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Changing Tastes In Fireplaces: Fireplace Designers Are Starting to Think Outside The (Fire)Box


By Fran Marengo

(As Published In House & Home News Magazine, May 2007) 

A new design trend is taking advantage of some unique capabilities of gas-only fireplaces and as a result, is transforming what we think of as a fireplace. Gas fireplace manufacturers have always aimed at the goal of capturing the traditional appearance of real burning wood. However, the increasingly popular fashion of mounting a big screen TV above a gas fireplace exploits the ability of gas fireplaces to do things simply not possible or practical with a wood burner.

Setting a window directly above a vent-free fireplace or a fireplace vented directly through the wall is yet another example of this growing trend. Now, the beauty of the flame itself is becoming the star of the show and has pushed past the envelope of what most homeowners imagine that a fireplace should look like.

FPX Xtreme fireplaceA uniquely designed upscale gas fireplace aptly named “The Xtreme,” took “Best Of Show” at the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association (HPBA) Expo this past March, which is the industry’s largest and most prestigious trade show. Fireplace Xtrordinair’s award-winning Xtreme is leader of a pack of new generation, European-inspired “ribbon” fireplaces introduced this year, featuring a slim, horizontal view of “fire as art.”

A typical first impression of the Xtreme is the surprise of realizing that’s “what’s missing from this picture” is the logs. There is no attempt whatsoever to imitate the look of real wood.

Instead, the flames pass thru through colored glass chips spread across the bottom. The wide panoramic view of sparkling firelight is then reflected by a background lined with brushed stainless steel. Available options include a “Tempest” burner offering spiral-like flames, under-fire accent lighting, and built-in sound system capability. Definitely not Grandma’s fireplace!

Within the group of 165 new hearth products from 93 different companies entered into several different award categories this year, many were contemporary in design. Although traditional continues to lead the fireplace style category, contemporary/modern styling is quickly gaining momentum.

Avalon Hideaway fireplaceA related trend which is already skyrocketing in popularity is the taller than wide “portrait-style” gas fireplace.” Popping up in surprising non-traditional locations in fine homes throughout the nation, these mini-fireplaces still typically offer traditional firewood flames. However, these tiny fireplaces tend to be set high off the floor, such as above the kitchen countertop in a corner cabinet, directly above a jetted tub in a spa-like master bath, built into china closet-like cabinetry in the master bedroom, or even floating several feet off the floor built flush with the wall.

Pacific Energy Fusion Contemporary themes even extend to both gas and wood stoves. The woodburning “Fusion” by Pacific Energy would be at home even in the most sophisticated setting. The distinctive Fusion features E.P.A. certified clean-burning, high-efficiency technology in a firebox with a sleek curved door finished in either stainless steel or various porcelain enamel glossy colors, set above a pedestal with a firewood storage area.

Heat-n-Glo Paloma With its clean curved lines, lustrous tinted finish and tall configuration, The “Paloma” direct-vent (sealed combustion) gas stove by Heat-N-Glo was an award winner at last years’ HPBA Expo. The Paloma is suited for adding polish, warmth and ambience to smaller, intimate spaces in which a traditional fireplace might be overwhelming, such as bedrooms or sitting rooms.

So, if your next remodeling project or new home is going show off a contemporary flair, you can be confident that you will have a variety of choices of hearth products which will reflect your change in focus. For more information on contemporary hearth products, visit Custom Fireplaces & More in Cookeville at 1611 E. Spring St. (Hwy 70 N) in Cookeville, in between Hwy 111 and I-40, exit 290. They can be reached at 931-526-8181 or 800-264-8181. Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:00 – 5:00 (and by appointment beyond regular hours).

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