Written by Wayne Visbeen, AIA, IIDA, principal & founder of Visbeen Architects, Inc.
Whether it is used as a focal point or tucked thoughtfully in a corner, a fireplace can add ambiance and value to many spaces in the home. As a home designer for over 25 years, I have found that careful consideration must go into placing a fireplace into a design. Here are three things every home builder or designer must consider when choosing a fireplace for a design
1. Home Style
Whether working on a new construction from the ground up or updating an existing design, always make sure your fireplace complements the style of the home. For a more contemporary home, I like to choose something sleek like a VectorTM 50 Linear Gas Fireplace. For a more traditional home, I like to stick to a more classic fireplace with a brick surround. A transitional home mixes a classic design with modern accents. These spaces can benefit from a more traditional fireplace or something more modern.
Is there a desire for a mantel? Fireplace mantels were originally used to catch smoke and ash. Today, my clients still request mantels for the aesthetic appeal. Depending on a client’s desire for a mantel, this will impact where I’m able to place the fireplace as well as the type of fireplace.
2. Layout & Design of the Room
Matching a fireplace to the home style is one thing, but the functionality to the room design is another. When I’m adding a fireplace to any space, it’s important to consider the purpose of the area. Will heat enhance or diminish the appeal of this space? When I add a fireplace to a kitchen, for instance, I like to either direct the heat elsewhere or choose an electric fireplace, which doesn’t radiate any heat. Fireplaces can connect one or more rooms in the home, such as a living room and a kitchen. The fireplace stands out stylistically while acting as a buffer between the two rooms. I like to place these fireplaces a bit higher to allow for furnishings to be used right up against the surround.
3. The Home Owner’s Needs
This can often be the most difficult of the three. It’s important to really understand the client, their lifestyle and their budget before selecting the perfect fireplace for the design. I always ask myself, does this person have pets or children? This will need to be considered before placing a fireplace that can be hot to the touch. There are innovations in fireplace design that allow the glass to be safer, which can be especially appealing for families. Next, weigh the budget. Electric is often the most cost-effective choice as it doesn’t require additional construction. Make sure to include your client throughout the process of selecting the fireplace type (wood burning, gas, electric), shape and surround.
For an added sense of relaxation and ambiance, those I work with continue to request fireplaces in their home designs. Selecting the right fireplace for each home, each space and each customer isn’t always easy, but the right fireplace makes all of the difference. Fireplaces continue to evolve, but the desire for them is here to stay.
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.