Restored Fireplace in Kitchen

Restored Fireplace in Kitchen

Every autumn as leaves and temperatures fall, I anticipate the first fire in the fireplace. I continue to build fires well through the cool spring nights. Each new fire is a personal test of my log selection and arranging skills, (some of which I fail).  My father-in-law and I have a running contest to see who’s fire will smoke and go out the fastest.

When my home (and his) was built in the late eighteenth century, building fires was serious business. These fireplaces were undoubtedly the center of the families’ lives and perhaps sometimes made the difference between life and death. Those farmers cooked in their fireplaces, slept near them and made sure they never went out during the long cold winter.

In the late 1700′s Count Rumford (who was born Benjamin Thompson in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1753) wrote about his fireplace innovations which included a high wide firebox as well as widely splayed jambs. These changes greatly increased efficiency and reduced smoking. We often use Rumford designs today, especially when efficiency is paramount. The basic design of the fireplace is still the same after hundreds of years and although Count Rumford made great improvements to the efficiency of fireplaces, most people prefer a deep fireplace that can comfortably hold oversized logs.

Even though a fireplace in the 21st century is physically unnecessary to heat a house, it is the heart of what we consider home. There is a comfort associated with a roaring fire in the fireplace and a thrill to contain the most dangerous element any home can know. We all bring our memories of childhood hearth sitting to the table when we began to design our own fireplace. My daughters’ favorite question after playing in the snow is “Can we build a fire and drink hot chocolate?”, all she cares about is the comfort and the cocoa.

There are many alternatives to a traditional fireplace such as wood stoves, gas inserts and even LCD screens that show a crackling fire. While being very convenient, those alternatives will never compare to the first fire I start in my fireplace each fall.

Master Bedroom Fireplace

Master Bedroom Fireplace

Game Room Fireplace

Game Room Fireplace

Den Fireplace

Den Fireplace

Great Room Fireplace

Great Room Fireplace

See Through Fireplace

See Through Fireplace

Master Bedroom with Wooden Fireplace Surround

Master Bedroom with Wooden Fireplace Surround

Modern Bedroom Fireplace

Modern Bedroom Fireplace

Restored Study Fireplace

Restored Study Fireplace

Living Room Fireplace

Living Room Fireplace

By Published On: October 31st, 2015Categories: Miscellaneous4 Comments

About the Author: James Crisp

James M. Crisp has been an architect for well over 30 years. His architectural firm, Crisp Architects, designs projects throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In April of 2007, Taunton Press published 'On the Porch' by James M. Crisp and Sandra Mahoney.

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4 Comments

  1. Karen November 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Having had 3 wood burning fireplaces in our home for many many years, where we always enjoyed the roar and crackle of the wood along with the unbeatable ambience, I would like to suggest a few more considerations whenever building one. Have your wood supply nearby. We purpose – built wood storage adjacent to our fireplaces wherever possible with an exterior door opening to the storage so the logs didn’t have to be dragged through the house; and also have an undercover stockpile of logs close as there is nothing worse than trudging through wet and cold weather to get the logs to build a fire. Another very handy consideration is to create an ash pit in the floor of the fireplace….helps a lot to minimise dusting! We had our fires going 24-7 through the the cold months, but maybe these strategies aren’t necessary when one’s fires are only occasional.

  2. James Crisp November 5, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Nice ideas. We incorporate many of those in our projects.

  3. Corey January 26, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    What is the manufacturer/name of the game room fireplace stone?

  4. James Crisp January 26, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Local building supply

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