A blaze on the patio brings folks together and takes the edge off winter’s chill

By Noah Salt     Photographs by Amy Freeman

The poet Robert Frost famously wondered whether the world would end in fire or in ice. That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, a warm patio fire on a chilly afternoon or starry evening just might be the perfect ending to a short winter’s day.

For reference, consider the fire-loving Hazel family of Greensboro  or the Goldmans of High Point, both of whom regard a combination of fire and ice to be the ideal way to bring family and friends together.

“We built our outdoor fireplace two years ago,” explains Lisa Hazel, of Greensboro. “And it’s been in steady use ever since. Everyone in the family loves it — even our cat, Peanut.”

A dozen years ago, she relates, the Hazels inherited a backyard in New Irving Park with a small stamped concrete pad and a space where a tennis court had formerly existed. “We’re a fairly outdoor family  — all three of our kids play sports — and my husband, Rodney, and I wanted something that could let us all be outside together.”

The solution was a rustic stone fireplace area with an in-ground hot tub, a design Hazel, a nurse at High Point Regional Hospital, and Rodney, an agent for Tyler, Redhead & McAlister, developed on their own by consulting design magazines and scoping similar outdoor fireplaces in the neighborhood. They sought the expertise of the aptly named Andy Sparks of 3rd Generation Sparks Masonry, who took their ideas and transformed the backyard into the ideal gathering spot. Their renovated patio features a handsome bluestone floor framed by a semi-circular stone wall and a dramatic fireplace made from rugged mountain stone and a decorative flourish in the form of a distinctive “H.” Comfy outdoor furniture and an oval ottoman are invitations for hours of firegazing 

“From the first day we used it in the late autumn two years ago, that became everyone’s favorite place,” says Lisa Hazel. “Our daughter has had birthday parties around the hot tub and the fireplace is used all the time in the colder months, especially winter. Everyone was just home for the Thanksgiving holiday and it will be much in demand the same way at Christmas. “The fire is a magnet for our family and the neighbors. We often eat dinner out there under the stars. The other night, we watched a satellite go by. So much fun.”

She notes that husband Rodney is adept at finding wood in the neighborhood and even taught their three children, Spencer, Morgan and Parker, the proper way to split wood with an ax.

“He now owns a wood splitter that he shares with the neighbors,” she adds. “But he still has the kids sometimes gather sticks for kindling. We all participate.”

In the case of talented High Point designer Stephanie Goldman and husband, Michael, a private label furniture maker,  the home fires burn gorgeously in a large iron cauldron that contrasts beautifully with their sleek, mid-century Emerywood home,  serving as the focal point of  a stunning glass house that wraps around three sides of their patio.

“One of our favorite things to do, especially on a cold clear night, is turn on the lights of our glass house and sit around the fire making s’mores with the kids (they also have three, ages 16 to 23) and drinking wine with friends,” says Stephanie, who owns Allen and James Interior Design on North Main in High Point. 

“For our family an outdoor fireplace is a perfect way to slow down and take  our busy lives out of doors — it’s really an extension of our house. It’s also a great place to just sit and talk to your children, so relaxed and romantic  . . . everyone feels at ease. We recently celebrated three birthdays this month out there by the fire.”

The elements of stone, teak and steel come together splendidly to make the seating areas of the fire pit area even more beguiling. Their private gathering area was created by Outer Space Inc., one of the Triad’s leading landscape design firms, and includes a greenhouse at the rear of the property.

“Outdoor fireplces are very popular for good reason. I hear more and more from our customers about their desire to spend greater quality time with family, especially out of doors,” Stephanie notes. “People are focusing on their homes these days because we all work so hard and travel, and it’s important to have a place that makes you slow down and feel safe. An outdoor fire is magical, a great place to entertain or simply bring everyone together at the end of the day to sit and talk and be together. We bought a glass house because we wanted to feel like we were living in the natural elements. Our patio fire is really my peace haven.”  h

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