On a crisp Vermont evening, there's nothing like toasting marshmallows over an open fire. Two years ago, however, things got a bit too crispy for the Karpinski family when they lost their vacation home — a condominium at Sugarbush Resort — to a fire that may have been caused by a neighbor's wood-burning fireplace.
Still, the Karpinskis kindled a passion for gathering around a fire as a family, which sparked an idea when they built a new home in South Burlington last year. "We always wanted some sort of fire element," says dad Erik, "and we'd never had a fire pit before."
Enter Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture. The firm collaborated with S2 Architecture and Church Hill Landscapes to create an outdoor entertaining space for the Karpinskis. It has a partial view of the Adirondacks, and at the center stands an elevated wood-burning fire pit.
It was challenging to find one long stone slab to serve as a backdrop, so landscape architect Keith Wagner pieced together two chunks of dense schist that he got from a quarry in southern Vermont. He devised a clever way to hold them together and keep the pit looking pretty — a zipper of metal bolts running up the back. A flat piece of cold-rolled steel is affixed to the stone, with five metal fingers jutting out to hold the wood.
"When people come over, they joke that it's a floating fireplace," says Erik of the 16-inch gap between the bottom of the stone slab and the ground. "We use the fire pit most in the fall: It's entertaining; it's time with the kids."
Adds mom Jennifer, "It's a space to gather with no technology — we just sit."
The Karpinski kids are especially pleased with the end product. Three-month-old Kassidy stays snug in her pajamas on gray couches set around the space, while Dylan, 8, loves the warmth at nighttime. Meanwhile, 6-year-old Morgan doesn't miss a beat when asked her favorite aspect of the fire pit. "Sometimes," she says, "we have s'mores."
(From Keith Wagner of Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture)
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