We no longer build fireplaces for physical warmth, we build them for the warmth of the soul; we build them to dream by, to hope by, to home by.
– Edna Ferber
Even though it’s still sunny and warm here in Northern California and our last heat wave of the season is behind us (we hope!), I can feel the subtle change in the air that lets me know autumn is around the corner. Autumn is the beginning of fireplace season, and there is just nothing more soothing to the soul than looking into the glow of your fireplace and feeling the warmth of the flames envelop you like no down jacket or fleece blanket ever could.
Fireplaces are one of my favorite things to design or make over. Each one is unique, and uniquely suited to its surroundings and owners. I’ll talk more about fireplaces later in the season, but the little chill I felt last night made me think of this cozy vignette in a tree house in Kentfield, California. Here is the before and after.
From Dinky to Dramatic
The fireplace in its original state was small and unimpressive. It did not take full advantage of the ceiling height or make much of a visual statement. The height and angles of the ceiling in this traditional home offered an opportunity to take this fireplace from under scaled and dated to grand and dramatic, befitting its position as the focal point of the great room and commanding your attention as soon as you enter the front door.
Under the Overmantel
We began the transformation by building out the width and height with wood, taking the overmantel, as it is called, all the way to the ceiling. The new size is more in proportion with the large wall, giving the fireplace prominence while drawing the eye up to take in the full height of the room.
We kept the opening of the firebox as large as we could, and lost only a few inches by wrapping it in concrete pavers before adding the 9″ x 14″ antique reproduction French parefeuilles tiles. Using corner tiles called coins (French for corners) gives the illusion of large stacked blocks as opposed to tiles that are simply adhered to the surface.
Finally, I designed a wood mantel crafted by my friend, artisan Shawn Man Roland, out of an old piece of redwood. Shawn made the dentil molding out of pine, and then faux painted it to give it the redwood an aged, authentic look. The dark wood and angle of the mantel relate to the wood beams and pitch of the ceiling. The final result is a striking focal point that makes a first and lasting impression as it welcomes you into the home.
It’s always so exciting to have that first fire in the fireplace after the remodel. Then you know you’re really home.