The role of designer fireplace in contemporary home design, from a heat source to the center of the living space
Fire is an element that boasts a very ancient presence in our modern homes. Linked to the concept of habitation since ancient times, the presence of the fireplace has always marked the center of a dwelling and the life in general of the community that lived there.
Deprived of any practical functionality, designer fireplaces bring an ancestral aesthetic touch to our homes, capable of heating and creating a welcoming and familiar atmosphere: and it is immediately home.
The image that we now have of the fireplace goes back to the sixteenth century when the need to put them in every room pushed architects to reduce their size and improve their appearance. It was for this reason that the fireplace began to be adorned with decorations, columns, and architraves, friezes and frames, becoming a true ornamental element capable of showing the economic possibilities and the taste of the owners of the house.
With advancements in technology and the introduction of new and more efficient heating systems, the contemporary fireplace has lost its fundamental function necessary for survival. However, this has at the same time enhanced the aesthetic and social function of the modern fireplace design. Even millennia away from the first bonfire lit by man, nothing can match the sense of intimacy and warmth that a crackling fire gives to the home and interior designers, free from the previously imposed technical limits, have been able to interpret this new need in the most diverse of ways.
Whoever decides to place a designer fireplace in his living area wants, first of all, to endow the environment with a focal center, around which to welcome guests and spend relaxing moments. For this reason, the location of the heating body is the most important aspect of interior design. The interior designer must first carefully study the room in which the modern fireplace design will be placed, not only from the point of view of size and shape but also regarding its use. The role of a catalyst for domestic life, which a fireplace covers, means that it must be placed within a real fabric of social relations, and therefore designed to meet the needs of users. Therefore, it is fundamental to pay attention to the lines that the tenants draw between the areas of the house, making sure that they do not cross the space between the hearth and seating arrangement. This would, in fact, lead to the breaking of the sense of intimacy created by the fireplace, as well as problems of air movement that would risk generating smoke puffs. As regards to the shape and size of the room, larger rooms allow greater freedom as the fireplace can act as a divider between distinct environments. It is also necessary to take into account the countless technical and structural limits due to the presence of load-bearing walls, the thickness of the walls themselves, or the placement of previously built flues.
As for the types of chimneys, the most common structures remain those on the wall or at an angle, as they are more versatile and simple to install. In recent years, however, new and more particular types of modern fireplace designs have begun to spread, capable of reinterpreting the classic concept of the hearth. Among these, we find the central or island chimneys, which reflect the structure of the first hearths built in the center of houses. Thanks to the latest ultralight materials, it is possible to create shapes that were unthinkable until recently, thus integrating the fireplace into the very structure of the environment. Another widespread typology is the bifrontal, or pass-through fireplace, which means that it faces several sides of the same wall. A solution of this type makes it possible to create a connection between two environments, or alternatively act as a separator between several parts of the same room.
Among the most interesting examples of designer fireplaces is the use of marble, both white and black, to create large surfaces that are integrated into the line of the walls, where the heart is enclosed in frames of simple rectangular shapes and without decorations. With similar purposes in mind, it is also common to use raw cement, a recent industrial style, to create structures with smooth surfaces without frills, or even tiled wood to create a warmer climate, or to combine with a dark plaster. Of more classic but equally elegant taste are the framed fireplaces, which can be in stone (often marble), in tile, or, for a more modern style, in metal. There are also examples that refer to the column and frieze style typical of noble palaces, often reinterpreted with the use of modern materials or mosaic coverings. There are also fireplaces of rustic taste, with the use of roughly cut stones or bricks.
The island and bifrontal structures are those that most lend themselves to modern and unconventional designs, thanks to the use of glass only, for example, in order to create the impression of a free fire inside the room. In Antonio Lupi's chimneys, the concept of the domestic hearth is thus overturned, taking the flame out of the body of the fireplace and removing all the superfluities to focus the attention on the role of fire. Another very interesting example is that of Focus, which proposes a series of fireplaces in which the chimney becomes a central component of the design, where the central body of the hearth is configured as an extension of it through sinuous and natural shapes. The sophisticated modern design of these fireplaces makes them a perfect example of aesthetics that mixes futuristic inspiration and ancient suggestions.
Even the classic wood-burning stove is increasingly used as a design element, both due to its small size and greater freedom in placement, given that it does not require the same structural attention as the fireplace. In this sense, we move from reinterpretations of the traditional cast-iron stove to objects of the most unconventional forms. Also in this case, the flue becomes a complement to the design itself, as it is not possible to hide it in the masonry. The body of the stove is often quadrangular or cylindrical in shape, but there are also examples of breakout designer stoves, such as Jøtul's F105 series, which combines the classic style of Nordic stoves with soft, smooth lines.