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Fireplace Surrounds and Chimneys Add Character

November 30, 2008
Hand carved stone surround adds interest to New South Classics' French Country home

Hand carved stone surround adds interest to New South Classics' French Country home

Your fireplace not only adds warmth to your house, it adds elegance and charm that reflects your home style and lifestyle anytime of year.  But like doors and windows, fireplace surrounds, mantels, over mantels and chimneys must enhance the Old World style you have selected to be true to the design, be it French country, English cottage, Tuscan farmhouse, Arts & Crafts bungalow, or traditional American design .

English cottage chimney pots

English cottage chimney pots

An amazing selection of fireplace related materials and decorative accents are available today at almost any price level to suit your construction budget.

There are authentic antique European surrounds, mantels of stone and wood along with antique clay chimney pots of all sizes and descriptions from the simple to the ornate.  These too are available in appropriate styles such as exclusively antique French or English chimney pots with their distinctive architectural signature.

Chimney Pots by Copper-Inc.

Chimney Pots by Copper-Inc.

Chimney pots of all sizes and descriptions are also available and can be found in a style and material that will give your house the distinction you want.

Many are made with the same standards that they were a hundred years ago.  As one manufacturer says; “Chimney pots provide the finish and add the crowning glory to the look of your house”.  Pots made of copper or clay add the final touch to your Old World plans.

copper chimney cap

Copper Chimney Cap by Custom Copper Designs

Many custom copper architectural products are also available to dress up and protect your chimney.  In addition to chimney pots, copper chimney caps come in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes.

Custom copper is a great way to highlight a feature of your house and add quality and value that will last a lifetime.

Antique Cheminee Gothic Surround from Authentic Provence

Antique Cheminee Gothique from Authentic Provence

The look and function or the chimney is a major portion of successful home design, but the look of the interior is of course just as important.  A fireplace surround, and overmantel must reflect the period home style you have selected.  Many regions have a distinctive look that is reflected in their fireplaces.

You can have that look in your house by using imported antique surrounds or good quality reproductions.

Some specialty shops offer authentic antiques from French chateaux to Italian manor houses.  You will also find antique fireplace accessories and other related items.

Classic Louis XV Mantel by Francoise & Co.

Classic Louis XV Mantel by Francoise & Co.

Hand-Crafted Limestone, crafted marble, and travertine surrounds, and mantels in the Old World tradition are available in many “Old World” styles.

These are revivals of ancient Italian and French designs and add unmistakable elegance to any room.   Francois & Co. has a collection of hand-carved mantlelpieces that are the mirror image of antique mantels discovered in France and hand-carved by French artisans.

They are made of hand-carved limestone or “Scagliola Stone”, some of the finest stone available.  The right mantel offers an opportunity to create a powerful statement that defines the architectural style of the interior decor. 

Stonelei by Old World Stoneworks

Stonelei by Old World Stoneworks

Similarly, cast stone mantels and surrounds are available in a variety of mantels that are very similar to those made of cut limestone that will look amazingly authentic.

These are made of a mixture of finely graded aggregates, silica, sand and a bonding agent.

All are mixed and hammered into molds. The finished product is noncombustible and can be used directly against the firebox.

Cast products are available in affordable copies that are easy to install and adapt to masonry, precast fireboxes or prefabricated gas log firebox interiors.  The difficult task is finding the right style and manufacturers suited to your needs.

mantel by Pinecrest

wood mantel by Pinecrest

If a wood mantle is what you are searching for, there are as many, if not more, sources to choose from as there are for stone mantels and fireplace surrounds.  Some manufacturers will even carve your crest, logo or emblem in the center of the over mantel if you desire.  These mantels are available direct to the trade and can be ordered by your builder or architect to suit your needs.  Antique wood mantels are often favorites with designers and are also available through antique and architectural salvage shops.

Rustic, Arts & Crafts look

Rustic, Arts & Crafts look by New South Classics

Of course, not all architectural styles and fireplace needs can be satisfied with pre-made mantels and surrounds.  Mantels crafted by skilled carpenters and, or, stone masons are often the best approach for many historic or Old World residential designs.

Arts & Crafts Bungalows and mountain lodge style homes are well suited for dramatic stone fireplaces with wood or stone mantels that blend with the architectural style and period of the house.

The inside, or the working portion of the fireplace, presents many other options too.  Traditional firebox and chimney design and construction is best left to a qualified mason experienced in the art of chimney design.  The performance of your fireplace will depend on a number of factors that need to be addressed by your contractor, and you have the option of solid masonry, metal and pre-fabricated masonry systems.

Isokern firwplace

Pre-Fabricated Firebox and chimney system by Isokern

Today, there are a number of  firebox and chimney options that are available to you to save money and still have an authentic looking fireplace.   

Pre-manufactured fireplace systems such as Isokern, make it easy and cost less than traditional methods.

These  systems are modular, masonry systems that can be assembled and installed in under a day.  Unlike traditional masonry units that can take weeks or months to complete,  experienced installers can install several of these systems in a day.  Isokern systems can be custom finished to satisfy homeowner, builder or interior design needs and the modular design of such a system allows for more diverse, lightweight applications for fireplaces and other appliances.

Gas Fireplace by Fireplacex

New lines of attractive, efficient gas fireplaces , ventless gas fireplaces, electric and wood burning inserts allow you to have  warm accents in any space in your home.  A wide variety of styles from two sided fireplaces to ones small enough to be housed in a bathroom or kitchen make just about anything possible. 

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at www.newsouthclassics.com

Bruce Eason, AIA