding them with fire features too.”

Contemporary linear fireplaces and smokeless fire pits have become increasingly popular, but the options extend well beyond that.

“They’ve got all kinds of different fire pit tables, so not only do they have these fire pits that you sit out in front of, they also make these beautiful tables you can sit around,” Romenesko says. “Fireplaces are also a part of the conversation, where manufacturers offer outdoor gas fireplaces as well as outdoor wood fireplaces, and I think I see a lot of that today as a trend in covered patios.”

Over the last year, homeowners have been opting for more Bluetooth enabled gas fireplaces and fire pits which can be controlled with an app. This includes Schumacher himself, as he is currently updating his patio.
“In my outdoor entertainment area, I’m putting in a Bluetooth-controlled pit because I want it to be easy, so I don’t have to start a fire and smell like smoke,” he says. “It’s just like walking into the living room. Convenience is a big factor.”
Schumacher encourages homeowners to select what technological elements they want in their outdoor room, like security cameras, sound systems and fire features, in the initial planning phases of their build or renovation. “It’s easy to do it up front, but it gets costly to think about those things after the fact,” he says.
To determine what type of fire feature is right for you, Konitzer encourages homeowners to consider their needs and their space.
“A lot of times, it comes down to form and function -how you want to use it and how the space is laid out,” Konitzer says. “Do you want a table that can be set out there and brought in for the winter or do you want something built in? Do you want a conversation piece to sit around or do you want something that blocks your neighbors house? People might build a fireplace to be a yard break and get more privacy too.”
Many landscapers offer 3D rendering services so clients can visualize what each kind of product would look like in their unique space.
In addition to built-in fire features like fireplaces and pits, easily moveable gas torches and lanterns, fire pit tables and fire bowls can enhance outdoor ambiance without the commitment of a built-in feature. Decorative gas lamps, like the Tempest Torch and the Tempest Lantern offered at Elite Fireplace, are especially popular if outdoor light is the main concern.
“[They’re] not designed for warmth, but very cool for accenting patios, especially out on the lakes where people have beautiful decks,” Romenesko says.
Another popular item is the Breeo —a smokeless, wood-burning, portable fire pit. “It’s such a nice, quality product; their steel is so thick; it’s not anything you’re going to have to worry about rusting out,” says Elite Fireplace Sales/Operation Manager Tammy Kasten.
Whether you choose an elaborate built-in fireplace or something more portable, it’s important to practice proper fire feature care. Konitzer recommends always covering fire features like pits and tables when not in use.
The biggest reason these things fail is because leaves and debris get into the burners,” he says. “A cover helps keep it clean.”
Fire features add more to an outdoor space than just warmth and atmosphere -they function as the perfect focal point for families and friends to gather around.
“You can throw a bunch of sticks into a pile and make a bonfire, but when you add in that design element and you add in that comfy seating element, where everyone can come and sit around the fire and whether it’s neighbors or family and friends, there’s something about a fire and sitting outside,” Kasten says. “It can be as elegant as these modern fireplaces that are sleek and just stunning, or it can be just as basic as a fire pit.


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