Homes With A Hearth
As the nights draw in, nothing beats the sight and sound of a real fire blazing in the hearth. In Victorian times every room in the house had its own fireplace, with the showstopper in the drawing room to impress guests. Then throughout the rest of the house, away from prying eyes, the fireplaces diminished in size and quality, dwindling to just a small cast iron grate in the maid’s room. In the 1960s many fireplaces were boarded up and replaced with electric fires, but now real fires are aspirational again, and not just in period country properties. In London, the most luxurious apartments have designer fireplaces as a focal point.
If your property has an original fireplace but you want to give it a makeover, first call in a chimney sweep to make sure the structure of the chimney is sound. HETAS (hetas.co.uk) will point you to a chimney sweep near you. Then find out from the local council which fuels are permitted in your area as this will affect your choice of grate. Grates range from free-standing baskets and dogs which are designed to hold logs, to smaller baskets used to burn pellets or coal. Once you’ve got the all clear from the chimney sweep, you can start fireplace shopping.
The golden rule is to make sure that the fireplace is in keeping with the style and proportions of your room. For a period look, salvage and reclamation yards are the places to find a reclaimed original. Or, if you have a specific look in mind, it’s worth considering commissioning a bespoke reproduction fireplace. Above all, choose a design you love and don’t be constrained by the period of your home. Cool contemporary designs look great just about anywhere and limestone or black surrounds are always popular choices. A fireplace adds character and an unrivalled focal point to a room, so if it feels too small for the space, visual trickery could be the answer. Make a statement with a larger surround, paint the chimney breast a darker shade, or emphasise the fireplace area with bold wallpaper. A fender or fire guard will also make the hearth appear bigger. Whatever trickery you employ, nothing can detract from the reality, which is that the fire is genuine and the atmosphere unbeatable.