Fireplaces used to heat our homes and cook our food but today, fireplaces are more about creating an environment for relaxing at home. Strangely fireplaces aren't very good at heating a house because most of the heat goes up the flue, and draws more of your furnace heated air up the flue too.
Today's fireplaces are more efficient but wood stoves are better at heating your home. The National Association of Home Builders says a fireplace is one of the top three features home buyers want so lets look at the many different ways fireplaces have been integrated into our homes and lifestyles.
Fireplaces and History
Fireplaces became popular during the Victorian era as people felt they added a touch of class while making homes cozy and quaint. Fireplaces became more sophisticated over the years, changing as housing and available technologies for manufacturing fireplaces improved. Today's fireplaces are made in 2 parts, the insert and surrounding trim. The insert where the fire is burned, is made of cast iron and often decorated with tile. The fireplace surround includes the mantle and sides and these are constructed out of wood, marble, granite or even iron.
Fireplaces are so popular that in the early 1900s it was common to create faux fireplaces that looked real but weren't. For example, my handyman technicians transformed a faux fireplace (made with red, 3-dimensional brick paper) with a gas insert fireplace and trimmed the insert to match the existing mantle and decorative trim (photo above).
Today's Fireplace Choices
Today it's easy to add a fireplace to an existing room. Fireplace inserts can improve the efficiency of existing masonry fireplaces, and new options for venting gas fireplaces provide flexibility in where you place your fireplace. Where it used to be that fireplaces had to be installed against an exterior wall or traditional chimney (direct-vent fireplace), they now have ventless fireplaces that don't require any outside ventilation.
People are getting more creative about where they install a fireplace, i.e. bed and breakfast inns have made bedroom fireplaces popular. Here are other ides for your fireplace fantasy:
- Fireplaces that open into multiple rooms, i.e. kitchen and living room.
- Fireplaces in dining rooms, place so everyone at the table can view the fire.
- Fireplaces in a bathroom, for a cozy bath on a cold evening.
- Fireplaces in bedrooms, from the master bedroom to children's and guest rooms.
- Outdoor fireplaces are gaining in popularity from more traditional fireplaces to ground level fire pits, round like a Mexican chimenea or square like Japanese kotatsu.
- Fireplaces in entryways, libraries … or anywhere you can imagine!
Share your favorite fireplace ideas and photos here.
Photos from Sabina DeShazo's blog and John Morris Architects.
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