Play with fire in the garden

Install a fire pit, fireplace or oven outdoors to keep toasty, cook pizza and enjoy the romantic glow on chilly nights.
Forget those gas-guzzling, ugly patio burners — join the large band of Londoners who have discovered the elemental charm of a fire pit, giving them winter months of extra time outside with light and heat. You can buy gas-fired fire bowls and fire pits, but what can compete with the romantic flickering, spit and scent of real flames from a log fire?
“It’s primeval. People love to poke fire with sticks,” says fire artist Andrew Gage, who has turned simple fire bowls into steel spheres, with cut-outs depicting fanciful landscapes in the round that create dramatic silhouettes against the fire within.

“For practical reasons, the Eight Members Club in the City requested a gas-fired version for their roof terrace, but in their own gardens most people want to play with fire,” says Gage, who, through his business The Firepit Co, hires out the talking-point spheres for special events and creates bespoke panoramas on request, such as a man up a tree with a chainsaw, for a woman who wanted to surprise her husband, a tree surgeon.
Great balls of fire: The Firepit Company’s steel spheres are hand-cut to display striking silhouettes, prices from £849
“I started the business with my first fire pit last Christmas and at Chelsea Flower Show this year I took £50,000 of orders,” says Gage.
“I’ve had to train up cutters and we’ve made 250 in less than a year. Londoners complained that they couldn’t get the 900mm size through their front doors so I’ve scaled down with a new size of 650mm for small town gardens.”
Fire pits, of course, are as old as time. How else could Firepits UK’s classic steel fire bowls feature in TV blockbusters Atlantis and Game of Thrones? “Ours are made in the UK, which is important to our customers, and they are made of mild steel, which will rust attractively,” says company founder, Emma Ross. “If you want to cook with them, you just push the logs to one side and cook on the embers, or use special tripod cooking racks.”
Fire and rice: the stainless steel Dancook kettle barbecue, £169, has a paella pan that fits in the bowl, from The Worm That Turned
For minimal-style gardens, the stainless steel fire pit on legs, the Dancook, is hugely popular, reports supplier Stuart Isbister of online garden merchandise company The Worm That Turned. “In the past month alone we’ve had over 900 enquiries about fire pits. People love the Dancook because it’s a style statement and it’s versatile. The lid doubles as a low table, you can cook on the grill and there’s a paella pan, too. I cook bacon and eggs on mine.” 
Outdoor kitchens, all stainless steel and pizzazz, are popular with the monied few, but the more affordable, eco-friendly wood burning ovens and pizza ovens are doing a roaring trade. However, if you have typical London heavy clay soil, you could follow garden designer Cleve West’s lead. On his Bushy Park allotment he made a dome-shaped earth oven from clay, subsoil and bricks, and bakes bread and pizzas in it. The how-tos are in his book, Our Plot (Frances Lincoln, £12.99).  
London garden designer Charlotte Rowe says a growing number of clients are requesting fireplaces as part of a redesign, but that could be because they have admired hers — a sleek number finished in polished plaster, which she’s had for seven years.
“Fireplaces increase the use of the garden, creating light and heat, and you can cook on them, too. It’s no coincidence that the Italian for fire, fuoco, is also the word for focus, because they do become the focus of the garden. Each one is unique. We’ve even made one on a tiny roof terrace near Tower Bridge, and put antlers on the front, to give it a touch of ancestral home.”
Versatile: rusted firebowl with log store, £159, from The Worm That Turned

A fireplace or fire pit is too big for a Christmas stocking — one famous London screenwriter can expect a gift from his wife this year of a bespoke Firepit Co steel sphere — but the hot-ticket accessory that’s a perfect stocking filler is the bouffadou, a slim, cast-iron pipe you blow down to get the fire going, and the party really started.
  • From The Worm that Turned ( the Dancook fire pit, £169; fire bowl and wood store beneath, £159; bouffadou pipe, £15.95.
  • The Firepit Company ( from £849 for a 650mm standard fireball including stand.
  • Firepits UK ( Windy City fire pit with wall shelter, from £225; circular safety rail, £185.
  • The Stonebake Oven Company ( from £699 for a Primo 60 oven.

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