A roaring fire goes back to the beginning of time when there was a pit in the middle of the cave burning logs. Not only would it provide a sense of warmth, but it also gave a feeling of togetherness. I fondly remember Bonfire Nights at home with my parents and sisters, where we would snuggle around a fire in the living room, eating snacks and sharing stories. It was my mum’s way of keeping us safe inside and away from the fireworks. It brought us together as a family to share special memories snuggled by the fire together.
In many modern homes, a fireplace is not needed for heat but it’s still incorporated into the room as a feature and the heart of the home. I particularly enjoyed designing a fireplace for a London apartment. Their old gas fire had never worked so the couple wanted a modern working fire as a focal point in the room.
I could have just replaced the fireplace for a modern style, but my first recommendation is to REVIEW THE ENTIRE SPACE so that your fireplace is integrated into the room. As well as the fireplace not working, the bookcases were stuffed and the room looked cluttered. A complete transformation was needed to create a sleek and stylish fireplace wall with much needed storage and display elements. Here’s my redesign:
I integrated the fireplace into a feature wall with open shelving to display treasures from their travels, and hidden storage for all those unsightly necessities. With feature lighting, it’s now both practical and stylish.
Displaying art pieces around the fireplace creates a sense of opulence and focuses the eye onto the fireplace feature wall. This makes the room feel grounded and attractive. My second recommendation, therefore, is to CREATE A SENSE OF SPACE because many fireplaces are cluttered with stuff. A fireplace is one of the first things you look at when you enter a room, so it should look amazing. One way to make it look appealing is to create a sense of space around your fireplace, with careful consideration to the items you display on it and also around it.
In my garden room, the fireplace is integrated into a feature wall because I love to display art and have a collection of bronzes. The first one I ever bought was from my first week’s salary and it’s called ‘Contemplation’. It’s the bronze on the top left hand shelf. She’s very tactile and calming as she rests her head in her hand.
For this fireplace design, I wanted each bronze to look like a museum piece with space to breathe. Not only does this create an attractive talking point but it also helps to detract from and balance out the television.
The fire itself is simple and subtle. It’s very minimalist with a black granite hearth and an open fire grate. It looks and smells amazing in the winter when the logs are burning. It reminds me of my childhood. This fireplace has been in several interior design articles and publications, including The Sunday Times ‘House Proud’.
My last recommendation, when creating your feature fireplace, is to STAY SAFE & GET EXPERT HELP because it can go horribly wrong, leading to severe illness or even loss of life, if it’s not designed correctly. As an example, I was asked to advise about installing a television above a fireplace because a lady was smelling burning cables after she’d had one installed by her builder. This could easily lead to toxic fumes and an electrical fire in her home. She needed to get it resolved quickly and professionally.
For a living room TV and fireplace that I designed, it was specified by a fireplace expert with fire retardant considerations. The original fireplace was a traditional gas fire that was difficult to clean and looked awful.
I wanted to break up the long linear look with a feature ‘letterbox’ fireplace and alcoves, so I designed a chimney breast with a sunken television. It’s constructed with fire retardant materials and good air flow both into the chimney breast and within the living room.
The fireplace now looks modern, sleek and stylish but, most importantly, it’s perfectly safe. Never compromise on your safety no matter how good it looks.
Although you might not need planning approval, you need to comply with building regulations when fitting, altering or replacing an external flue or chimney, or installing a new wood burning stone.
If you’re planning on modernising your home then it’s always worth investing in an expert for guidance. A little bit of advice could help you create something beautiful and save your life.
BIID Interior Designer