Originally created 05/11/04

Open flame

For the longest time homeowners have been trying to bring the outdoors in, but new products like the fire pit are helping them bring the indoors out.

"They're good looking pieces of equipment," said Bob Scopa, operations manager at Lowes Home Improvement in Augusta, which has had fire pits in stock for more than the past year.

Sleeker than bulky, tall chimineas and available in more styles and finishes including stainless steel and copper, fire pits have become a must-have for the backyard decorator and entertainer, said Aimee Sands, spokeswoman for Target stores.

"The copper fire bowl is very popular," she said. "Especially the kind with an open top where they're able to build a the size fire that they want.

Placed on the patio or secured in the backyard, the portable and decorative fire pit size and the style are what attract customers, Ms. Sands said.

"Because we're seeing a lot of different finishes and a variety of shapes, people can really find what fits their style. They're a great way to personalize their outdoor space," she said.

Fire pits also have another upside: a bargain price.

Most models retail for less than $150 with some even below $100.

"I've seen fire pits for $49 dollars and you can see them for $500 dollars," said Steve Smith, owner of Cherokee Hearth and Home in Augusta. "Like any other product there's one for every price you want to pay."

While Mr. Smith normally sells both smaller fire pits and the larger fireplaces made to be installed both inside and outside the home, he said the demand for both has much to do with the rise of outdoor entertaining.

"People are just investing in their back yard," he said. "After Sept. 11 they've put money in their backyard and they aren't traveling as much. That's what we see, where you vacation in your back yard."

And if people are going to be invited to the backyard, homeowners want to make sure the space looks good when their guests arrive, Ms. Sands said.

"People are paying more attention to their outdoor spaces," she said. "They're even going so far as creating outdoor living rooms, so an outdoor fireplace falls right in line with that trend."

Mr. Smith has paid witness to the outdoor room movement, which he said is just moving to the East Coast after success in places like California.

"People are spending as much on their outdoors as they are in their great rooms," he said, noting that an outdoor room can easily cost $30,000 or $40,000 depending on design and decor. "But the concept is not just as exclusive as that. It can be done just as nicely on smaller budgets. The portable fire pit, that's something that allows a person on a smaller budget set up something on the outside."

And with the weather inviting people outdoors, a fire pit can do the trick.

"They're definitely for the late-night get-togethers," Mr. Scopa said. "They're good to keep warm when it's chilly out."

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com


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