23 Sep How to choose the right fireplace
Why do we love a fireplace?
More and more of our clients are opting for a striking fireplace or hearth. Our post on inspiring design ideas discusses the idea of Hygee. If you haven’t already read about the Danish idea of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”), get reading. What freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danes. The idea of Hygge is about finding joy in simple, cosy things. These things include: candles, blankets, fireplaces and so on. There is even a word for that favourite pair of jogging bottoms that you would only wear in the comfort of your own home – “Hyggebusker”. To us, a crackling fire is the epitome of cosy calm. Our busy lives can impact on our health, so planning spaces which invigorate and recharge us both mentally and physically is important.
With so many styles and fuel options to choose from, how do you know which to pick?
Firstly, the fireplace needs to be suitable for your property. Secondly, you need to decide upon its primary function – heat, aesthetics. Or do you need both of these needs to be met?
Wood burners and open-flame fires will, of course, require a chimney or flue. Wood burners are very efficient and are currently very fashionable. Obviously, real fires will require some level of maintenance (cleaning out etc.) but some even have built in boilers enabling you to heat your water and radiators too! Check with your local council before getting your heart set on a real fire. Some areas are smoke-controlled and burning wood and coal is not permitted.
Modern fires are often gas fuelled and you can find flueless options. Bioethanol fires have very low emissions and don’t require a chimney or flue, however they can be exceptionally expensive to run! Bioethenal is considered one of the ‘greener’ fuels. With so many realistic looking electric options out there, they are a good option too. However, it is questionable whether an electric fire has the same relaxing, stress-busting effect as a real, burning fire. For a fuss-free real flame, a gas fire is your best bet, as an open-basket gas-burning fire with ceramic “coals” is virtually indistinguishable from a real coal-burning fire. It’s a relatively simple task to run a pipe to the fireplace opening. However, this will need to be installed by a CORGI-registered fitter.
It is important to love your fire when it is both active and inactive. During the summer months, will it still be beautiful to look at when putting it on or lighting it would make your home hotter than hell? With more contemporary designs, we find that they can look a little odd when unlit. Think empty fish tank with some coals in the bottom.
Traditional fires tend to suit most spaces and Architectural salvage and reclamation yards may offer the best chance of finding something appropriate. We have found that traditional designs in light-coloured stones such as limestone and marble are very popular at the moment. If modern styles are more your thing, they offer flexibility of scale and proportion. Whether the fire is gas, gel or electric, contemporary surrounds use sleek and minimalist modern materials. Glass or polished steel and lots of other materials are easily available. A hole-in-the-wall design does away with the hearth completely, and often the surround, too. These fires are usually gas, and can consist of a burner providing a regimented row of flames, a firebowl, or a pile of driftwood or pebbles. Hole-in-the-wall designs are often more suitable if you have a smaller room, where floor space is limited.
The size of your fire surround is important – too large and it will overpower your room but too small and it will look insignificant and lost. If you are renovating or altering rather than building a new space, the size of the existing opening, chimney breast and flue will influence the size of fire and surround that will be suitable for the room. If possible, it may be worth considering structural alterations to get exactly what you want.
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If you are fitting a fire, getting your chimney swept and assessed is very important. When renovating an existing property and using the current chimney, you’ll need to ensure you choose a suitable fire. However, if you are extending or building a new-build home, you have a lot more flexibility. It is worth bearing in mind that a chimney must be at least 4.5 meters tall.
If there’s no flue in your home or design, or even no fireplace opening, there are still some electric and gel models that can create an interesting focal point in the room. There is a choice of flue-less gas fires available too, where the waste gases are taken out of the room via a pipe that is ducted through an outside wall.
While you’re mulling over all of the fabulous fireplace options out there, here’s a nice warming fireplace video…