Table-high fireplace is as useful as it is romantic

It's Tuscan and it's timeless. Mary Prchal and Jacque Ducharme's Healdsburg, California, outdoor kitchen is a casual but elegant environment for year-round dining ― they even have Thanksgiving dinner here.

The look is defined by the materials: stone columns, flagstone pavers, hand-hewn wood beams, terra-cotta roof tiles, and warm-toned plaster walls.

But the focal point of the 16- by 22-foot kitchen space is an elevated, wide-mouthed fireplace that rises from the tawny concrete counter.

Having the fire at table height is as practical as it is romantic: The fire not only warms a late-evening meal and bathes the space in flickering light, it also serves as a place to cook pizza (using a gridlike Tuscan grill).

Situated between two columns, the fireplace is flanked by a large soapstone sink on one side and a gas-fired barbecue with a side burner on the other; a cubby for wood storage is beneath.

A pantry contains a full-size refrigerator, trash containers, and shelves and drawers for kitchenware. The 1,008-square-foot total structure, which also houses a bathroom with a shower and a sauna room for eight, truly is deluxe. It was built for approximately $250 per square foot.

DESIGN: Pamela Dreyfuss Interior Design, Santa Rosa, CA (707/525-1044); Exteriors Landscape Architecture, Santa Rosa (707/528-8696)