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2013 Best Design Winner, Chris Cipriano explains how to incorporate rustic outdoor fireplaces & fire pits into your backyard. -Bergen County, Northern NJ

Are you thinking about incorporating a fire feature into your backyard but a formal fireplace just isn’t your style? Maybe you are looking for more of a weathered feel, with a rugged style? If so, than you could consider using a rustic style fire feature in your landscape. Rustic fire features are designed to look like they have been in the landscape for a long time. Material choice is important when you are going for the rustic look so we look for boulders that are weathered with smoothed edges and have lichens and moss growing on them. These boulders work great for both fire pits and fireplaces, as long as the installer is very careful when handling these types of boulders with machinery so that they don’t mark up the stones and detract from the natural look. When building a masonry structure fireplace with cement we suggest minimizing what is visible of the cement joints. We use a technique called “raking the joints” which means we dig out the first inch or two of the cement in the joint to create a more natural look. In order to create the proper look for a fire pit we like to dry fit all of the stones before we cut the stones into place. This makes sure we achieve the nice tight fit and desired look we are going for.

Planning the space around your fire feature and its location is very important. Do you want a fire pit that is built into the ground with more of a campfire feel to it that will allow people to gather around it? Or, would you prefer a taller fireplace structure on the edge of a patio where people can sit in front of it? If the rustic fire feature is going to be built in a separate area than your main patios, an irregular stone is a great choice for the patio. The more natural looking the patio space the better it will work with the rustic theme of the fire feature. Incorporating large plant masses helps to fit the rustic setting and the plants help to tie the boulders into the site and surrounding landscape.  When it comes to rustic, don’t fight nature. It’s okay to let the plants grow a little out of shape or let some moss spread on the rocks. The less pristine the area looks the more believable it will be as an aged fire feature.