Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spanish revival outdoor fireplace

I've been meaning to post this fireplace for some time now. I found it on one of my favorite tile suppliers' website, so I don't know the designer, but the tile is by Tierra y Fuego.  I love the creative shape of this fireplace, and that you can sit on the hearth, and that the tile design manages to bring the scale of the whole thing back down to human proportions.  Whoever the designer is, they are good!

I also like the succulents in the planter pots that flank the fireplace. If you chose to use the orange one, Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire', just remember that the sap is caustic and wear gloves if you ever trim it.

© Kate Wiseman 2010.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Modern Fire Pit designs part 2

More than any other topic on my blog, the ones that get the most consistent hits from a Google search are the ones with examples of good looking fire pits. Here is one past article on fire pits, and here is another. I'm going to take that to mean that you guys, like me, are fed up with the horribly ugly fire pits that you see out there, and that you are desperately hoping that there is something better.... and there is!

I recently got lost on the website of Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture. And I don't mean lost like I couldn't find my way,  I mean lost like I was too busy stumbling across beautiful things to bother trying to find my way back out again. JGSLA is a small firm out of Los Osas, Ca that seems to share my love of the poured in place concrete fire pit. So I want to share with you some eye candy from their website and a few thoughts on fire pit design, some practical, some not so practical.

On the practical side of things, a few things to think about:
  • leg room. If you are building seating around your fire pit, make sure to think about leg room. People love to put their feet up on the edge of the fire pit, but they also hate to bash their knees against the edge, so the distance between the fire pit and the bench is a narrow window. To get it just right for you, measure yourself! And remember, there is a big difference between the length of women's legs and men's legs, so measure the tallies in your household and the shorties, too. 28" is a good starting point to work from. 
  • colored concrete can discolor at high temperatures, so don't put your gas line too close to the edge of the concrete. The discoloration may not be black- it is caused by a chemical change in the pigments in the concrete so it could be bright pink (yep, speaking from experience here)
  • I know that magazines show fire pits that have beach cobble in them and it looks really cool, but trust me when I say that is just staged for the photo shoot and you don't want to do it. Why not? Because real rocks have tiny air pockets trapped inside them and at high temperatures they expand.... and explode. In a rapid-fire, machine gun kind of way. Really dangerous. Please don't do it. The safe things to use for the inside of your fire pit are: silica sand, tempered glass, lava rock, or crushed hire fired terra cotta tiles.
  • Even if you are going with glass, consider a base of small crushed lava rock underneath it. It is way less expensive, and helps to diffuse the gas with all the air pockets in the lava, so you get a more natural soft flame. 
    On the less practical but equally important aesthetics side of things:
    • If you are using tempered glass and you are tempted to create your own blend of colors, don't blend colors that are drastically different from each other (ie blue and bronze). It looks terrible. Stick to colors that are very similar to each other (ie blue and light blue) or a solid color. Consider using a color that you are already using as an accent in your yard, say in the cushions on your furniture, or notice how the last photo matches the fire glass color to the foliage of a succulent (an Echeveria I think) that is nearby. Nice, huh?
    I could go on and on about Jeffrey's work, but instead, I think I'll just let you get lost in it for a little while. Enjoy!

    © Kate Wiseman 2010.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Designer fence in Mission Hills landscape

    In my many travels around town, I try to snap photos of things I think are beautiful, and this is one of them. I love this fence! I'm afraid I can't credit the designer, since I don't know who designed it (but if you know, send me a comment and I'll give credit where it is due!) but can we all just take a minute to admire it? I think it is just lovely and elegant, and it pulls it off without being intrusive or overly showy. Whoever built it is a true craftsman. Bravo.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Why high contrast is bad

    I have two things to say about this photo:

    1) High contrast is bad far more often than it is good. Go for subtle- these folks should have.

    2) Don't make your driveway the most decorative part of your front yard. It is there for a utilitarian purpose. It doesn't add curb appeal or encourage guests to come to your front door. It isn't pretty and your best bet is to play it down, not play it up. This is what happens when you play it up. It is bad.

    All that aside, the concrete for this driveway was poured by my good friend and concrete Guru, Dave Rogers of HCWI concrete. He didn't have anything to do with the terrible aesthetics, but I can say with all confidence, that driveway is well poured 'cause Dave poured it. If you need concrete and you need it done flawlessly, he's your man. Seriously, go take a look at his website.