Contemporary fireplaces, your traditional hearth’s sleek, gas-powered relatives, are making winter’s hottest home improvement project one of its coolest. “We call it the ‘burn season’,” says C. Bennett’s Eric Jost of the September-to-February fireplace frenzy. “Every year right around that time people start considering installing a fireplace; contemporary units are a great option.”
Though often recognized by what Chad Copeland of Victorian Sales refers to as a “straight or linear flame pattern,” fireplace installation and design experts assure that contemporary units are more than minimalist panels of flame and glass. “That’s how they were always shown in design magazines,” Jost says, “and it made a lot of people feel that less-traditional options weren’t for them. They really can be. To me, contemporary relies just as much on the surrounding material as it does the linear shape. The options are endless.”
From gleaming tile and exotic decorative rock to driftwoods, brushed metal, and custom colored glass, there’s a fresh and modern option to suit your interiors, budget, and preferred mode of operation.
Some European manufacturers do offer wood-burning units, “but most are gas,” Copeland explains, “and there are two options with those: ventless and direct vent.” Vent-free or ventless is just as it sounds, according to Copeland. “An open box and no flume. They aren’t nearly as popular as the direct vent, which I think is a better system.”
Jost concurs that the majority of contemporary options fall under this category and require the purchase of the unit and the vent system separately. Although slightly more expensive than its ventless counterpart, Jost explains that if you want to give your space a full-on update, investing in your focal point is essential.
“If you have an older fireplace, you can replace the carpet, change the paint, or swap out the furniture, but if you keep the original fireplace and it doesn’t fit—you haven’t fully updated.” And if you worry the investment is short-lived or seasonal, aesthetic features that enhance the functional extend the value of a modern unit beyond the cooler months. “A lot of the contemporary units have light features people can customize,” says Copeland. “You can use the fireplace even without the fire. It has the same ambience effect without the heat.”
If you really want to treat your chestnuts to something more than a traditional roasting this year, warming up to a contemporary fireplace may be the next big project on your already expansive holiday to-do list. Fortunately, once you select the size, location, and media for your new unit, the experts can handle the rest.
Depending on the type of project, a complete removal and renovation or a new installation, “the whole process can take as little as a few hours to a few days,” says Copeland. And with attention paid to the refining details and your personal style, Jost adds that these functional and beautiful additions “are for everyone in the right setting. They add more than warmth to any room.”