You can trace our love of a crackling fire back to our caveman days, when our ancestor Homo erectus discovered it during the Early Stone Age.
And while we can’t seem to shake that instinctual attachment to a warm, glowing flame, fortunately we don’t have to go out foraging for wood to enjoy it anymore.
In fact, wood-burning fire pits are largely disallowed under bylaws in Vancouver and the surrounding areas due to pollution. But cleaner-burning natural-gas- or propane-fuelled fire pits, many of them in sleek new designs, have never been more popular in back yards or on condo roof terraces. And today’s more compact, aesthetically pleasing, and multifunctioning designs are just upping the appeal for city dwellers. An American Society of Landscape Architects survey that came out in February shows outdoor fire pits standing strong amid the top 10 consumer demands.
“It’s been a massive trend,” agrees Graham Carruthers, a sales representative at the showroom for Solus Decor, one of the local leaders in the new fire-pit designs. “The idea of sitting around a fire is part of our cultural Zeitgeist. People go to Whistler, they go camping, and they have a lot of memories of that.
“Also Vancouver likes to get cold at night when you’re outside entertaining.”
Cast and hand-finished in a new New Westminster headquarters (at 109 Braid Street, Building C) from fibre-reinforced concrete, Solus’s products are tested and certified to meet or exceed North American and European safety standards. The concrete and the lava or concrete stones (which look like river rocks) are all able to endure the heat. So the contemporary designs are ready to be installed—preferably by a licensed gas fitter, for peace of mind.
But condo dwellers will have to check the rules of their strata, Carruthers advises. “It’s a question of fuel,” he explains. While some condos might pump natural gas directly through a line to a deck, others prefer propane. And if neither propane nor natural gas is allowed, Solus offers a bioethanol alternative.
“It also depends how much space you have,” Carruthers adds. “With a lot of people, their condos have a small outdoor space.” Fortunately, Solus has a chic little 16-inch Firecube that fits easily into a tighter space. Paired with the Tank Table, a vented concrete top that fits over it, the Firecube can play dual roles: when it’s not offering a flickering fire over cocktails on a cool night, you can use it as a tabletop.
The biggest seller, however, is the Hemi, a smooth bowl that comes in 26-, 36-, and 46-inch diameters. “With the round style, you can walk around it a little more easily,” Carruthers says. “A lot of outdoor furniture is modular with straight lines these days, so it’s a nice offset to that, too.” (The price will depend on the style and the ignition type, with a range from a Firecube with a basic manual lighter at about $2,000 up to about $3,500 for a Hemi with an automatic starter.)
Add a wide concrete ring to the top to create a fire-table surface, or cover it when you’re not using it with one of Solus’s picnic-inspired ipe-wood tabletops.
The poured concrete comes in a range of hues, from popular Cinder (a dark charcoal) to basic Portland (classic cement) to Halva (an ultramod white).
In all, the looks are a million years away—literally—from the old bonfires of our ancestors.
“People like pretty things,” says Carruthers. “You can still have something as pleasing as a campfire but still have clean lines and a clean aesthetic.”