Shopping for Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

Elizabeth ManuelComment

Fireplaces and wood stoves do more than provide heat on a cold day — they anchor a gathering place at the heart of a home.

“They’re a great focal point for any family hangout spot. What brings people together? Either a really beautiful meal or a really warm fire.”  - Colin Brice, who founded the New York architecture firm Mapos with Caleb Mulvena.

For that reason, fireplaces take center stage in many of Mapos’s residential and hospitality projects, including the Lake House hotel in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the forthcoming hotel The Maker in Hudson, N.Y. 

There are various options for adding fire features to existing homes, Mr. Brice and Mr. Mulvena said, including wood stoves, gas fireplaces and models that burn ethanol. But there are important differences: Some, like wood stoves, can function as the main heat source for a room; others, like ethanol fireplaces, are more about ambiance.

“The big question is, What do you want your fireplace or stove to do?” Mr. Brice said.

• Where will it be installed? “We try to think about how a fireplace can be more than a thing in the wall,” Mr. Mulvena said. Positioned in the center of a room, “it can be an element that divides space.”

• Is there a way to vent it? “A lot of gas fireplaces are what is called ‘direct vent,’ where you don’t need the traditional vertical flue — you can vent out a wall,” Mr. Mulvena said, whereas fireplaces “that use ethanol can be ventless, because they don’t have toxic byproducts.”

• If the fireplace is the focus of a room, where should the TV go? “If a television must be in the same space, we always try to hide it,” Mr. Mulvena said. “Let the fireplace be the true center of the living space.”