These outdoor fireplace ideas will keep you cosy all winter long

Take a warm seat by the fire.
A classic white alfresco area with a stacked outdoor fireplace.Photography: Nick Watt / Are Media Syndications

There’s nothing like an open fire for bringing light and warmth into a space. And when entertaining outdoors, a fireplace or fire pit is quite literally a beacon, inviting children and adults alike to gather together and to linger. The added bonus? A fireplace or fire pit allows you to enjoy your alfresco entertaining area right throughout the year. Whether you have acres of garden to play with, a roomy deck or a stamp-sized courtyard, there are fireplace options aplenty to suit your home and lifestyle. Read on for Home Beautiful’s top tips for planning a cosy makeover of your outdoor entertaining area.

How to choose your outdoor fireplace design

The size and type of outdoor fireplace that’s right for you will primarily be led by your area’s dimensions and local fire codes and building regulations. “Size matters,” says landscape designer and horticulturalist Elizabeth Weyer of Elizabeth Weyer Outdoor Design. “A fireplace needs to be in scale with the surroundings: too small and it will lose impact; too large and it may overwhelm the space and potentially restrict movement around it and also around the garden.”

A classic white alfresco area with a stacked outdoor fireplace.
Outdoor dining is a delight all year round next to the roar of this charming outdoor fireplace. (Photography: Nick Watt / Are Media Syndications)

Next, consider the aesthetics, including views from the house, explains landscape designer Anthony Wyer, principal of Sydney firm Wyer & Co. “A built-in fireplace makes a great focal point that you can design an entertaining area around,” adds Kathleen Murphy, landscape designer and co-owner of Kathleen Murphy Landscape Design, who recommends factoring in flexibility. “Including a pizza oven, removable grill plate [for a fire pit] and side benches maximises the possibilities for entertaining.”

The best outdoor fireplace materials

Brick, stacked stone, concrete, terracotta, galvanised or Corten steel and cast iron are all excellent options for outdoor fireplaces. “My preference is for natural, organic forms and handcrafted materials wherever possible,” says Anthony. Kathleen concurs: “Rustic materials age well and create a relaxed feel,” she says. “They also tend to be more forgiving with the elements! My go-tos are Corten steel and recycled brick, with recycled timber for seating.”

A stone outdoor entertaining pavilion with a wood burning fireplace.
Cool in summer and warm and toasty in winter, this spectacular entertaining space, designed by Polly Harbison Design, features an impressive wood-burning Jetmaster fireplace. (Photography: Anson Smart / Are Media Syndications)

“For us, the outdoor fireplace is often included as part of a holistic approach to landscape design.”

– Anthony Wyer, Wyer & Co
A tropical outdoor entertaining area with rattan chairs and a carved fireplace.
A beautiful curved fireplace is a central space for family to gather in this Sydney garden by Wyer & Co. (Photography: Anson Smart / Are Media Syndications)

How to choose the right fuel

Wood: For ambience and long-lasting, consistent heat, a real wood fire is hard to beat. But the smoke produced by a wood-burning fire can be overwhelming in small spaces and annoying to neighbours. To reduce smoke-related health hazards, always use wood fuel that is well-seasoned and avoid burning stained, treated or painted timber, especially with open fire pits. A built-in fireplace should include a chimney to help draw the smoke away; have it swept annually to keep it working efficiently.

A reclaimed brick outdoor fireplace in a garden.
Reclaimed bricks and salvaged materials were used to make a pizza oven in this inviting zone by Kathleen Murphy Landscape Design. (Photography: Marnie Hawson)

Gas: Clean-burning and quick to get going to start heating your space, gas is a great choice for outdoor fireplaces, especially on decks, and also for portable heating options. Built-in models must be installed by a professional.
Biofuel: Like gas, biofuel (also known as ethanol or bioethanol) is a clean-burning fuel, and no smoke means no associated health hazards or environmental pollutants to worry about. Unlike gas, however, bioethanol is a renewable resource, making it a more eco-friendly option. They don’t require electrical connections or gas lines, and a vent or chimney is similarly not needed.

Consider new outdoor fireplace designs

The latest construction and fuel technologies have enabled a raft of interesting outdoor fireplace designs. “I love the Escea Outdoor Wood Fire Table,” says Elizabeth. “It’s ideal for decks and courtyards thanks to the smoke-free flame. You can cook over it, and I like that the fire is up off the ground, which makes it safer for young kids.” Other options include the portable Milkcan ‘Tucson’ fire pit, which includes a coffee table attachment, and the Buschbeck ‘Rondo’, which is an enclosed fireplace, barbecue and pizza oven in one. If you’re keen on a bioethanol model, check out the range at EcoSmart Fire.

A white, Mediterranean style outdoor fireplace.
A custom-built brick outdoor fireplace contributes to the Mediterranean feel in this easy-care garden designed by Elizabeth Weyer, dotted with ‘Roy’ stools from Trit House. (Photography: Louise Roche)

The regulations governing outdoor fires – including barbecues, chimineas, fire pits and fireplaces – vary from state to state and from council to council, so it’s important you’re across the ones relevant to your area before you even pick up a brick. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Never leave a lit fire unattended, or leave children unattended near a fire.
  • Choose the appropriate fuel type, fireplace style and size for the area it will be used in.
  • Keep all combustible materials (including grass, leaves, fuel and furniture) at least three metres away from the fireplace.
  • Ensure the fireplace or fire pit is on a level, non-combustible surface such as gravel, pavers or concrete.
  • Keep a metal lid, bucket of sand, hose or fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  • Good lighting is essential around a fire area, both to ensure safety while the evening is in full swing and to guide revellers home once the fun is done. A standard outdoor spotlight will do the job, but for something more stylish, try an outdoor floor lamp, string lights or light-up seating.
Fireplace planning and safety
An all-white outdoor seating area with curved rattan chairs and a sculpted fireplace.
A beautifully stacked timber store adds to the ambience around this grand fireplace, designed by architect Russell Casper, in collaboration with Thomas Hamel and Dylan Farrell. (Photography: Matt Lowden / Are Media Syndications)

Related stories