For the better part of the last half-century, fireplaces were reserved for a home’s living areas. The need for a masonry footing, stone hearth and roof-clearing brick chimney all but guaranteed it. But thanks to the arrival of new gas fireplaces, some requiring little or no ventilation, architects now have the freedom to designing these fixtures in any room of the house, including the kitchen and bathroom
The most popular location for adding a fireplace in an already built home is the master bedroom, but the bathroom and the kitchen are also benefiting from the ambience and architectural addition of a fireplace. The idea of soaking in the bathtub while a cosy fire glows nearby is gaining popularity with homeowners, while the kitchen is a place where everyone hangs out already, so why not make it as cosy and comfortable as possible by adding a fireplace?
Fireplaces can be treated like any other design element being introduced into the home –you want the fireplace to complement the cabinetry, furniture and fabrics in the room. Fortunately, today’s fireplaces come in a wide range of materials, including fieldstone, brick, marble and granite
The master bedroom tends to offer the most flexibility. Because of its size there is usually enough space to run a venting system, or enough wall space against which to place an electric fireplace. While a fireplace may add a romantic or luxurious feeling to a master bedroom, it can also make the space feel cosier, especially in a more modern and urban home. Furthermore, lofts, which by nature have an industrial feel, can be given the unexpected feature of a fireplace which makes the space more inviting. It’s a blend of old-fashioned charm and modern design that creates an overall uniqueness to the home.
But it seems to be the smaller areas in which homeowners are getting most creative. One new trend is to install a flickering electric fireplace in the bathroom. Some are being mounted in the wall above a bathtub to create a luxurious and relaxing spa feeling. Others are being installed at floor level, which is very popular among those who want to take the chill from tile floors. Another option is adding a fireplace to the kitchen – it’s an easy way to create a cosy feeling in the room where most family and friends tend to gather. But there are many questions which need to be answered before commencing with the design. Do you want the fireplace to provide warmth or just look good? And if you want it to provide warmth, how big (or small) is the room it will be installed in? You want to specify a fireplace that produces an appropriate amount of heat for the size of the room without overheating it.
For most kitchen and bath applications, direct-vent gas fireplaces are recommended. These self-contained units require no foundation, they’re vented horizontally out the nearest sidewall, requiring no chimney and they’re sealed units, so there’s little risk of carbon monoxide entering the room.
Vent-free gas fireplaces, as the name implies, require no venting whatsoever, making them less expensive to install. These fireplaces produce a very hot flame that minimises the production of dangerous carbon monoxide. But they aren’t ideal for every application. These fireplaces emit a tremendous amount of heat, making them inappropriate for small kitchens and bathrooms. And because they don’t vent outdoors, they tend to introduce a lot of moisture, a by-product of combustion, into the room.
See-through fireplaces are also growing in popularity as they serve two rooms at once. In the past, two-sided fireplaces were often very plain units on the edge of a wall. But the most recent designs generally include full face mantles on both sides. In fact, they often create two very different treatments. On the one side, the fireplace may have neutral tile and a very traditional white surround, but on for instance, the kitchen side, it may have the same granite used on the countertops and a wood stained mantle and surround. A twist on the see-through model is the indoor/outdoor model. It is a cost-effective option for a deck or patio and adjacent indoor living area.
Art and aesthetics
Fireplace manufacturers continue to push the limits in creating exciting new looks for every home. Whether it be faux wood burning gas fireplaces, earthen pots or fireplaces which mix the power of fire with the serenity of water for a dramatic effect (picture water cascading in front of burning flames), the architect or designer is spoilt for choice.
Leading Architecture & Design posed a number of questions to manufacturers in the industry.
Q: Are you seeing an increase in the use of fireplaces in unusual areas?
Rika Olivier, Earthfire: Yes, we have been selling a larger than usual percentage of fireplaces for use in bedrooms, but we have also started noticing sales for one or two for use in bathrooms. Since our firepots are attractive from all sides, they are also often used in cut-out alcoves between rooms.
Kevin Diamond, Jetmaster: Yes, fireplaces are now found outside the traditional domain of the house which is the lounge. I believe that it is primarily due to the different ranges of gas and wood fireplaces that are available in the market. It’s no longer a black box – it’s a statement. It is part of who you are and forms an essential part of one’s personality and décor style.
Q: Do you expect to see an increase in the use of fireplaces this winter due to the renewed importance of energy efficiency?
Earthfire: We have already experienced a bigger demand than last year and 2009 enquiries are up on what we would expect for this time of year. Our firepots are designed as wood burners and they are extremely efficient – wood combusts cleanly to a very fine, powdery ash. Once the ceramic material is hot, it retains heat for at least two hours – continuing to radiate into the room long after the fire has burnt out. To maintain a comfortable temperature, it is recommended that owners start with a good sized fire of about 8-10 logs. Depending on the size, thereafter the firepot will only need two or three additional logs every 45 minutes to an hour.
Jetmaster: If last winter was anything to go by with all the power outages, it would be fair to say that we can expect to see continued growth. Our new range of built-in and freestanding slow combustion stoves have done extremely well and we expect that this trend will continue. Both our local and imported slow stoves are competitively priced and fuel efficient – which makes them a great buy.
Q: Have gas and wood fireplaces seen their popularity soar in recent months?
Earthfire: Yes. I think everybody in South Africa is now aware that electricity cannot be taken for granted. We have already quoted on 30 fireplaces and we have only been open a week. Apart from the comfort factor of a crackling fire, our firepots are clean burning and extremely low maintenance – they only need cleaning once every four weeks if used every day. Wood combusts completely to low volume ash and there is no smell.
Jetmaster: Yes, we definitely saw more Jetmaster gas and wood fireplaces going into the market last winter. Vent-free units, which do not require a traditional flue, have definitely taken a large portion of the standard gas market. Gas is often viewed as being expensive, but it gives the homeowner convenience and a fair degree of heat. Slow combustion stoves have also increased their popularity as the wood stove generates high heat and it is far more environmentally friendly. Wood fireplaces have a much sought-after, irrefutable snug and inviting ambience to them.
CAPTIONS: HYPERLINK “http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-20702449-modern-kitchen-with-fireplace.html” http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-20702449-modern-kitchen-with-fireplace.html : Kitchens are becoming an unlikely home for many a fireplace.
Kitchens1.jpg: For most kitchen and bath applications, direct-vent gas fireplaces are recommended.
Kitchens2.jpg: Firepots are extremely efficient – wood combusts cleanly to a very fine, powdery ash.