Bruce Littlefield roasting hotdogs in his fire pit
Photo Richard Felber (Styling Michelle Lay)
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Add a hearth for an instant gathering place, day or night

Fire turns any spot in the yard into an attraction where people can keep warm and admire the flames on a cool night, much as they would in a living room with a fireplace.

What was done here: A stone-ringed pit makes a patch of grass near Bruce's front porch an enticing daytime destination. A die-hard flea marketer, Bruce has a collection of secondhand chairs to put out. But he prefers a simple moisture-resistant cloth. "The best picnic blankets are those quilted moving blankets from the U-Haul store," says Bruce.

More take-home tips: If your outdoor room is a ground-level patio, consider adding a masonry fireplace or buying a prefab one. You can get a large freestanding model sheathed in faux stone veneer for $500, while a more elaborate fireplace with a copper chimney cap and tabletop-height pillars on either side goes for $1,000 (both at Sears). Most store-bought hearths burn logs, but some run on natural gas or propane and can be plumbed into your home's fuel line, just like a gas grill.
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