Igniting the Flame: A Love Letter to Fireplaces

February 19, 2020

Throughout history, fireplaces have filled our homes with heat, light, a flame for cooking, and often, a gathering place for families. They were, and still remain, the heart and hearth of the entire house.

Igniting the Flame - History on Fireplaces

In colonial New England, homes were typically built with multiple fireplaces all connected to one central chimney. They were the primary heat source keeping occupants warm throughout the winter. Designed for utility over aesthetics, they were broad and deep, allowing the homeowner to use multiple pots at a time to cook meals or heat water for laundry. Mantles served only as a place for storage as décor was rare before the 1800s.

In 1795, physicist Sir Benjamin Thompson, AKA Count Rumford, designed a taller, shallower fireplace that drew smoke up and out of the chimney and filled the room with heat much more efficiently than its predecessors. The Rumford fireplace was quite popular in its day and laid the groundwork for current fireplace designs.

The central attraction in any room, today’s fireplaces and fireplace surrounds are less about necessity and more about aesthetics. There is a seemingly endless array of styles, sizes and materials to choose from.

Traditional Wood-Burning Fireplace

Traditional Wood-burning Fireplace

This traditional wood-burning fireplace in a restored turn-of-the-twentieth-century Victorian home boasts an ornate mantel with carved details repeated throughout the house.

Two-Sided Wood-Burning Fireplace

Two-Sided Wood-Burning Fireplace

A two-sided wood-burning fireplace warms both the living room and dining room of this Cape Cod family retreat.

Conventional Gas-burning Fireplace

Conventional Gas-burning Fireplace

This conventional gas-burning fireplace adds warmth and charm to a farmhouse master bedroom.

Stone Hearth Fireplace

Photo of a Stone Hearth Fireplace

A stone hearth seamlessly blends the interior of this home with its Vermont setting.

Modern, Stone Wall Fireplace

Modern, Stone Wall Fireplace

A fireplace set into a stone wall warms this mid-century modern great room addition.

At Slocum Hall Design Group, we love fireplaces! If you are building or renovating your home and want to learn more about fireplace design, please be in touch!