With lockdown restrictions expected to ease over the coming weeks and months, many of us will soon be able to socialise outside with other households. The current guidelines state that outdoor gatherings of up to six people will be permitted in both public and private spaces from 29 March in England (and from 1 April in Northern Ireland).
While the U.K. doesn’t have the best climate for outdoor gatherings or garden drinks, an outdoor heater can cosy up your space and ensure your alfresco plans needn’t be curtailed by a chill in the air.
We contacted seven experts, including landscape gardeners and interior designers (as well as a Swedish pop star), to find out which outdoor heaters are worth investing in. Across a broad scope of electric heaters, gas fires, and wood burners, here are our experts’ picks of the best outdoor heaters on the market — from the best fire pits and wall-mounted garden heaters, to the best chimineas and outdoor stoves.
Best overall outdoor heater
The Kettler Plush, which comes in both free-standing and tabletop variations, was one of the most popular heaters among our experts. “It’s just that little bit sexier than your standard heater,” says Carmen Heesakkers, founder and designer at interior design studio Knox + Vox. “It’s stylish, and will perfectly blend in with your rattan garden furniture.” Hessakkers also favours the Plush for its easy movability, its “reasonable” price and its ecofriendly infrared heating method, which makes it “a better option compared to firepits or gas heaters.” The heater is also impressively high tech, as noted by Emma Hare, creative director of Den Interiors. “It has a double frost halogen heating lamp, LED lighting, and is controlled by remote control — so you don’t need to get up from your lounger,” she says. Hare describes Kettler as “design champions when it comes to heaters,” with the Plush’s standing design making it look more like “a stylish floor lamp” than more unsubtle heaters of a similar size.
[Editor’s note: this product is currently out of stock].
Best (less-expensive) outdoor heater
If you don’t need your garden heater to make a statement, a wall-mounted alternative will afford you the necessary heat without taking up any space at all. This Tool Station heater can mount to walls and ceilings, is easy to plug in, and comes with three different heating sections. “If you’re looking for minimal fuss, and you want your heating to do what it says on the can, this is the way to go,” says Vanessa Agyemang, founder and creative director of Copper Dust. She also notes that it’s easy to turn on and off, and reaches the desired temperature quickly. [Editor’s note: This product is currently only available for collection.]
Best small garden heater
Those looking for a more statement heater might be better served by this tabletop fireplace, which also gained recommendations from two of our experts. “Gas heaters are slightly more pricey than their electric counterparts, but they do provide a wide range of heat distribution,” says Agyemang. She prefers the Chantico for its environmentally friendly system — rather than gas, it runs on renewable bio-ethanol fuel. Emma Hare also recommends the Chantico, especially for those with less outdoor space. “It’s stylish and small, and can be used both indoors and outdoors,” she says. “It even comes with an aroma diffuser, which can be placed over the side of the glass cylinder for heating up the perfect fragrance whilst you warm up.”
Best fire pits
“A real flame firepit is a lovely addition to an outside space,” says Simeon Thompson, interior designer at JSJ Design. “It acts as a natural focal point and gives out a generous amount of heat.” Thompson’s choice is this reasonably priced gas firepit by the Villa, which ignites at the touch of a button — “so you don’t need to worry about building a fire, getting it started or cleaning it after use.” [Editor’s note: The Villa is out of stock until April 2021.]
If you’re looking for a fire pit which can double as a garden table, Nova’s Brisbane alternative combines the two with an impressively wide — and heatproof — brim, on a bowl made out of glass-reinforced concrete. “I love that the oversized bowl design means it can be used as a table,” says interior designer Shareen Kapoor, director of Shareen Kapoor Interiors. “It’s easy to operate, much like a barbecue — and the gas connection has a long pipe, meaning you can keep the bottle out of the way.
When we asked singer Zara Larsson what she can’t live without, the pop star (who lives in Sweden) told us that no home was complete without a sauna, wood-burning fireplace, or a fire pit. Though her parents have a small sauna in their home, she relies on her fire pit.
“If I didn’t have a fire pit, I honestly don’t think my home would be the same,” she said. “The fire you get from that, or a fireplace, is just so much cosier than having a radiator on. Our culture is obsessed with being outside, going outside. I love being in a tent and sleeping outside, too.” She told us about this inexpensive one from Amazon, which features three screw-in legs and is light enough to take on camping trips (or move to different parts of the garden). [Editor’s note: Zara’s fire pit is currently out of stock, but we found a similar model still available].
If you’d rather a wood-burning firepit (and price isn’t a consideration), award-winning garden designer Kate Gould recommends designer Ivano Losa’s luxury “AK47.” “It’s not a type of machine gun, but a very cool Corten-steel open wood-burning fire, with areas to stack logs that soften down the industrial look of the steel,” she says. While the price is (absurdly) high, this design-first firepit also doubles up as a patio table, a generous log store, and even (with the necessary extras) a garden grill.
Best outdoor fireplace
If you’re looking for the open flame of a firepit without using up floor space or the billowing smoke, Amara’s Le Feu benefits from the sort of elevated stand more common with overhead electric heaters. “Not only is it simple and stylish, but it’s ecofriendly too,” says Mia Karlsson, founder of Mia Karlsson Interior Design. Like Planika’s Chantico, the Le Feu burns bio-ethanol — not only is this better for the planet, but it also creates a “smoke-free burn” that allows it to be used without need of a chimney or a flue. “It can be used indoors and outdoors, and will add a beautiful modern feel to either space,” Karlsson says.
Chimineas offer a happy medium between open firepits and enclosed wood burners, offering the open fire of the former with the concentrated chimney funnel of the latter. If you’re looking for a more contemporary, design-focused chiminea than the classic clay or tiled offerings, Emma Hare recommends the affordable Abura from Made. “It’s quite possibly the most on-trend chiminea ever,” she explains, citing the “sophisticated Scandi style” and the matte-black and brass finish which should suit most outdoor spaces. “Whether you have a super-minimalist garden or a more rustic and traditional style, this chiminea will be the star of your landscape,” she says.
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