If you also intend for your fireplace to be functional, then there are certain considerations of which you must be aware. Below are some tips and bits of advice for those considering adding or restoring a fireplace in their homes.
1. Do you have a chimney?
Without a chimney or vent, your fireplace is useless. When considering putting in a fireplace, be sure to have any existing chimney carefully checked for safety and fitness.
Not having a chimney is not the end of the world, though. There are many modern alternatives to a traditional chimney and flue, and most professional fireplace installers can find ways to work those solutions into an antique restoration.
2. What sort of fuel will you burn?
Wood burning fireplaces (often called ‘solid fuel fires’) are what most people envision when they think of a fireplace – but as early as the late 1800s, the landed gentry had begun to convert their fireplaces to natural gas fires. If your intent is to use your fireplace for more than just focal interest, a gas or electric fire may be a better choice than a solid fuel fire. Restoration experts can easily fit gas and electric fires into period fireplace surrounds.
3. What is the style of your room?
Antique fireplaces run the gamut in design from the rustic simplicity of Arts and Crafts design to the ornate carvings and castings of Victorian era surrounds and firebacks. If you’re striving for a true-to-history restoration, then research is your best chum. Your second best is the owner of the local salvage yard who, you’ll find, is a surprising font of knowledge about architectural details and differences.
On the other hand, thee is nothing that says you can only put an antique fireplace into a period home. The delightful drama and whimsy of an Art Deco mantelpiece can be the focal point of an otherwise sterile, ultramodern room, and the fussy detailing of a Victorian fireplace can provide a surprisingly warm and feminine touch to a rustic design. Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles.
4. Keep scale in mind.
More important than style is scale. Pay attention to the proportions of your room. An enormous wall-to-wall surround can easily overpower a small, close room and make it feel overcrowded, while a small, stately Edwardian hearth can be lost in a huge drawing room. Take into account the size of the room, the size of the wall on which the fireplace will be placed, and where other openings in the room are located. All of those things will have a bearing on whether your fireplace looks as if it was grown with the house or tacked on as an afterthought.
5. Follow your heart.
All the advice above notwithstanding, if you fall in love with a fireplace, you can find a way to make it fit. Follow your heart, buy the delicious thing, and then build your room around it.
6. If a full antique fireplace is outside your budget, consider bits and pieces.
One of the most effective ways to give a room a whole new look is to replace the surround on the fireplace. Remember that fireplaces are made of many pieces. The most obvious of these are the surround and the mantelpiece. A professional fireplace fitter can remove your existing fireplace surround and replace it with a style that is more appealing.