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Outdoor Fireplaces

In our first foray into the history and present-day state of the fireplace, we focused mostly on the fireplace as a domestic object — as something designed for use in the home. This is the fireplace as it is classically conceived, the glowing open hearth around which the nuclear family (and perhaps also the household pet) huddles, seeking happy refuge from the bitter winter cold. The image is not an inaccurate one — so far as the indoor fireplace is concerned. But what of the oldest sort of fireplace, the fireplace as nomadic, prehistoric man perhaps best conceived it? I mean the outdoor fireplace — the fireplace at its simplest (a circle of stones perhaps) and least problematic (recall the issue of ventilitating smoke). For those accustomed to contemplating the fireplace as a wintery object only, it might be jarring to be reminded that outdoor fireplaces still exist. Yet exist they do — indeed, they proliferate: Far from receding in the face of increasing indoor prefab fireplace installation, the market for outdoor fireplaces has grown nearly step-for-step. And no wonder: Like their prefabricated indoor brethren, outdoor fireplaces offer a compact, efficient and relatively inexpensive means of enjoying the mesmerizing, cannily comforting experience of controlled fire — an experience that, as anyone who has gathered with friends around a late summer campfire knows, is just as pleasant in warm weather as it is in the cold.

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