All Fired Up

All Fired Up

Whether entertaining clients or toasting marshmallows with the kids, area homeowners enjoy the warmth and beauty of their outdoor fireplaces almost year-round.

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Bringing the Party to Life

“We’re a party, party, party family,” Mary Thrasher says.

And as party people, the Potomac real estate agent and her husband, Jim Kaufmann, wanted a place to entertain outside, even in cooler weather.

Thrasher met her partner in partying through a friend in 2005. Thrasher was a real estate agent in Potomac; Kaufman worked for a local roofing supplier. And “a year later, we were planning to get married,” Thrasher says.

Between them, Thrasher and Kaufmann had three girls and two boys who ranged in age from 13 to 21. They knew they wanted their blended family to live in Potomac’s Avenel community. It’s a place “where all the gardening and other maintenance is done for you,” Thrasher says, and where neighbors are sociable. 

After finding a house on the 15th fairway of TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, the family moved there in 2006.

Thrasher and Kaufmann soon renovated their new house to create additional bedrooms and living space for their large family. Once their indoor redo was completed, the couple turned their attention to the stone patio behind the house. “We wanted to increase the outdoor entertaining space and make it greener—there was so much ‘hardscape,’ ” Thrasher says. The couple also wanted more privacy. Because their property backs up to the golf course, “there are guys going by in carts all the time,” Thrasher says.

Above all, though, the couple wanted the outdoor space to have a strong focal point—particularly since it’s visible from the home’s great room.

The couple hired Anthony Cusat of McHale Landscape Design in McLean, Va. To create separate areas for cooking, conversation and dining on the patio, Cusat added a stone counter and grill for meal preparation and a 14-foot-high fireplace in the lounge area. He located the fireplace so it could be seen by guests entering the home’s front door, and used local fieldstone in shades of blue, gray and brown.

Rectangular niches, inspired by the long rectangular windows of the great room, adorn the chamber face of the fireplace with corresponding rectangular alcoves for wood storage on each side of the firebox.

On the back side of the fireplace, facing the golf course, Cusat created an arched niche, which Thrasher embellished with a circular piece of iron art. Crape myrtles and other greenery on each side of the fireplace provide privacy and shade the patio. 

Thrasher says the family entertains outside year-round. Guests usually congregate in front of the fireplace, where she likes to burn fragrant fruitwood. In addition to parties with family and friends, she and Kaufmann entertain clients and golf partners. Their children frequently have friends over, too, barbecuing in the outdoor kitchen area, and then settling in front of a fire.

“The kids use it as much, if not more, than the adults,” Thrasher says. “There’s a freedom out here at night—but it’s also cozy and private.”

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