Generating A Little Fire

Lat fall I had a client interested in an outdoor fireplace.  I winced.  I am not very fond of those giant chimney and mantle affairs that look like they belong inside a house, rather than in a garden. Indoor and outdoor spaces may be created equal, but I do not subscribe to the notion that they are the same.  Thus, I have an aversion to rugs outdoors, giant stainless steel heaters, refrigerators and the like.  Outdoor fireplaces need be friendly to the landscape, and not impose some object completely out of context.    

I would always favor an open campfire type affair over a massive stone fireplace and chimney floating in the garden, weirdly disassociated from a building.  But campfires have that informal air that do not particularly work well visually in every situation.  My client likes contemporary design, and furniture.  She likes every element of her garden to have that same spare but strong look.  Some years ago we built a large cypress deck which overlooks an L-shaped pool.  This steeply sloped area of her yard was the only spot that would permit a pool. The grade change allowed for an infinity edge on one end of the pool-this was interested and good. The deck terrace was spacious, the steps to the pool generous.  But how to add a formal and contemporary fire feature to the existing mix-I did lots of drawings. Once we had a design, the existing landscape material was moved out of the way of the construction.      

A placement in the lower yard was out of the question; I was dealing with a considerable slope.  I did not want to give too much of the deck terrace space to an activity that would be intermittent.  I did not want to interrupt the flow of one level to the next.  The result of all of this-a 54″ diameter brushed stainless steel firebowl set half in, and half off, the existing cypress decking.  Though I hate to take apart any just recently finished hard structure, I thought the back tracking would be justified in the end.   

We finished the work last November; I was happy to see the result this spring.  From the entrance to the pool yard, that firebowl is subtly tucked into and off of the deck surface. The bowl itself is set in a column at seat height, finished in bullnosed stone, for comfort. Three contemporary lounge chairs and tables complete a seating area that will hold a number of guests. 

Concrete block walls sit on top of a concrete foundation; the walls were simply finished in acid washed steel. We have one more yew to put back around the foundation and ground level to restore the landscape.  The firebowl is filled with pewter grey fire glass. 

The fire bowl does not obstruct any views of the pool from above.  Its placement puts the pool in better visual range with the upper terrace.  Its round shape echoes the large round divan with integral umbrella that my client fondly refers to as “the contraption”.

The shapes, places and spaces make sense to my eye.  The pool yard is ready for flowers, friends, and fun.  

My client is thinking orange white and lime for her pots this year; I can’t wait.


  1. Nicely executed Deborah. I wish that acid washed steel held up in our southern climate. Its a beauty in yours. Those planters are hungry for some of the orange vibrancy you will provide. The shade sail at each chaise makes me wonder….does anyone want to sun bathe anymore?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear David, I have manufactured and shipped acid washed steel garden ornament all over the country the past 6 years-I have never had anyone say the finish did not hold up. I do not recommend it for dining table surfaces-everywhere else, I have not had a problem. Deborah

  2. Susie Golden says

    I, being the client, must say that I don’t dare make a move with my landscape with out Deborah by my side. Yes, she does hold my hand when I get afraid to go on with our next project….whether it be the front landscape,back landscape,pool,cabana,stone and now fire feature!! As always, she delivers her best work, creative mind, and most of all, her compassion! Throughout these many, many years together we are a sure fine team that communicate our every move and idea that tranforms into something so beautiful!!!! I owe it all to her for making me one happy girl! Deborah knows that I have put my heart and soul into a home that I just simply love. Deborah, you make me look good and I hope I make you proud! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for all that you do for me. With love, ~Susie

    • Deborah Silver says

      Susie-we have a long and great history-do we not? Your comment makes me blush-love you! Deborah

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