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Where the Hearth Is

Fireplaces throughout the home are hotter than ever. So, where’s your next hot spot?

Fireplaces throughout the home are hotter than ever. So, where’s your next hot spot?

ARCD-7389 Let’s face it — a fireplace can make a timber home complete. It helps establish a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere, and it inherently becomes the focal point of a room. Prefabricated units can speed installation, reducing overall construction costs of the hearth. And, as technology improves through the generations, so does the efficiency and usefulness of this age-old heating method.

Traditionally, a fireplace is located in the main living space — the living room, family room or great room. But that’s not the only option. There’s no reason not to supplement the main fireplace with units in other rooms. It’s not a new idea — Colonial American-era houses often had more than one fireplace, mainly because it was the only source of heat during long and frigid New England winters.

ARCD-8225Location, Location, Location

With today’s fuel choices extending beyond wood to gas and electricity, there’s no better time than during the planning stage of a new home to incorporate more than one fireplace unit.

Dining Rooms.

Who wouldn’t enjoy dining by fire light? Extend the appeal of a fireplace-fitted family room and specify another fireplace in the dining room. Instead of merely a place to eat and run, the dining room invites guest to linger over their meal and indulge in a pleasant evening of conversation.

Master Suites.

A popular trend in recent years has been to install a fireplace in the master suite. With this approach, the master suite becomes something akin to a second, albeit smaller, family room, but one reserved solely for the owners. A new twist on this old theme is locating a see-through fireplace that opens into both the master bedroom and adjacent master bathroom.

This design option makes it so that the fire can be enjoyed while reading in bed or soaking in the tub, enhancing the sense of luxury. If you go this route, remember that the unit should be elevated about 12 to 18 inches off the ground to ensure you can see the fireplace from both rooms. For greater privacy in each space, separate units are another option. Each unit requires a separate flue but they can be fitted within one chimney.

Guest Rooms.

There’s no reason not to extend the warmth of the hearth to other bedrooms, especially those reserved for guests. A fireplace in a guest room is a wonderful way to welcome weekend visitors, whether they are members of your extended family or old friends. Pol_MBed1g

Home Offices & Studies.

Generally, a study or a home office is a small room, so a fireplace only increases the inherent intimacy. Flanking the fireplace with tall bookshelves or other storage units not only reinforces the sense of coziness but expands available space to keep books, albums and work documents close at hand.

ARCD-7871Sunrooms.

A fireplace is a natural fit with a sunroom. Heat generated by the fire supplements that gained from sunlight, enabling this popular space to be used as a secondary living area even on cold days or nights. A fireplace is also an excellent way to supplement the heat gained by a passive-solar sunroom.

In this sort of installation, a thermal-mass floor, usually consisting of 3-foot-thick masonry, topped with a decorative finish of ceramic tile, absorbs heat from the sun during the day. At night, it radiates this heat back into the room to assist the fireplace in warming the space.

Kitchens.

Of course, even in these modern times there’s no reason not to put a fireplace to work instead of merely serving as a decorative element. One way to get double duty from a fireplace is to locate it in the kitchen. There’s no doubt that a fireplace in the kitchen lures people in to sit and visit with the cook and, perhaps, even lend a hand at preparing meals.

As long as the fireplace is where food is prepared, why not learn the techniques of open-hearth cooking? It’s a real art that requires patience, but the reward is a delicious meal that gives the term “home cooking” and entirely new meaning.

20110727_cta_johnson_0051Outdoors.

With more and more homeowners decorating patios and other areas as true outdoor rooms, it’s no surprise that someone thought to include a fireplace. Actually, it’s a very practical idea. An outdoor fireplace illuminates a patio on cool summer nights.

It also extends the outdoor season further into fall and lets you use the patio earlier in the spring. And, as an added bonus, an outdoor fireplace can double as a stove to cook hotdogs or s’mores for casual al fresco dining.

Configuring Your Fireplace

Besides locating fireplaces back-to-back, they also can be stacked above and below each other. Like the back-to-back configuration, stacking enables two flues to share one chimney. This consolidation controls building costs and eliminates the unappealing look of too many chimneys soaring through the roof.