6 Outdoor areas with firepits

TEXT CANDICE BOTHA, LYNNE YATES, NATALIE BORUVKA, CONNALL OOSTERBROOK, JO TRAPPITT AND CATHERINE ZACHARIOU PHOTOGRAPHS LAR RATTRAY, KARL ROGERS, CONNALL OOSTERBROOK, ELMARIE KNAPTON, HENRIQUE WILDING

Firepits and bomas are perfect for casual entertaining and work well in both classic and modern spaces all year round

1. Effortless entertaining

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This family’s love of entertaining prompted the transformation of an uninspiring grassed area at the back of their home into the most loved spot. “Our guests move straight here when they arrive,” says the couple. “It has really changed the dynamic of our home.”

With help from landscaper Sarah von Höne of Garden Gallery, they kept the established silver birch trees and reworked the beds below them. The greenery softens the space and complements the stone cladding that was added to the surrounding walls. “We used low seating with fitted cushions and cheerful scatters to give a relaxed vibe.” A gravel floor finishes it off as does the hare sculpture by artist Guy du Toit perched by the fire. The scatter cushions are from St Leger & Viney, and the lanterns are from SHF.

2. Strong viewpoint

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The challenge when designing this firepit at the top of Northcliff ridge in Jo’burg was to make the most of the incredible view. “It was originally a gravelled Zen garden that proved impossible to keep tidy,” explains Craig de Necker of The Friendly Plant.

“To transform it into a curved firepit with seating, we used pavers as a wall capping around the old pond and to clad the seating area. As this space can be viewed from the rooftop patio of the house, our geometry had to be perfect,” he says.

Craig positioned the firepit to face the view and created access from the side rather than from the front. “To provide some shelter, we built an overhead structure with a steel frame and cantilevered timber slats.”

The surrounding plants – dietes, agapanthus, hebes and bergenia – add a lush feel all year round and soften the paving. Now the owners can use it to entertain or unwind at the end of the day.

3. Teen dream

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To make this sloping Jo’burg garden more user friendly, Debbie Smit of Foxgloves Landscaping created a series of level areas using retaining walls. This firepit on the lowest level was designed with teenagers in mind. When their parents entertain, the kids can now hang out in an area away from the older folk. The gravel base allows water to drain easily and the logs used as seating were brought in from the owners’ farm in Limpopo.

4. Hot hang-out

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Although many firepits are sunken, consider building a raised version like this one designed by Red Daffodil at MannaBay, a boutique hotel in Cape Town. Position it so that you have a good view over the garden.

5. What a gas

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When Natalie and James Knight first stepped out onto the roof terrace of their home in Oranjezicht, Cape Town, they were bowled over by the magnificent mountain backdrop. “Our immediate thought was how great it would be to sit out here around a fire and watch movies against that vista,” recalls Natalie.

The Knights asked Danela Conti Bryant of Resort Lifestyle to assist with the design. Before building, the existing roof garden had to be removed as it was causing a damp problem in the cottage below. “Artificial grass offered a practical, low-maintenance solution,” says Jeremy Killian of Natures Blueprint, who managed the installation.

The Knights opted for a gas pit for two reasons: to avoid hauling wood up the stairs, and to prevent ash blowing when the wind picks up. “All we have to do for instant atmosphere is lift a lid and flick a switch,” says Natalie.

6. Practical magic

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This firepit at the KZN North Coast home of Cara Slater-Middlewick and her husband Greg is a cosy entertaining area. “Sinking it into the ground makes it feel intimate and encourages guests to relax,” says Cara, an interior architectural designer. “All you need to make the space really inviting is comfortable cushions and blankets for cooler evenings.”

Greg and Cara put practical considerations first when it came to the design. The benches open up to reveal storage space, brick lights provide soft lighting on the stairs and below the seating, and the fire is contained by a large solid steel dish with a hole in the centre, where ash can be washed out down a drain into the garden below. Greg also ensured the stairs didn’t lead directly towards the pit to prevent anyone accidentally falling into the fire.

The loose stones on the floor, which cover a concrete slab, were chosen for their natural colour and for safety – they don’t heat up.

Using the same balau decking that’s around the pool created a seamless, welcoming flow between these areas in addition to being a practical, durable material that ages well.

TIPS FOR THE PERFECT FIREPIT

  • Bomas and firepits should preferably be in a quiet and protected area of your garden, away from trees and boundary walls.
  • A built-in drain is essential to stop rainwater building up in the firepit and makes it easier to wipe the ash away.
  • Ensure the scale is in proportion to the rest of your garden.
  • To provide an intimate amphitheatre-style feel, plant densely around the boma or sink it below ground level.
  • Keep the space natural by using raw materials such as wood, stone, paving and gravel in the design.
  • If you’re limited by space or budget, free-standing fire baskets are great options and you can take them with you if you move.

 

 

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