Like many architects, I like to give my clients options. One of the first questions I ask a new client is which design style do you prefer—traditional, transitional, contemporary or rustic? From the exterior facade to the interior fixtures, this is a crucial question that impacts each element in the home. No matter what design style a client may choose, fireplaces can be incorporated into different spaces throughout the home to create a sense of ambiance, a place to gather and a focal point. Using fire can greatly enhance the appeal of the home as well as the overall perception of the design (and the designer). To display the versatility of fire, I created four designs in the same space, each representing a different style of home and all using the same fireplace—the Napoleon Altitude™ X.

References historical styles found in a certain region at a particular point in history

napoleon fireplaces

From Victorians to Colonials to Tudors, traditional homes focus on pride and craftsmanship as well as materials found in that particular region and climate. A traditional home in the southwest would likely use adobe, while the north woods would likely use timber, as we have done in this Michigan design. In a traditional living room, the fireplace is centered. It anchors the whole design and dictates the arrangement of furniture. A classic, light cobblestone surround draws the eye and frames the mounted television. A small ledge leaves space for knickknacks, plants or seating. I chose colonial-style, tall windows complete with muntins, a brass chandelier and light-colored furniture to contrast the dark ceilings and floors.

A blend of traditional and contemporary elements

napoleon fireplaces

A transitional design removes some of the historic elements found in a traditional design and replaces them with more modern accents, creating a harmonious blend of the two. In this design, you can see we used a traditional red brick surround for the fireplace, which complements the chestnut-brown wood beams above and the marble countertops in the open-concept kitchen. A long, concrete mantel runs the full length of the brick, establishing continuity with the horizontal lines included in the large picture windows. I chose more traditional wall lanterns but used modern geometric chandeliers over the kitchen counters.

Modern construction rooted in simplicity and cleanliness

napoleon fireplaces

The contemporary design is the most minimalist, clean and open of the four. This design often focuses on the use of horizontal lines—and this one is no exception. As you can see, we have included two square Napoleon Altitude™ X in an elongated, narrow horizontal brick surround complete with a long, low ledge that creates additional seating. The dual fireplaces not only provide additional warmth to the room but also command attention, making them the featured attraction. Above the fireplaces, a flat-screen TV and panels with modern metal bolts. The same bolts are incorporated in other areas throughout the home to provide consistency in style and design. The floating stairs offer another horizontal line that naturally brings the eye to the focal point: the fireplaces.

Focuses on less-refined materials and authentic craftsmanship

napoleon fireplaces

This design included regionally sourced materials like the pine ceilings, exposed timber beams and cobblestone fireplace surround. When incorporating a fireplace into a rustic living room as we have done here, I like to use large, natural stone and slates. Many of these materials used inside can also be used (and should be used) on the exterior of the home for consistency. Fireplaces in rustic designs just make sense as they are designed to bring the feeling of the outdoors to the indoors. As you can see, I chose darker flooring, lighter paint colors and dark grey granite in the kitchen. The fireplace helps add warmth and light to the space that might otherwise feel a little dark due to the rich browns in the wood.

Certain fireplaces are designed for certain styles of home, but when you take an extremely versatile series such as the Napoleon Altitude™ X Series, it can be adapted to each of the four design styles—traditional, transitional, contemporary and rustic. By adding a fireplace to your design, whether new construction or a remodel, you can create a beautiful focal point and a place where homeowners can gather with friends and family and enjoy life’s most memorable moments.

Wayne Visbeen

Wayne Visbeen, AIA, IIDA, principal and founder of Visbeen Architects, Inc., is known for his one-of-a-kind home designs. Visbeen works with clients to understand the important aspects of their vision and then transforms these into a conceptual sketch right before their eyes. Winner of more than 100 Residential Design Awards and dozens of Best in American Living Awards, Visbeen incorporates these themes and more into his designs and his own home, located in Grand Rapids, Mich.