The Beauty of Warmth

Fireplaces have grown in popularity as a central focus in many homes, with myriad modern designs for any taste and style of project

By Colton Martini
All images by Gibeon Photography ARCHITECT: Pearson Design Group BUILDER: Denman Construction

Fires made by ancient humans were primitive, contained within the ground and centered in a room, encouraging more people to gather around it. They provided warmth from winter’s cold and blustery evenings, and were used in food preparation. Over time, the purpose of fire has changed from one of necessity to one of appeal.  

Amid a global pandemic, with heightened emphasis on staying home and self-care, fireplaces have emerged as a top home-improvement project in 2020-21. Do-it-yourselfers, contractors and designers alike have been increasingly drawn to beautiful and functional fireplaces designs. In addition to warmth, a fireplace provides a flicker of light that creates a comfortable, welcoming and relaxing atmosphere. 

Fireplaces have shed their primitive skins and are now more chic than ever before, with myriad designs catering to almost every taste and style of project. Striking, clean-cut frameless firebox designs are the norm now, with the flame acting as the true showstopper. Firebox inserts of the past typically featured a clunky framework, with a tendency to take away from the beauty and simplicity of the fire itself. Today, the designs offer options that are bold, linear and modern. 

INTERIOR DESIGNER: Hunter & Co. ARCHITECT: INVISION; Stillwater Architecture BUILDER: Bear Mountain Builders
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Shelter Interiors ARCHITECT: Studio H Design BUILDER: Lohss Construction

Recent trends suggest consumers have prioritized the drama of long-horizontal fires over the height of the flame, and it’s not uncommon to introduce more linear lines and contemporary profiles into not-so-contemporary spaces. This look is capturing the hearts of interior design lovers in all styles of projects, whether it’s a log chalet or a sleek midcentury modern.

Technology is changing, which allows for these frameless units and their increased functionality. It would only make sense that the materials now adorning and surrounding these more contemporary inserts are evolving as well. While stone and brick are still gorgeous and classic choices, we’re no longer limited to these options. The fireplace inserts of today are designed to project the heat into a space, allowing for greater creativity. Barnwood, plaster, steel and shiplap (thank you, Chip and Joanna Gaines) are all viable candidates now.

INTERIOR DESIGNER: Studio H Interiors ARCHITECT: Studio H Design

Still, getting back to the basics, the ultimate reason for a fireplace is heat. Thanks to advances in energy-efficient construction, smart gas fireplace inserts are able to throw out more heat than ever before, and more homes are returning to a reliance on the fireplace to assist in heating spaces. HVAC contractors now integrate fireplaces into the heating systems, tying them to thermostats and timers to run on a schedule much like a furnace would.  

Whether you’re adding another log to the fire or flipping on a switch, it’s clear that fireplaces, next to kitchens, are becoming the central focus of many homes’ interiors. New materials and interesting shapes are making bold statements, and people are beginning to once again find a space to come together in an unsettled time when it’s needed the most. 

So gather yourself, your family and your friends around a fire, reflect on the good times, and make plans for the future.

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, coltmartini@mac.com and www.ColtonMartini.com. 

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