A chimenea, originally of Mexican origin and formed from clay, were used to warm homes and bake bread and other goodies hundreds of years ago. Now, they can be made from terra cotta, aluminum, and cast iron as well. Because of their earthy past, chimeneas are commonly found in gardens or on patios as a decoration piece. However, chimeneas provide endless creative and decorative possibilities (the word chimenea, Spanish for chimney, has several acceptable spellings and is also commonly spelled chiminea).
Chimenea as Indoor Mood Lighting
Although a chimenea is generally used as an outdoor piece, it can be used indoors to create lighting for relaxation or romance. Place stones, pebbles, seashells, or marbles in the base, and then scatter tea light candles randomly, pressing them into the pebbles (or a similar material) for stability and camouflage. You can burn wood instead of candles, but the candles require less maintenance. When burning wood inside, cover the opening with a wire mesh screen and place the chimenea under a stone or tile floor so that flying sparks don't cause a fire.
Chimenea as an Art Project
When purchasing a clay chimenea, you can choose between an air-dried or kiln-dried chimenea. The kiln-dried generally come painted and sealed, but the air-dried don't. If you can't find the right color, or if you just enjoy being creative, buy the air-dried version and paint and seal it yourself. This can be a fun project for the family as well. If you can afford two chimeneas, divide the family in half, and compete to see which team is the best designer or artist.
Chimenea as a Planter
A chimenea doesn't just have to be aesthetically pleasing. Whether you want to keep your chimenea in the garden, on the patio, or inside the house, you can put the chimenea to use and plant vines or flowers in it. Growing vines in a chimenea works well since the vines can crawl out the mouth of the oven and the chimney. If you want to grow a plant that come out of the chimney, place filler (stones pebbles, etc.) in the bottom half so that you don't waste potting soil.
Chimenea as a Barbecue Pit
Originally, the chiminea was used as an oven or grill, and so why not continue this tradition? Cover the bottom of the chimenea with stones and then place charcoal inside and light as you would if using a grill. Wrap potatoes in foil and place in the embers. You could also purchase a metal rack to place above the coals to make it easier for grilling meat or kabobs. Finally, if the fire is going strong enough, place a wok over the opening of the chimney and sauté your favorite vegetables. This is a great way to cook if you want to host a fiesta or if you want to add some variety to the traditional Sunday afternoon barbecues.