All Fired Up | Page 3 of 3

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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Party of Two

Greg and Sandy Hribar love their outdoor fireplace. “The first night we had a fire and I saw everyone hovered around in their sweaters—it validated that this was a good concept,” Greg says. In the winter of 2006, Sandy Hribar began ripping pages from magazines to give to Rob Del Gandio of Four Seasons Landscaping & Nursery in Damascus. The pictures showed what she envisioned for her North Potomac backyard, including an outdoor fireplace that she and her husband, Greg, hoped to build.

The Hribars wanted to replace their cracked concrete pool deck, enlarge their patio and create a more formal area for entertaining. A wood-burning outdoor fireplace, they thought, would be practical and add an interesting architectural element to the space.

With Sandy Hribar’s input, Del Gandio designed a 10-foot-high chocolate-and-gray sandstone fireplace with low walls that double as seating on either side. His goal was to create a fireplace that “had the quality of something new, but the feel of something that could have been built 50 years ago.” He figured he could add to the fireplace’s rustic appearance with a simple chimney cap made from rough-faced limestone and a wide, wraparound mantel to accommodate Sandy Hribar’s trailing plants. 

The main challenge in incorporating the fireplace into the Hribars’ backyard was its location. Sixty-foot pines grew where Del Gandio planned to construct the fireplace. Rather than remove the trees, which the Hribars appreciated for their beauty and the privacy they provided, Del Gandio decided to thin out the lower canopy of branches and install a clay flue cap to prevent embers from flying out of the chimney.

The Hribars gave Del Gandio the go-ahead in March 2007. They planned to throw a party in May for their son, Gavin, who was graduating from Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, and they hoped the backyard renovation and fireplace would be done in time. “They literally were here power-washing the house half an hour before the party started,” Sandy Hribar says. “They did an amazing job.” 

Since then, the Hribars have used their fireplace frequently throughout the spring, fall and winter. “When Gavin comes home for Christmas, even if it’s 10 degrees outside, we build a fire,” Greg Hribar says. During parties, his wife says, the fireplace is like “the big island in a kitchen. Everyone gathers around it.”

Although the Hribars enjoy seeing their family or neighbors gathered in their backyard, they also enjoy the quieter times.

“In the fall, the two of us will grab sweaters and wine and cheese and head outside,” Sandy Hribar says. “No one ever hesitates to cozy up to a fire.”

Gabriele McCormick is a frequent contributor to Bethesda Magazine.

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