I received a great question today and I thought I might share my answer in a post…
“How can I build an attractive, safe, fireplace?”
Building a safe fireplace is easy.
The building codes and inspectors won’t let you do anything but build a safe one.
There are quite a few resources out there… from books to YouTube videos.. that have diagrams and step-by-step demonstrations to help you on your way.
There are many trade schools out there as well as good masons who will guide you along (and for a few dollars) help you out.
But, the key word to your question was “attractive”.
Aesthetics is not covered in the code books, nor the free videos, nor is it something they teach at school.
I’ll have to put together a teaching video on “Attractive Fireplaces” later this year. (yet another thing on my list!)
But for now, let me give you a good start…a few pointers… perhaps, all you need…
For decades now people have been telling me that my work is amazing, more attractive than anyone elses.
The secret behind my work (it’s not much of secret as I tend to tell everyone) is that I seek out the most attractive finished homes that I can, which are quite often historic homes, and then I pay very close attention to the details, trying to figure out how it was done, and why it appeals to me so.
And then, I copy it.
Not, building it “sort of like it”… but “exactly like it”.
After I’ve done a few “exactly like its” then I start to add my own creativity to the mix.
My advice is that you should look at fireplaces until you find one that amazes you, then replicate it.
I can also say that it sometimes takes a developed eye before a person can really pick out the truly great specimens.
For example art enthusiasts can appreciate a painting much more than I can because they look at these creations as a life calling, every day, all day long. If I want a great painting, I value their input.
My tastes have refined over the years after having looked at thousands of fireplaces.
I think my fireplaces are the best… and as time has gone by I often begin to think there is a fixed guideline in attractiveness… but then I come across a striking exception to the rule which blows my rigidity to pieces.
You are more than welcome to use my fireplaces as a guide in building your own if you wish.
Here’s a few tips that I can offer…
When building the firebox (I often have a professional mason build the inner workings of my chimneys) make sure and lay all the firebrick flat and not on edge, any fresh air vents should be to the side and not on the back, and, the back of the fireplace should have a rounded slope, tapering to the front as it goes up.
When laying the stone fireplace front, pay close attention to the pattern, dimensions, and proportions. Choose attractive stone, all at least six inches thick… the fireplace is the focal point of a house… it is where the artistry and skill of a home is demonstrated. Seek perfection and the touch of an artists hand.
And finally, never, ever span a stone fireplace opening in such a way that it relies on metal to hold it up… either use a single lintel stone, or a functioning arch.