What an unpredictable few weeks of weather we have been having! I am not a huge fan of winter, but the one aspect of winter that I do look forward to is a day or night (or day into night) sitting by a fire. We had scheduled this blog post to be an ode to the fireplace and those warm and cozy days by the fire, but just last week alone the whiplash of weather had me reconsidering. A few days ago, on a 75 degree day in February, when we were at a client’s home who graciously allowed us to barge in to photograph her fireplaces, she said to me “Are you sure you want to write about fireplaces? It’s actually hot outside.” Well, yeah, this weird but wonderful February (and now March) weather is really making me wonder.
But…I love fireplaces. I cannot imagine living in a home – in perhaps any climate – that does not have some type of fireplace. So, is having a fireplace in a room really about lighting a fire or is it about something else? For me, it is about something else. It’s that having a fireplace creates the feeling of what I call “the warmth of home” and typically, sets the stage for the main focal point in the room.
If it were up to me, I would put a fireplace in every room in the house!! In my own home, we have a fireplace in the living room, library, family room, basement and best of all – the master bedroom.
Adding a fireplace to a home is an option that can get expensive if you are looking to install a wood burning fireplace. Gas and electric fireplaces are more cost effective options. Having a fireplace in your home can increase the value of your home as fireplaces rank as one of the top three amenities home buyers look for in a home according to SFGate Home Guides. It is interesting to note that now 60% of new homes have fireplaces which is up from 36% in the 1970’s.
One of the biggest debates about fireplaces is – which kind is best – wood, gas or electric? Here are some pros and cons of each, as I see it.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
- Pros – Most authentic; provide that wonderful wood burning scent; HIGH cozy factor.
- Cons – Big hassle – buying/storing/carrying wood; lighting and tending the fire; clean up; chimney maintenance.
- Pros – Gives the effect of wood burning without the cost and hassle; does not need a chimney; ease of lighting; no clean up; HIGH-ish cozy factor.
- Cons – No wood burning scent!!
- Pros – Easy to install; inexpensive; can fit in any space; come in a wide variety of styles.
- Cons – No wood burning scent!!! MEDIUM cozy factor.
You can use these pros and cons to make your decision, but the type of fireplace you choose is a very personal one. A client of mine has both wood burning and gas fireplaces in their home. I asked them which they liked best. The husband favors a wood burning fireplace for the smell and the crackle, and he enjoys tending the fire. His wife prefers gas for the ease of lighting and the low maintenance. If you ask me, my dream fireplace would be wood burning but my reality fireplace is gas!
Let’s get back to the “warmth of home” idea which I think any type of fireplace can create in a home, no matter what the temperature is outside. When I begin to design a room with a fireplace, it becomes the critical element in the room that defines how the space is organized – from the seating to the flow of the space. “Sitting by the fire” whether lit or not, becomes the purpose of the room. Just walking into a room with a fireplace evokes a sense of warmth and home – call it cozy, call it the “warmth of home.” And, I find that no matter what the style of a home is, the presence of a fireplace helps to create that feeling.
In many of my projects, the fireplace in any room creates the focal point, designates a place to gather around and captures the “warmth of home.” This Greenwich, Connecticut living room fireplace draws you into the room to take a seat by the fire and listen to music or grab a great book.
Dining room fireplaces are such a luxury. I had the chance to renovate this wonderful Summit, New Jersey home and update it’s classic features. The fireplace in this room enhances the elegance of the space.
A den is not a den without a fireplace. It is the official family gathering place for movie night, football or a game of Scrabble.
Having a TV exposed is not aesthetically appealing in every room. Some of my clients have asked to “hide” the television when it is not in use. In a recently completed Summit, New Jersey family room, we incorporated custom cabinetry to disguise the television and enhance the architectural details.
And, my very favorite room where a fireplace just makes you want to linger – the master bedroom. There is nothing more luxurious than staying in bed by a fire on a cold wintry day or a dreary rainy day.
The Northeast is experiencing a very short and warm winter. So, as we hopefully make a quick turn to spring, I like the thought of being able to head outdoors and use outdoor living spaces. To warm a cold spring or fall evening, an outdoor fireplace is a wonderful amenity – plus it’s the perfect spot to make ‘Smores!!
Of course, I will leave you to enjoy your “warmth of home” with a little cocktail recipe aptly named – the Fireside.