Stone, timber give fireplace simply crafted, rustic appeal

Design Line

December 23, 2007|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

We want to include a fireplace in the family room of a vacation home we're building in the mountains.

Can you offer some suggestions regarding that particular element as well as the overall design, which we envision as strongly rustic.

Fireplaces were originally all about function, but today they're valued at least as much for their charm as for the warmth they generate.

Everyone wants a fireplace. And while it's neither easy nor inexpensive to install one in an existing space, such an addition can be successful as long as potential problems are identified and addressed.

Knocking a hole in a wall and connecting it to a chimney won't produce a satisfying outcome. To experience the glow of a fireplace but not the smoke, consideration must be given not only to technical factors but to furniture placement as well.

Stone and timber are the obvious materials for the simply crafted look you seem to be planning. But those elements can still be creatively integrated into a rustic setting.

I urge anyone who's thinking about adding a woodstove or fireplace, indoors or out, to consult Fireplaces, a Taunton Press book by Jane Gitlin, a Connecticut architect.

In her book, she shows fireplaces that you would not expect to find in a newly designed interior. Some have natural stones in a variety of textures, sizes and shapes and appear to have been piled onto one another.

Careful calculations have to be made in regard to the depth, width and height of the firebox. The standard measurements for a working wood burning fireplace aren't hard to figure because they haven't changed in more than 200 years. Now all you need to do is find a craftsman who's certified to build fireplaces.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at

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