Fire pits extend living and entertaining  space outdoors, even in the midst of winter.

Image: Douglas Burke

Move over, new kitchen cabinets and updated bathroom fixtures—a new design trend is taking over; and you could say it’s pretty hot.

Fireplaces now earn a top spot among home remodeling and building trends. According to local Realtor and associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway Jana Jacobsen, an impressive fireplace is more important than granite countertops, oversize closets, or a stunning master bathroom to potential buyers. “Fireplaces are no longer a nice amenity; they’re a necessity for buyers in almost every price point,” says Jacobsen. “They’re viewed as functional art in a way… cozy and warm, but also aesthetically pleasing.”

The concept of the family hearth is evolving, with fire taking center stage indoors, outdoors, and right smack on that indoor-outdoor divide.

Fanning the Indoor Flames

It’s not uncommon to build living rooms, master bedrooms, and kitchen areas around a fireplace, explains contractor Jason Ledyard of Ledyard Homes. “Rooms and floor plans are being drawn around fireplaces that are often created as a bold conversation piece.” Current design trends range from cool-wall systems and heat-resistant glass (allowing for backdrops, such as wood and wallpaper) to suspended-from-the-ceiling fires and even portrait-viewing windows cut around the toasty centerpiece.

Taking It Outdoors

These inviting conversation pieces are not limited to locations with walls and a roof. Backyard (or front yard) fire pits and fireplaces extend a home’s living space—even in colder months. 

“People don’t move to Park City to view nature through a window,” Jacobsen points out. “They want to be outside, and backyard fire pits make being outdoors more comfortable and more accessible.”

She says clients are instantly drawn to homes that feature outdoor seating space around a fire pit. “It’s all about creating an outdoor retreat. People envision their families roasting marshmallows over an open flame, or gathering with friends by the fire as they toast to life.”

Given the demand, it’s little wonder there’s a real creative spark involved when designing the ideal setting for outdoor warmth. “For those who have the space and the money, there’s no shortage of wow factor being added to backyards,” Ledyard confirms.

Some of his favorite trends include gas fireplaces seamlessly blending in with in-ground hot tubs, fire pits that run along the perimeter of a property, and even multilevel fire pit patios. For those on a budget, there are a number of gas fire pit tables and benches on the market, as well as portable pits heated by wood or propane; these DIY products start at roughly $50.

“You don’t have to burn through wads of cash to benefit from an outdoor fire pit,” Ledyard adds. “A rustic, campfire look with tree-stump seating keeps you just as warm.”

The Best of Both Worlds: The Indoor-Outdoor Combo

And for those who just can’t decide, the indoor-outdoor fireplace combo is always an appealing and efficient option.

“Enclosing a gas fireplace in a structural wall keeps the living room warm and creates the perfect ambience for your deck or patio area,” Ledyard says. “It’s a great contemporary look that gives you a window to the outside world.”

St. Regis Deer Valley’s wall of warmth frames stunning views.

Inspired Warmth

If you’re looking for some fireside inspiration (or envy), check out these local hot spots:

Waldorf Astoria: There’s history in this hearth. Imported from the South of Italy, the fireplace mantle is over 300 years old, and the wood stages adorning each side of it were hand-carved over a century ago. 

St. Regis: Nowhere else will you find a ski-in, ski-out wall of fire. It spans the entire patio, perfect for an après-ski toast.

Montage Deer Valley: Gather around the jumbo fire pits to roast homemade, gourmet-flavored marshmallows during s’mores happy hour.