You’ve probably noticed our backyard fireplace in the background of our more recent patio projects (and if you follow us on Instagram stories, we’ve shared sneak peeks there, too!), but we wanted to use it for several weeks before I sat down to write about it. In case you missed our backyard renovation from the beginning, our fireplace journey wasn’t quick, but it was 100%, completely and totally worth it.


A few nights ago, Scott and I were eating dinner by our new-to-us fire, and we started talking about how this pit came to be. At the start of summer (while the back of our house was still being demo’ed), we were so sure that we were going to get a round pit, and it would likely sit closer to sidewalk surrounded by chairs. The idea would have worked, but I couldn’t shake the idea that we were wasting space with a floating fireplace. There’s got to be a different way to lay out the yard, I said. Do we really need a pit to circle around?

I have always loved Sarah’s backyard, and you can tell that the shape of our planter boxes was inspired by her, too! And so, as is typical as we begin any sort of renovation, we switched gears and fell down the Craigslist rabbit hole searching ‘Mid Century fireplace’ or ‘Malm fireplace’ or ‘Preway’ or, maybe not surprisingly, ‘cone fireplace.’ The rest is history, as we quickly found ours in Madison, Wisconsin for about $300 (way, way under the almost $1,000 price tags we were seeing). Although it’s a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago, Scott round-tripped it in an evening (the seller was very strict about his first come, first served! policy), and 5 hours later, we had ourselves a fireplace. We moved it around the yard to find the best spot, and we agreed it looked best along the perimeter. Suddenly, our whole backyard opened up, and the rest of the layout fell into place!

I’m happy to say that after a few weeks of heavy use, we love it. Although it’s traditionally meant to be used indoors with firewood, we had planned from the beginning to convert it for propane use. Because Chicago homes are so close together, this would eliminate the heavy bonfire scent (making for happier neighbors), and you can’t beat the ease of turning it on and off (meaning we use it that much more!). So today, I’m going to share how we took an already nice looking indoor-wood-burning-fireplace and turned it into the outdoor-propane-ready-fire-pit that’s the meanest, leanest thing in our yard.



First, we took the entire thing apart. The bowl of the fire pit had started to rust, and it was quickly spreading. Scott sprayed this penetrating catalyst onto the bowl, and with the help of a wire brush drill attachment, he was able to completely nix the rust – hooray! He thoroughly rinsed it with a hose and allowed it to dry.

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Meanwhile, I used a solution of no-rinse TSP and water to remove grime from the fireplace surround, including the inside. Not only does TSP act as a powerful cleaner (always wear gloves!), but it’s a deglosser as well. In this case, the original powder coat finish was tough as nails, so although it didn’t dull, I still felt better knowing that it was clean and prepped for paint.

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Because the fireplace would be reaching incredibly high temperatures (you know, fire and all!), we needed to use high heat paint. Although we toyed with the idea of an eye-popping copper finish, we knew that black would feel classic and slightly contemporary, and with all the work we’d be putting into this makeover, we didn’t want to regret our color choice a year or two down the road. So, black it was! Rustoleum offered up their high heat paints for us to try, and although covering anything this large requires a bit of a learning curve, we’re so happy with the results.

We used these three items, from left to right: High Heat primer (2 cans), High Heat flat black (1 can) and High Heat Ultra in semi-gloss black (5 cans).


Here’s how the paint application breaks down:

  • (Almost) everything received 2 thin coats of primer, including the inside and underside of the bowl. The inside of the surround and stacks were in perfect condition, so they were skipped altogether.
  • High Heat matte black was used for the inside of the bowl only
  • High Heat Ultra was used on the entire exterior, including the underside of the bowl and the stand

The exterior of the fireplace received a total of 5 coats. 5! To be honest, I was a little worried after the first few, because the finish wasn’t looking as perfect as I would have liked. I took a break and Scott took over, and after another 2-3 coats, it started to look so shiny and pretty! So my advice is this, when in doubt, keep adding coats. It gets better! I took the photo below after 2 coats, and you can see how uneven it still is. Tip: We followed the instructions on the can as closely as possible, which called for applying coats within minutes of each other.


After everything had dried but before putting it back together, we began prepping the fire bowl for the propane conversion. Because our plan is to keep the fireplace outside year round (and covering it in the winter or during especially bad summer storms), we first added drainage holes to prevent rainwater build up and future rust. This step drill bit was ah-mazing for drilling holes into metal:

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Next, we used a large metal hole saw bit to give the flex line from our fire burner kit (more on that in a second) a place to exit. All of these holes were sprayed again with primer and flat black high heat paint to protect the raw edges:

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With the fire bowl prep work done, we could move on to adding the fire kit! We chose this 18″ kit for its star shape, which supposedly gives off a more natural looking flame (as opposed to, say, a circular ring of fire). Although the kit has almost everything you need, we still needed to purchase  a 1/2″ male gas line fitting and this regulator with a 3/8″ fitting to properly connect everything to our propane tank. Side note: We originally ordered the wrong parts and went on a wild goose chase before we found these. If you’ll be replicating this project with a propane tank, trust me that these are all you’ll need to complete the kit!


We set the fire ‘ring’ close to center in the bowl, and the flex line exited through the larger hole we made. Finally, we could put the surround back on (while also replacing the old rusted bolts with shiny new stainless ones) and add our rocks! We used these sleek black lava rocks and ended up needing three 20 lb. bags to fill the bowl nicely and strategically hide the fire kit:


To connect our kit to propane, Scott followed the instructions closely, but in our case, we also wanted to hide the tank far enough away from the fireplace. To do this, we used an 8′ long 1/2″ galvanized pipe and a 1/2″ 90-degree elbow to connect the kit behind the fireplace:


The pipe runs behind our planter box and comes out the other side, where it then hooks up to our propane tank! To turn on the fireplace, we open the propane tank and use a lighter near the lava rocks to ignite the flames. The flange and key (seen below) can be turned to change the intensity of the fire, although if it were up to me, we’d keep those flames on high, all the time. #alwayscold


We completed the project over the course of one weekend, although the longest part for us was painting. The shiny black finish is so good, and although the copper would have been stunning, this is a look we won’t be itching to change anytime soon!


To prevent too much rain or debris from getting into the fireplace (and to keep it outdoor friendly), we also picked up a galvanized steel rain cap and gave it the same high heat semi-gloss finish:

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The weather is just starting to cool in Chicago, and we’ve been spending our evenings with a glass of wine (me), bourbon (him) and a nice fire. I can’t believe it, but we haven’t yet made a s’more – soon though!

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I took this video the other night, because, well, CC! We’ll often turn the fire on just for her, and we’ll go back into the kitchen (with a clear shot of the yard, of course) to start dinner prep. She might love lounging next to the heat more than anyone, as evidenced here:

Has anyone else converted a wood burning fireplace to propane? We’d love to see your projects! In the meantime, I’ve gotta pick up some marshmallows and chocolate.

  • Trish - September 28, 2016 - 7:21 AM

    Wow – that is awesome! You guys are just nailing your outdoor style. The fireplace rocks….be forewarned that our fire pit has been nicknamed the pit of truth….many a friend has revealed secrets whilst sitting around the fire pit…people we’ve known for years have told us stuff we just can’t believe! Get ready to have your minds blown by the beauty of your backyard and the power of fire. Would love an update on your front garden too! Are you planting bulbs in the front or in your planter boxes?ReplyCancel

  • Meredith - September 28, 2016 - 7:40 AM

    WOW! The amount of time and energy you’re putting into this is awe-inspiring. It’s looking phenomenal; it’s hard to wrap my mind around where you started to where you are now after just one summer. Love the choice of black paint and I’m pretty sure my dog would never leave the front of the fire! She (also CeCe…but short for Cecelia) knows where the heating vent is in every room of the house and in front of them is generally where you’ll find her.ReplyCancel

  • Justynn - September 28, 2016 - 7:53 AM

    Off topic- how are you liknig the outdoor poofs/ ottoman/ faux wicker stools?

    They’re just what I’ve been searching for, but I havent pulled the trigger yet.

    Loving the renovations as always and you give me a lot to think about for our yard when we are able to get to it!


  • CC - September 28, 2016 - 8:52 AM

    Aww CC! Be still my heart that is adorable!ReplyCancel

  • Lori - September 28, 2016 - 8:56 AM

    Oh man, it’s amazing. And I am so jealous that you got such a deal. I’ve had a saved search on my Craigslist ap for this fireplace for months and months, and so far, not a single thing has popped up. Which isn’t really that surprising, since midcentury is crazy popular in Austin and it’s too hot here most of the year for a fireplace. But still! I hold out hope! Nothing makes a backyard more cozy for lounging at night.ReplyCancel

  • Brooke - September 28, 2016 - 9:59 AM

    It turned out fantastic! I can see now why you guys weren’t too worried about the proximity to the surrounding wood. The conversion to gas is really greatReplyCancel

  • Kim - September 28, 2016 - 10:13 AM

    I’ve said it before, but I LOVE the way you incorporate your pups into your blog posts. The video of CC at the end snoozing away has got to be my favorite thing I’ve seen this week. :) Of course, it helps that your fireplace is so beautiful. I am thinking of ways to make this happen at my house now too!

    Separate question: Do you plan on “covering up” the propane tank at some point? I’m curious how it looks with the rest of your beautiful decor!ReplyCancel


Scott and I have always been in the habit of taking our Instax Mini camera with us when we travel, always making sure to leave enough room in our backpack for extra film. (One of our favorite ways to get photos with both of us in it is to ask a group of passersby to snag…
  • Kathy - September 23, 2016 - 8:10 AM

    Now that you’ve hung that little photo display, I kind of like the light switch there?? Like if you had people over and were like oh hey, can you hit that light switch, they would HAVE to go over there and look at the photos! But then again, they’d see it on the way up the stairs anyway haha. Also, I think the best part of that last photo is Chunk inching her way into the frame.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 23, 2016 - 8:26 AM

      Let’s be honest, we’ll probably never get around to moving that switch anyway, ha! Especially now that it found a BFF.ReplyCancel

  • Kevin M. - September 23, 2016 - 9:24 AM

    Elephant watering jug?!?!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - September 23, 2016 - 9:51 AM

    I love this project! What a cute way to display sweet memories. I have the camera on my wish list, fingers crossed Santa brings it for me! :)ReplyCancel

  • Allison H - September 23, 2016 - 10:31 AM

    love this! we have a bowl full of instax! this is a great way to display! i also love that you wrote on them! we haven’t done that in the 8 years we have had ours and i kind of regret it! I have to do this asap!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 23, 2016 - 3:06 PM

      We tried to get into the habit of writing on them the minute we unpack them after a trip, and it stuck! I make Scott do it since he has better handwriting than me.ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - September 23, 2016 - 4:24 PM

    That white + wood plant stand *insert heart-eyed emoji* !!!Gorgeous!! How does water drain out??ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 23, 2016 - 4:43 PM

      It doesn’t drain, but we only water this guy about once a month! He’s been going strong for almost 2 years now.ReplyCancel

    • Kim B. - September 24, 2016 - 5:57 AM

      Agreed, it is gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • Sheila - September 23, 2016 - 9:41 PM

    This is such a great idea! How fun to grab a handful of instax from a party or event and make one of these as a thank you gift for your hosts or the guest of honor – love it!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 24, 2016 - 3:46 PM

      I LOVE that idea! How sweet.ReplyCancel

  • Tereza - September 24, 2016 - 2:07 AM

    How simple & neat! Love it❤️​

    Cityscape Bliss // Notes on The White CompanyReplyCancel


We’ve come so far on our back patio this summer, but it was still missing one of the most important things – a table! From the very beginning, when we thought about how we want our backyard to function, we get all smiley imagining our friends gathered around a large table late into the evening. No one cares about…
  • Ellen from Ask Away - September 20, 2016 - 7:22 AM

    That’s really nice! I also love the lounging pooch in all these photos lol!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - September 20, 2016 - 8:10 AM

    This is SO GOOD! I love it! Definitely giving me inspiration to build something similar for our patio area that we’re hoping to re-vamp this fall, while the weather is cooler. I vote that you slap a clear coat on the base and let it be natural, while painting the top something moody.ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - September 20, 2016 - 8:29 AM

    That last picture warmed my heart and made me laugh and I can’t wait to come see you!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 20, 2016 - 9:30 AM

      Counting down already!ReplyCancel

  • abby - September 20, 2016 - 9:10 AM

    wow, the table looks great! just out of curiosity, why don’t you want to stain the wood instead of paint it? i think a stain would look great!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 20, 2016 - 9:29 AM

      We considered stain, but with our dark wood planters, cedar fence and gray stain we use on our stairs (which we hope to do before it gets too chilly), we thought a subtle hint of color would be nice to break that all up. And outdoors, I think you can get away with being a little more risky! I do think that this would be a beautiful stained table in a dining room though!ReplyCancel

  • Sammy - September 20, 2016 - 9:12 AM

    I can’t wait to try this in the future. We heard about the kreg jig on the YHL podcast yesterday. what is the tool that holds it down that you use?ReplyCancel

  • Steph M. - September 20, 2016 - 9:46 AM

    I’m thinking a light sage green would be so pretty with your red brick and dark wood. You could add in some bright cobalt blue accent pillows and that would still look great with the Sage. Either way…I love this!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 20, 2016 - 9:50 AM

      We fell down a green-paint-chip-rabbit-hole last night, so you’re not far off! I put the paint decks away so we wouldn’t overthink things, but they’re taunting me from behind the cabinet doors… decisions, decisions.ReplyCancel

      • Janet - September 20, 2016 - 11:14 AM

        I agree with the sage!ReplyCancel

  • Erika @ EP - - September 20, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    Was looking for a discounted table for outdoor since it’s the end of the season and usually it’s on sale this time of the year… Everything was either STILL so expensive or nor what I wanted/ugly AF.
    And then you post this. I guess my problem is solved and I’m building this next spring ! Ah!
    Thanks :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 20, 2016 - 11:10 AM

      Right!? It’s hard to find a handsome table for under a thousand (or so it seems!). You can do this, Erika!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - September 20, 2016 - 5:01 PM

    The table looks fantastic! Can’t wait to see what color you decide on :)ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - September 20, 2016 - 5:09 PM

    Colored opaque stain for the table might be a happier choice in the long run. Eventually the paint will start cracking and chipping and you’ll have to scrape and paint again and you’ll see all the chipped spots and be sad…

    From what I hear, the colored stains will give you the pop of color but won’t be so high maintenance.

    And the table looks way fancy and hard to build but when watching your progress photos I could see that it’s totally doable. I might need one, or maybe my sister needs one (after we build her a patio).ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 20, 2016 - 5:14 PM

      We considered opaque stain (like what we use on our deck!), but in the end, we sort of can’t wait until the paint gets a little chipped and worn-in. I love the idea of it looking well-used over time.ReplyCancel


A few months ago, I realized that while we absolutely love our in-wall surround sound system in our main living room space, it was less than ideal music placement if we were, say, cooking in the kitchen or entertaining in our quickly progressing backyard. Schlepping a bluetooth speaker of some sort to wherever we were…
  • Staci @ My Friend Staci - September 15, 2016 - 11:16 AM

    Wow! This is impressive and I’m sure sounds great. Here I was patting myself for finally getting the TV on the wall ;)
    Sound equipment and all that is so baffling to me. We’re still trying to pick a new receiver for our Sony turntable. Which reminds me… any recommendations?ReplyCancel

    • Scott - September 15, 2016 - 1:03 PM

      Hi Staci! We’ve been really happy with our Yamaha rx-v377. The sound is great and it has a ton of features for the money. Newer models have 3D and 4K capabilities if that’s something that is necessary for your setup. For turntable connectivity, you’ll need a small pre-amp for power, though. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

      • Staci - September 17, 2016 - 2:04 PM

        Thank you so much! Yamaha is what we were looking at and I’m very happy the brand has your endorsement.ReplyCancel

  • julie - September 15, 2016 - 1:22 PM

    Great way to get the home sound feel without having to wire the whole house (or have someone out to do it). Brilliant idea and execution to boot!ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - September 15, 2016 - 1:29 PM

    I saw a couple of years ago on Jenna Sue’s design blog that she had recessed speakers put in the ceilings. We rent right now but we are definitely going to do that when we buy a house. For a while, I was thinking about doing a whole house system with a dock for my phone or whatever but then I realized that you have to, you know, leave the phone there, which sounds obvious but yeah. The wireless system sounds like a much better idea!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 15, 2016 - 1:33 PM

      The living room is the one place in our home where we DO have ceiling speakers. When we first renovated that room, we had to tear down the WHOLE ceiling, so we made sure to incorporate it before everything was drywalled back up! More photos on that whole renovation craziness here:

  • spiffi - September 15, 2016 - 10:28 PM

    I’ve spent the last few years saving up my credit card cash back dividends, amazon gift cards from birthday gifts and any extra cash I could find, to buy Sonos speakers for my house.

    They aren’t built in – but I don’t mind that – but I have speakers both bedrooms, the office, kitchen and living room. The Sonos system lets me control everything from any computer, my tablet or phone. I can play music files from a hard drive attached to a computer, any streaming source (Pandora, Spotify and a ton of others), or using line in from my cd stereo system if I wanted.

    I can group different rooms together and play the same song everywhere, or separate the rooms and play different things.

    The next big feature will be working with Amazon’s Echo – voice control to play my music anywhere throughout the house – coming early next year!ReplyCancel

  • Sheila - September 16, 2016 - 1:59 AM

    I went with Sonos as well. My house had existing built-in speakers in the living room and family room and wiring in place for patio speakers so I started with just those 3 zones when I moved in 6 years ago. I’ve expanded the system when I could afford to pick up another speaker or 2 and now have the whole house covered. I love having music in the kitchen and my master bathroom! And the garage and….ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 16, 2016 - 9:27 AM

      Nice! Having bluetooth music in the garage sounds like heaven. And the master bathroom! I’ll have to get Scott on those two areas next!ReplyCancel

      • Scott - September 16, 2016 - 10:22 AM

        Say no more. I’m on it!ReplyCancel

  • Meg D - September 17, 2016 - 10:08 PM

    I CANNOT get enough Jack photos; what a dignified gent he is.ReplyCancel


We’re in the home stretch of what we plan to complete this year for our backyard patio; with summer winding down, we’re calling this round one. After last week’s heatwave, the nights have started to cool off (good sleeping weather, as Scott would say), and I hate to admit that I craved my first pumpkin drink of…
  • Amy - September 13, 2016 - 6:52 AM

    These look great, especially with the new cushions. Be thankful you have dogs. I have wicker chairs in my backyard, and the squirrels love sharpening their teeth on the chairs and chewing up all the wicker. Sigh…ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 13, 2016 - 10:05 AM

      Oh, no! We have crazy city squirrels that’ll do anything for a bite to eat. We’ll keep an eye out!ReplyCancel

    • Sarah - September 13, 2016 - 10:14 AM

      Oh no! Squirrels eat wicker?! It’s my dream to have these chairs!ReplyCancel

      • Kim - September 13, 2016 - 10:39 AM

        We haven’t had any issues at all, but it’s good to know, I guess?! These chairs have a protective coating, so maybe that helps.ReplyCancel

  • Pamela - September 13, 2016 - 11:51 AM

    I am totally jelly. :D I love the chairs but you are right what makes them a stand out are those cushions. Black and white was my original plan for our lanai but I bought something that I could have right away. That whole immediate gratification thing. I spent enough that I am going to have to live with my brown and cream pieces but I am having fun switching up the throw pillows with pops of color that can change with the seasons. Still, I like yours better. Congrats on a great look at a great price.

    • Kim - September 13, 2016 - 11:54 AM

      Thanks, Pam! Swapping out pillows is just as fun. :DReplyCancel

  • Kari - September 13, 2016 - 3:11 PM

    That lounge chair *swoon*
    Loving the progress on your backyard. Looks wonderful!ReplyCancel

  • Alanna - September 13, 2016 - 4:27 PM

    In your research did you learn the difference between wicker and rattan? I don’t know the difference and wondered if you knew. Also, I love the black fireplace (I assume you will be posting on the change from orange to black soon)?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 14, 2016 - 5:29 PM

      Haha, I love that you asked this. I DID wonder what the difference was! I looked it up a few weeks ago when I fell down the rabbit hole. Basically, rattan is the material, and wicker is the actual weaving process.

      And yes, we’ll be sharing details on the fireplace soon! We are still working on a few things to get it functioning perfectly, and we want to be able to test it thoroughly beforehand.ReplyCancel

  • Hillary - September 17, 2016 - 10:59 AM

    I saw your chiminea last night in Can’t Buy Me Love! It was the original orangey red color, in the house where Cindy Mancini goes to a party at the beginning (in her mom’s white suede outfit) and again at the end of the movie. It was just a quick glimpse but I thought you’d be tickled.ReplyCancel

  • Jaime Lopez - September 20, 2016 - 12:18 PM

    I love that foot stool/pouf… where is that little gem from? This space is truly so fun to see come together, step by step. Thank you again for showing us all the details and steps to make it happen!

    – JaimeReplyCancel

  • Peg Coble - September 22, 2016 - 10:01 PM

    Learned about you in Better Homes and Gardens.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 23, 2016 - 9:42 AM

      So happy you found us, Peg! :)ReplyCancel