Tired of that rusty metal pit you’ve been burning pitch pine scraps in that your fireplace can’t digest? Looking for something fresh to add to the outdoor furniture on your patio? The fire pit isn’t dead (even though yours may be) but it has evolved. Islanders are cozying up to a more refined type of fiery furniture, the fire table.
Fire tables, like fire pits, are pieces of outdoor furniture featuring flames. Unlike fire pits, they offer a cool surface area near the flame where wine glasses, sunglasses, and hors d’oeuvre plates can be safely set down. Also, according to Carol Rocha, CEO of Vin de Flame Co., unlike most fire pits, there’s no smoke and no starting fuss, because fire tables work like gas grills. “You can enjoy a phone call and a glass of wine for 10 minutes,” she told us, “and then just shut it off.”
Ms. Rocha’s Napa, Calif., company specializes in making fire tables out of oak wine barrels. “We’re basically a big, beautiful wood shop,” she said. Vin de Flame’s fire tables are available at Vineyard Hearth, Patio and Spa. The tables are available with barrelwood, slate, or granite tops, or “vintage panel” tops — tops made from old wine crates. “The vintage panel top is by far the best seller,” she said. The tables range from coffee-table height (20 inches) to “chat” height (26 inches), to dining height (30 inches) to bar height (40 inches). Ms. Rocha says the chat-height tables are the most popular — they account for about 99 percent of all sales — and attributes their popularity to how easily they accommodate their fuel. A standard propane bottle fits neatly inside a chat-height table.
“I saw these fire tables a few years ago at a show,” Vineyard Hearth, Patio and Spa owner Patricia Giumarra told us. In addition to being a purveyor of outdoor furniture and accoutrements, Ms. Giumarra designs outdoor rooms. A popular feature of these rooms is the fire table, a West Coast trend that’s come East.
“California, Arizona, places like that [that] have more year-round outdoor living, have really ‘fired up’ this trend, if you will! The popularity of the outdoor room has really grown,” Ms. Giumarra said. “It’s a whole new way to increase your entertaining space. Well, it’s actually not new. We’ve been talking about it for the past 15 years, but it’s really taken off in the past five years for us. We’re doing a lot more outdoor kitchens, and including some sort of fire feature. The [Vin de Flame] wine-barrel tables are very unique, and we set them up with the beach stone and driftwood look.”
According to Ms. Rocha and Ms. Giumarra, mobility is a major feature of Vin de Flame fire tables. They sit on industrial casters — a plus for those who may want a fire table front and center only at certain times, or who may want to shift the table on their property from patio to poolside.
Chef Christian Thornton bought a bar-height Vin de Flame fire table from Vineyard Hearth, Patio and Spa for his Edgartown restaurant, Atria. Restaurant manager Sam Decker said the table was initially acquired for functions like weddings and rehearsal dinners.
“For a long time it enjoyed little use by regular diners, except as an accessory that flickered in the dark,” said Mr. Decker. “Guests would watch it out the porch windows as they sipped Madeira and savored their last few bites of raspberry crisp. But little by little it became a mainstay for guests who wanted a relaxing, casual experience with a sense of place, something in between where they came from — the beach — and where they are going — bed. On busy nights we started seating walk-ins out there who we simply didn’t have room for in the brick cellar bar. I’d check on them midway through their meal to find that they were having more fun than anyone else in the restaurant.”
Fire tables may be in vogue right now, but fire pits are still big sellers.
“The fire pits have certainly become a very popular item. After people kind of get the basics down on the patio, then they all seem to want to come back with the family and get a fire pit,” said Susan Bielski, a designer at Vineyard Decorators, where both gas- and wood-burning fire pits, as well as fire tables, are in stock. Design-wise Ms. Bielski prefers fire pits in a field or on a lawn, while fire tables work better on a patio or veranda, or by a pool.
Vineyard Decorators carries, among other brands, fire pits by Jaytex International and fire tables by Woodard. Several of the Woodard fire tables on display feature faux-plank tops with the option of a glass gallery around the fire hole. Many of the Woodard tables also sport polished black stones in the fire hole.
Fire tables are generally for warmth, display, and enjoyment, but certain food items can be cooked on them. Ms. Rocha said fire tables are good for making a campfire favorite. “Out here it’s extremely popular to do s’more bars at weddings with them,” she said. Be it s’mores or just atmosphere, fire tables may be worth warming up to this summer.