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Growing up in a draughty farmhouse in a part of Australia with bone-chilling winters, the fireplace wasn’t just a charming addition to the living room – it was a necessary source of warmth and comfort.
In fact, some of my most vivid childhood memories are associated with it. The satisfaction of setting up a little pyramid of kindling and wood that took to the match relatively quickly; and the disappointment of the occasional log that smoked and hissed and refused to convert itself into a merry blaze despite the most liberal application of firelighters and crumpled-up newspaper.
On the weekends, I’d head out into the paddocks with my dad and watch as he chopped up fallen redgums with his chainsaw, often attracting a circle of curious Hereford cattle who observed our activities with limpid brown eyes.
And on especially cold days, we’d cook jaffles in the embers using cast-iron sandwich presses with long, thin handles.
Perhaps that’s why I’m unreasonably attached to the idea that a proper home must include a fireplace – and happily, I’m not alone.
Interior designer Miriam Fanning of Mim Design says that fireplaces (both traditional and gas) remain popular because our response to them is primal.
“A fireplace gives a sense of cosiness, even when it’s not on,” she says. “It evokes an emotion, which is really important.”
Aside from the obvious purpose of providing heat, a fireplace can serve a number of functions, Ms Fanning explains, providing an in-built statement that lends proportion to a space, helps zone areas in an open-plan design and acts as a natural focal point.
In living rooms with large TVs, a fireplace can be a welcome addition as it acts as an alternative locus of attention, she says.
For two recent projects, MAH Residence and DRF Residence (pictured), Ms Fanning surrounded the fireplaces in a soft, undulating curve finished with polished-wax plaster.
“[The fireplace] doesn’t have to be a hole in the wall,” she says. “You can really push the boundaries with it, because it is a statement piece.”
B.E??? Architecture is another firm that has channelled its creative energies into fireplace design in recent projects, with a whimsical reinterpretation of a traditional fireplace in the pre-existing Victorian section of its Winter Street project and a seriously minimalist granite version at its Walsh Street apartment development.
In terms of practical considerations, B.E Architecture principal Andrew Piva advises people dealing with one or more fireplaces in a renovation or new build to plan carefully.
Things to bear in mind include regulatory requirements (for example, regarding hearth size), the size of the room and simple things such as the proximity of curtains.
“It’s a lot better to plan it earlier on, rather than throwing it in at the last minute,” he says.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.