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Cozy and Compact
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
GARDEN FEATURE October/November 2017
home :: home & garden :: featured gardens

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Can an outdoor fireplace be cool? Just ask an Ankeny couple.

Large landscape projects can be fantastic, of course. What’s not to like? But smaller ones can be spectacular, too. It all depends on the space at hand and the purpose.

Case in point: Boone natives Pam and Mark Dodge lived for a time in a rural area near White Oak, northeast of Ankeny. As their two sons, Kameron and Beau, got older, they decided it was time to move into Ankeny. Their home was built in the north part of Ankeny in 2014 by Doug Rogers of Rogers Enterprises Inc.

“We always knew we wanted to create a neat space outdoors,” Pam explains. Early on, there was just a small concrete slab on the walkout level.

“I really thought I could do it myself, but with the fireplace, I knew it would take more equipment than I had,” says Mark.

Model situation

Like many other homeowners, they found their answers while browsing at the Des Moines Home and Garden Show. Mark says they talked with Jason Cox of Fireplace, Stone and Patio in Waukee. The resulting partnership was a win-win for both sides. “We really liked the setup they had at the show,” Mark says. Long story short, the Dodges ended up getting the model fireplace and outdoor kitchen setup that was at the show. “Jason told us we needed a landscaper to complete the project, and we used Korey Beemer of Beemer Landscaping of Granger. He pulled the whole look together.”

For the patio base, Beemer used Strassen Bavaria pavers by Borgert. “The three sizes of pavers give a nice rustic and rich look. They’re really good quality because they use granite sand for a really nice look. Plus, they’re made in northern Minnesota, and it’s a great Midwestern product.”

Beemer prepared the footings for the fireplace and suggested that there be one step down to the fireplace area for more dimension to the project. Also, for flowerbeds, he added a curved look to cut the angular lines. Pam has enjoyed adding lots of color to the patio area with flowers. Knock Out roses bring bright color, as do pots of geraniums. She also has started a climbing rose from her mother on a trellis by the seating area next to the house.

The walkout ranch has a deck with a table and chairs just off the kitchen above the patio area.

For autumn, Pam added a grouping of ceramic pumpkins. Wire pumpkins and wooden ones decorate the fireplace, too.

The fireplace is the focal point of the patio. With it are a grill and a double unit with a rotisserie for cooking chicken on one side and a smoker on the other. Mark is the outdoor chef. He says his specialties are burnt ends and ribs.

‘Room’ with a view

The fireplace is bolstered by large boulders and small rocks. Behind the fireplace, the terrain drops off quickly. Beyond the Dodge property and others in the area is a wide prairie, complete with a meandering stream. The prairie, part of the original farm on the site, is a natural division between homes on the other side and makes each property seem much bigger.

Mark built an attractive garden shed nearby, which houses gardening and lawn equipment. “It takes a lot of stress off the garage and puts the equipment and tools where we use them,” he says. “It really helps.”

Lights and outlets give the option of using the setting at night, such as relaxing in front of the fire on rocking Adirondack chairs and visiting with neighbors.

Jason Cox offers some tips when building a fireplace. “Before you start, consider the look you want. Check out ideas on or on Pinterest. That helps us plan better for the kind of fireplace you might want. Consider the site and what would look best and how you want to use it. It’s also wise to check the rules and regulations for your community.” At this project in Ankeny, for example, the fireplace must be at least 25 feet away from the home’s structure. Other cities vary.

“I’m just so happy about how it all turned out,” Mark says. “We truly love it. It’s fun to have neighbors over.”

Pam agrees. “I wanted a place where our guests could be right with us when we cooked a meal, not separated. It all has worked out beautifully.”

Korey Beemer agrees, too. “This whole area plays much bigger than it really is. We’re all pleased at how it turned out.”


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