Custom Curved Fireplace and Outdoor Kitchen
The owners contacted the landscape contractor for this project when they began remodeling and expanding off the rear of their home. Going into the project, the owners knew they wanted an outdoor space with an organic layout, minimizing straight lines and angles in the design of the space. Desires for the space included a wood burning fireplace, outdoor kitchen with bar height countertop and overhead structure. All of these elements were incorporated into the design, tied together by the dry laid bluestone patio and Western Maryland stone veneer on all vertical surfaces.
Having three young children, it was important that the patio flowed easily into the large, flat lawn which was heavily utilized for sports and activities. The door leading from the patio stairs comes from the kitchen, allowing the parents to watch their children whether on the patio or inside the house. The door exits onto a curved landing which leads down a series of steps to the main patio space. Providing enough open space for a large dining table, as well as seating around the fireplace and kitchen allows the clients to entertain large groups, without guests being feeling crowded.
The fireplace was designed as a lense shape allowing the curves, both front and rear, to seamlessly follow the outline of the patio and circular fireplace sitting area. Radial bench walls extend from either side of the fireplace, providing both additional seating above and firewood storage below. The curves of the bench wall flow into the step which transitions between the upper and lower patio. Low voltage lighting was installed in the step risers as well as below the caps of the bench walls.
With outdoor entertaining and cooking a high priority for this family, a horse shoe shape kitchen was designed to provide maximum counter space for both the cook and guests sitting or standing at the bar. The counter top was designed to incorporate preparation height area on the inside for the chef and bar height around the exterior. Electrical outlets, as well as a natural gas grill, side burner and stainless steel under counter refrigerator give the clients the flexibility they need in the kitchen, whether they are cooking for their family of 5 or a party of 50. Directly adjacent to the kitchen area is a synthetic putting green, installed to allow the husband to work on his golf game while grilling. The green also provides entertainment for the children when the family is enjoying the space.
Planting beds filled with colorful perennials, flowering shrubs and shade trees provide year round interest, while helping to soften and separate the patio from the surrounding lawn. A Western Red Cedar pergola, complete with outdoor ceiling fan covers the kitchen area and provides respite from the sun in the afternoon. The rafters of the pergola were purposely oriented to provide maximum shade during summer afternoons when the sun would otherwise scorch the space.
Working to construct a lense shaped fireplace was a challenge the contractor had never been faced with before. The firebox was constructed in a standard trapezoid layout, but both exterior walls, as well as the top of the structure followed a curve. In order to span the firebox opening with the stone veneer, a 6 foot long steel lintel was notched every few inches on the horizontal side. Notching the steel allowed the piece of otherwise straight angle iron to be bent into a curve to follow the shape of the lense. Bending the lintel into the proper shape required a template and a series of heating and cooling procedures. This allowed the steel to become malleable without compromising the structural integrity of the metal or its ability to support the stone which sat upon it.
The bluestone patio was dry laid on a compacted gravel base and stone dust setting bed, however all vertical structures required concrete frost footings to be poured. These footings were laid out, excavated and poured before the stone base could be installed for the patio. Block foundations were constructed at the same time the patio was being installed; with two crews working side by side, one completing vertical stone work while the other laying the bluestone patio. Natural gas lines were connected to the house gas supply and installed below the patio surface to eliminate the need for propane tank storage under the grill.
In order to disguise the septic tank lid in the backyard, planting beds were designed around the concrete cover and a variety of plants including Dianthus, Gaillardia, Coreposis, and Rosa were installed to give maximum color and interest during the warm months as well as reduce the visibility of the tank lid.
Working with a combination of concave and convex curves on the fireplace, bench walls, and stairs pushed the landscape contractor to develop and create materials to fit their needs on site. Straight lines had to be cut, bent, pushed and pulled in order to provide the client with the open yet intimate space they desired to host friends and family. The setting and its inviting shapes allows guests to enjoy every inch of the patio without ever feeling like they are being left in a corner.