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Looking for something wide and dramatic, Chris Nichols and Becki Peckham opted for a long and elegant ethanol fireplace.

Five unique fireplace ideas to heat up your home

Whether gathered around a campfire or patio fire-pit, a hearth or kitchen cook-stove, Atlantic Canadians love their flames. Over time, stoves and fireplaces have become, like other design elements in the home, as varied and unique as homeowners, with styles ranging from classic to quirky, artistic to ultra-modern.

Twist Of Traditional

Nova Scotia author Sheree Fitch, is in awe of the fireplace her husband Gilles Plante designed and built. An unapologetic rock collector, Fitch has gathered stones and pebbles from as far away as Bhutan, to as close to home as Skinner’s Cove and Pictou. (In the afterword of her children’s book, Pocket Rocks, she writes, “Rocks, like stories, have secret worlds hidden inside them that make me feel safe.”)

Plante, who also built the couple’s home in River John, NS, used Fitch’s rock collection to create a pebbled mosaic that mimics the flow of the river outside their door. The mantle is a book, hand-carved from pine and spruce, and stained like leather.

“The story of our hearth is also the story of our home,” says Fitch. “His medium is wood and stone, and mine is words and paper, so it is the manifestation of his spirit and mine.”

Contemporary And Economic

On the other end of the design spectrum is Saint John interior designer, Judith Mackin. She didn’t have the space for a full-fledged wood-burning fireplace, but wanted something sculptural that looked beautiful, whether lit or unlit, for a second floor reading nook.

Mackin found a wall-mounted ethanol-burning unit with a brushed nickel finish. Its true appeal, she says, is that unlike fake logs in an electric hearth masquerading as a fireplace, it doesn’t try to pass itself off as something it’s not.

“Its minimal lines and modern materials state what it is: a flame source safely and dramatically housed in a stylish frame,” says Mackin.

Designer Judith Mackin’s pups pose near her ethanol-burning fireplace.

Bioethanol is an inexpensive, renewable energy fuel (produced from plants) that burns without smoke, odour or ash. Ethanol fireplaces are a popular with homeowners because they don’t require chimneys, flues, electricity or special connections.

Becki Peckham, a graphic designer and photographer from St. John’s, also chose an ethanol fireplace for her home. She and partner Chris Nicholas are renovating a 26-year old home (which they’re chronicling on their blog, “Adventures of the Uncommon Common Law”). As dedicated do-it-yourselfers on a budget, they sought something practical and contemporary at a reasonable price.

As the new look of their living room came together, one wall called for something wide and dramatic. Peckham researched options online and found a slim, long and elegant ethanol fireplace that met their needs, both aesthetically and economically.

“We like natural textures, clean lines, concrete, whites,” says Peckham. She hung the brushed nickel fireplace, accented with smooth pebbles, on a charcoal wall, and positioned a wooden slat bench below. The flame is open and unprotected, so it’s not kid-friendly, but that also means it has no reflective glare. “People often ask if it’s real.”

Dramatic And Effecient

Keith and Rosemary Hamilton (who are also featured in our story on party kitchens) definitely needed a kid-friendly choice for the sunroom of their summer cottage in Hunt’s Point, NS. It’s a place for them to relax with their children and grandchildren.

The glass-walled, unheated sunroom serves as a transition area between the cottage’s great room and the outdoor cedar deck overlooking the beach. To extend the usefulness of the room through the seasons, their architect Omar Gandhi suggested a fireplace.

“We were ambivalent about it at first,” admits Keith, “but Omar found a suspended fireplace that doesn’t have any floor footprint.”

That smooth, oval-shaped wood-burning fireplace hangs like a pendant and rotates 360 degrees on a stainless steel ball bearing, so the firebox can direct heat and light at any corner of the room or outdoor deck.

“I was dubious about the rotating at first, thinking this will end in tears,” says Keith, “but we’ve not had any smoke or water leaks. It is modern, fun and very functional.”

Amy Savoury and her partner Robin Harris, of Gaspereau, NS, also wanted something fun and functional for their renovated farm house.

“We were looking for something sleek that wouldn’t use much floor space, and that we could place on the ceramic floor without requiring a hearth, subfloor or heat shield. The main thing was that it could be easily tucked in a corner,” says Savoury.

They ended up finding an ultra-modern cylindrical wood stove, which also rotates-. It boasts a soft grey soapstone exterior that both radiates and holds the heat. The glass-fronted firebox turns 180 degrees and burns logs vertically.

The 35,000 BTU unit is also incredibly efficient. Last winter, they heated their 1500-square-foot home with three cord of wood.

Best of all, she says the design blends perfectly with her contemporary kitchen. “It’s definitely the heart of our home.”

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