Winter might be nearly over, but fireplaces are timeless.
When the temperature drops there are few better places to be than parked in front of a fire curled up with a good book or with a glass of red.
Aesthetically attractive, a fireplace offers romance and atmosphere, but there are loads of modern alternatives to the old-fashioned open fireplace, often remembered for being smoky, dirty and awful to clean.
Contemporary fireplaces provide both heat and ambience as well as being environmentally friendly. The modern fireplace heats more and pollutes less.
Architect Stephen O’Connor of award-winning architecture practice O’Connor and Houle says “fireplaces are making a bit of a comeback” as people stay home more and want to experience “a slightly more romantic notion of being inside.”
Stephen steers clients away from the old-style open fireplace for environmental reasons, preferring the contemporary glass-fronted fireplace or the convenience of gas. Most of the heat in old-fashioned open fireplaces goes up the chimney and they suck the air out of the room, he says.
No chimney, no worries
If you must burn wood, investigate a firebox with a glass front.
Like many architects, Stephen is a fan of the iconic French brand Cheminees Philippe whose combustion cast iron wood fireplaces offer beautiful, efficient and cost-effective wood fire heating behind a glass door.
“Architects like them because they are utilitarian,” says Stephen.
Builders, renovators and interior designers also love the craftsman-built French fireplaces, found throughout Australia in suburban homes as well as coastal and country properties.
Cheminees Philippe specialises in radiant heat technology, design and functionality, says Wendy Wignell of Wignells, the Australian distributor of Cheminees Philippe fireplaces.
“Cheminees Philippe offers the best of both worlds,” says Wendy.
“You can enjoy the warmth and ambience of a real open fire when the door is lifted, combined with the slow combustion efficiency and safety when the door is closed.”
Their best- selling fireplace, Radiante 700, is an elegant, classic beauty with dual opening door. It is just one of 30 Cheminees Philippe models ranging in price from $3,990 up to $12,950.
Offering both classic and contemporary designs, Cheminees Philippe produces single, double, triple sided, four-sided and corner sided fireplaces in different sizes for residential and commercial spaces.
The double-sided Cheminees Philippe fireplace is very popular for heating large areas and can provide the warmth of a fireplace in two rooms, says Wendy.
The Cheminees Philippe fireplace has been tested to ensure it conforms to the latest Australian standards for emissions and safety.
What about gas?
Gas fireplaces have improved dramatically over the last 10 years and changes in design have led to increased heat output.
The name Jetmaster is synonymous with gas fireplaces. First introduced to Australia in 1980, Jetmaster revolutionised the wood-burning fireplace with a simple pre-fabricated firebox kit that didn’t smoke, was easy to install and gave off far more heat than a conventional fireplace.
Kate Hansen of Jetmaster says that the company’s most popular fireplace is the Heat’ n Glo balanced flue gas fireplace which comes in a choice of nine different models.Prices start at $5000 and go up to around $15,000 for the very big Mezzo 1600 unit.
“Gas fireplaces are very flexible in terms of installation,” says Kate. “Most people like the convenience of gas. You get heat with a flick of the switch. and they require a lot less maintenance than the traditional fireplace.”
The modern universal Jetmaster firebox can burn either wood or gas and an existing fireplace can be converted to gas burning if needed.
What about the mantelpiece?
For many people, a fireplace needs a mantelpiece and that’s where Australian Mantlepiece Company comes in. Established 40 years ago, the Hawthorn-based company specialises in supply and installation of marble and timber mantelpieces, iron inserts, wood and gas heaters and electric fires, favouring well-known brands of Jetmaster, Dimplex and Real Flame.
Operations manager Gianni Piccolo says every job is different but perennial favourites are the Windsor and Parliament fireplaces which are timeless and suited to a variety of homes from period to contemporary styles.