Light My Fire! – Ideas and Advice for Open Fires, Wood Burning Stoves and Decor

As the evenings draw in and get cooler we are forced to retreat once more indoors for the evenings, we long to ‘cosy up’. Nothing quite fits the bill the same as a fire, be it open, woodburning or other fuel. With a fire lit, the room immediately becomes welcoming and creates a focal point. In our 1930’s house, we have an original brick fireplace, which we intend to keep. However, as this room will be used as a family room or office, I doubt very much if we will ever use it. With this in mind, we have thought about a small wood burning stove to fit into the existing aperture. This would keep our options open. I’m rubbish at lighting open fires and find a stove is far easier. In the new sitting room (when it has been built, subject to planning approval) we would like a large woodburning stove. This stove will not have a chimney breast, but will be placed against a flat wall, with the flue going out through the outside wall. This gives a challenge to the design of the surround and focal point of the room, which needs to include wood storage of some description too. I’m working on this, but need to decide on the stove first. Here are some considerations and advice to think about.

1.Open Fires – If you have a chimney breast, but the fireplace has been long removed, you can open this up to use again. There should be a heat resistant hearth, a fire back to enclose the fire, a lintel to support the the brickwork above, a flue and a chimney. You will need to check that the chimney is not blocked with debris or ‘capped’on the chimney pot. It is also important that smoke is drawn up the chimney and doesn’t billow into the room. This can tend to be more of a  a problem in open fireplaces. Contact The Solid Fuel Advisory Association http://www.solidfuel.co.uk/frame/800index.html who can advise you and suggest approved merchants. The chimney needs to be swept too. Depending on the fuel you intend to burn, this has a has bearing on the choice of grate to go in the fireplace. Seasoned logs (at least a year old, otherwise the sap will clog up the flue) wood pellets, coal or coke or a mixture of these fuels. Check if you are in a smoke controlled area with your local authority first. Remember that wood needs plenty of dry storage space, and be cut small enough to fit in the fire.

2. Wood Burning Stoves – When choosing a woodburning stove the style is not the only consideration, but the size and heat output of the stove in relation to the rooms capacity. Too large and you will ‘roast’, too small and it will not provide sufficient warmth. The basic calculation is to divide the volume of the room in cubic metres by 14. This gives you the heat out put you need. It is advisable to purchase a DEFRA approved stove. Stoves have become very popular over the last few years, and create a real focal point, whether traditional, cylindrical, wall mounted or raised in a simple hearth. The design and fire surround should be in scale with the room.

3. Flueless Fires – Just because you don’t have a chimney breast, it  doesn’t mean you can’t have a fire. Opt for a flueless design. These fires are super efficient, with running costs on average a third of the price of comparable conventional fires. Another option is a balanced flue fire, which has a sealed glass front and a direct vent to the outside. Flueless options can be run on gas, electricity or bio-ethanol. Gas being the cheapest option at present, providing heat over a longer period of time. Bio-ethanol is generally the most expensive option, and can cause condensation, so are best used for shorter periods of time and used more as a feature.

4. Fire Surrounds – Position the mantle shelf either below or above the halfway point between the ceiling and the floor to avoid cutting the wall in half visually. The mantle shelf should not over hang the chimney breast and looks best being the same length as the breast. Always choose a larger surround than a smaller one to make a statement. Architectural salvage and reclaimed surrounds, whether wooden, stone, marble tiled or cast iron can look stunning in either traditional or modern interiors. If you’re prepared to put in the work to restore the surround this will save you money, as fully restored can be pricey. You can make your own surround from timber, and if you’re going to paint it use a heat resistant paint. Link t DIY.

5. Fireplace Wall and Mantle Shelf Decor – This is an important part of the rooms decor. Hang a large single painting or statement mirror centrally over the fireplace. The fireplace will ‘anchor’ the piece. Hanging a television over the fireplace has been a popular choice  for some, but personally the T.V. tends to be too high for me, and I dislike the blank dark screen as a focal point and prefer to place the T.V. in a less obtrusive place, perhaps hidden from view when not in use. There are T.V.’s available which look like a mirror when switched off which is ideal, but are expensive. A set of prints or an eclectic mix hung above can work well too. Try painting the chimney breast a darker shade than the surrounding walls, or paint the whole wall a darker shade than the rest of the room.

The mantle shelf holding a small selection of decorative items to enhance the wall hung decor, fireplace, and room, adds the finishing touches. Create a vignette and treat as a whole entity. Small framed photographs, candles or ornaments. But remember less is often more, so don’t over do it.

All images from Pinterest

One thought on “Light My Fire! – Ideas and Advice for Open Fires, Wood Burning Stoves and Decor

  1. Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Just waqnted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Carry on the superb work!

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