Monday, November 18, 2013

Fireplace Weather

It's that time of year again when the chill air prompts us to clean out our fireplaces and ready them for the coming winter months. Fireplaces are a marvelous focal point for a living room or family room, or even a dining room or master bedroom. If you are lucky enough to have one (or several) in your home, this is certainly the time to build a roaring fire and curl up with some hot chocolate and a good book.

But often people buy a home with a tired old brick fireplace (whether raw or painted), or with a chimney breast that bears the mark of a previous owner's well-intentioned but clumsy attempt to add more "rustic charm." So I often have clients come to me for a remodel or re-build of their fireplaces; this fun and functional element of a room should be special. Take a look at the before and after transformations below and see what I mean...

I had clients who were very unhappy with their fireplace wall. They desperately wanted to be rid of some 1970s wood paneling, and who can blame them. The fireplace itself was faced with an odd material of rather sharp stones that had never been grouted. And the bench hearth only accentuated the whole mess.

I designed a total remodel for the wall that included new bookcases and storage flanking the fireplace. The clunky bench hearth was removed and the firebox was built out flush with the bookcases to accommodate a new gas-flame insert. English walnut marble and specialty tiles bring a classic sense to the fascia while a new wall color and ceiling spots add a warm glow to this rejuvenated family space.

Brick fireplaces were once popular but when they fell out of favor, homeowners painted them white, hoping to fade them into the wall color. While that may have removed the sight of the undesirable brick, it also removed the focus from what should be the focal point of a room.

In this case, my client wanted me to completely redesign and refurnish his living room and make his his fireplace once again the special element in the room. To start, I clad the existing brick fireplace breast in a stacked stone veneer. Properly placed recessed ceiling lights reveal the rich texture of the stone as well as my client's art collection in adjoining areas. The far wall received a grasscloth wallpaper treatment that echoes the horizontal lines of the fireplace. An area rug in a quartet of green shades anchors all new furniture, featuring strong lines and cube-like shapes, and arranged to take advantage of the fireplace focal point. Custom cocktail cubes of beechwood and ivory chiffon marble sit in front of the slate grey sofa, and an Asian-inspired bamboo console table stands behind it. Accessories and art placement complete this sleek, modern living room with a slight nod to the mid-century past.

This client had purchased a lovely home in a neighborhood surrounded by gorgeous redwood trees. While the beautiful location feels like a state park, the contemporary home was not the right venue for a rough quarry rock fireplace. The previous owners built the fireplace breast (which canted in on all sides, like a pyramid) out of scale with the wall and room which features a spacious ten foot ceiling height.

After demolishing the existing flagstone facing, we rebuilt the box to extend up to the ceiling line and faced the entire creation with a stacked stone in beautiful warm grey and taupe tones. The previous fireplace had no mantel so I created a raw edge mantel from a piece of reclaimed timber with a unique copper sheet detail which wraps around one end in an unexpected stripe, adding a bit of gleam and shine in an otherwise organic palette.

So if you have a fireplace you don't like, there are so many options to update or transform it into something new and attractive.

Stay warm and happy designing!

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