ELEMENTS – JUNE 2007
Photography Brian Vanden Brink
Since the allure of an indoor fireplace has become so commonplace, homeowners have sought other ways to enjoy some time beside an open flame. Long popular in more temperate areas such as the Midwest, outdoor fireplaces have begun to spring up in Maine.
Portland-based architect Scott Simons says he has designed an outdoor fireplace for nearly every house he’s planned in the past four years. The outdoor fireplace he designed for his own home, Simons admits, has been the inspiration for many of his clients to build one themselves.
“There’s a real attraction to the romantic notion of sitting by the fire on a crisp autumn evening,” says Simons, who loves being on the porch of his Yarmouth home at dusk, listening to the satisfying crackle of a fire.
Simons’s outdoor fireplace, made from concrete blocks and built by G.M. Libby & Sons of North Yarmouth, crawls up the side of his house under a wide porch. Simons says it is quite easy to extend the masonry of a chimney built on a home’s outside wall and create another fireplace on its backside.
While many of today’s outdoor fireplaces are being constructed with stone, Simons says, he prefers the modern, inexpensive simplicity of concrete. “It’s a material that’s beautiful in its raw state,” he says.
For some homeowners, just relaxing beside an open flame isn’t enough—they prefer an outdoor fireplace you can cook over. Bar Harbor–based landscape architect Bruce Riddell recently designed an outdoor fireplace/pizza-oven for a seaside home on Deer Isle.
In order to make room for a patio and fireplace on the property’s steep, rock-covered incline, Riddell had ledge blasted away and a terrace created. “We wanted to make a space outside the home that wasn’t just another deck,” Riddell says of the elaborate patio and its massive, granite fireplace. From Riddell’s organic design sense, the fireplace feels like it has simply risen up from the boulders around it. The undulating shapes and colors of the patio give it an oceanic quality. “This terrace looks like a tidal pool when you see it from above,” says Riddell.
As a final touch to the “outdoor kitchen,” the award-winning landscape architect added a small sink made from a carved-out rock and planted cooking herbs such as thyme, basil, and oregano within easy reach—each detail perfects the experience of time spent around the outdoor fireplace.