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  • Fireplace Makeovers And Sizzling Trends

  • For cozy elegance, warmth and as a design statement, there's no mistaking the allure of the fireplace.
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    • the green hearth
      Traditional wood-burning fireplaces allow 90 percent of their heat and energy to escape right up the chimney. That translates into lost heat and lots of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and partic...
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      the green hearth
      Traditional wood-burning fireplaces allow 90 percent of their heat and energy to escape right up the chimney. That translates into lost heat and lots of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and particulates being released into the environment.

      There are some ways to minimize combustion pollution and maximize energy efficiency, while still enjoying the sense of a family hearth.

      "Select an EPA-listed wood stove with a catalytic converter and an independent supply of outside air," advises Kristi Stewart, owner of Flying Frog Design, LLC in Medford. "The best are pellet stoves, which take advantage of waste wood, are clean and 80-percent efficient."

      Masonry heaters, long popular in Europe, are 70-to 90-percent efficient and provide a great thermal mass for well-insulated homes. They cost a bit more than pellet stoves and make a bolder design statement.

      Plug-in, electric fireplaces are often touted as a safer alternative to the conventional fireplace, says Stewart. While they can create an attractive focal point, especially in a small room or apartment, Stewart says some have been known to emit melting plastic-like smells.

      With any type of fireplace or stove, always maintain the chimney to avoid fires, install smoke detectors and have non-flammable roofing.
  • For cozy elegance, warmth and as a design statement, there's no mistaking the allure of the fireplace.
    "The hearth or campfire of old retains its appeal in this time of heat pumps and solar panels," says Kristi Stewart, owner of Flying Frog Design, LLC in Medford. "The hearth, whatever form it takes, is more than just a source of heat; it's a symbol of home, of safety."
    But what to do if your fireplace is an old, drab, brick eyesore? Ultimately, any plan for a new or updated fireplace depends on the style of your house and what theme you're going with in your room.
    For a sleek, modern take, try replacing a worn-out hearth and mantel with marble or travertine and covering the brick surround with drywall. A built-up drywall surround can be painted to suit the room, and artistic niches can be cut out for an original design.
    For a Greco-Roman theme, replace the brick with a hand-carved marble, classical fireplace, suggests Anna Fraley, co-owner with Josh Sample of Artisan Classical Interior Design in Medford.
    For a mosaic-style surround, look for new or vintage tile pieces that you assemble yourself, often available as a kit. The most sought-after tiles are reconditioned pieces that have been salvaged from old houses.
    The new fireplace will totally transform your room, which can be made even more dramatic with the addition of a few small items.
    "Try to add to the whole theme," suggests Fraley. "If you're talking a modern house and you've put in a vintage fire surround, you could add a mirror over the mantel and get some crown moulding throughout the room; maybe even faux paint everything to create your own look."
    Don't be afraid to mix styles and eras. A small room can be made grand with a large fireplace; a contemporary setting might be made more welcoming with a vintage fireplace and related antique elements.
    The most obvious trend in fireplaces today is foregoing the mantel altogether and using the space for a flat-screen television instead.
    "The TV is the big black box, the evil eye, to most designers and homeowners, because it's never very attractive and just how do you work it into your scheme?" says Stewart. "If you don't have a theater room or want to hide your TV in a big armoire, this really solves a dilemma.
    By mounting the television above the fireplace, the screen no longer fights for attention with the fireplace itself, a great view, or a piece of art.
    As flat-screen TVs become more popular and affordable, manufacturers are also designing clever ways to disguise them. Look for mesh covers that present a "painting" until the TV is turned on. There are also specialty mirrors that can camouflage the screen.
    "Both [the painting and mirror] seem a natural visual over the fireplace," Stewart says. "It gives you the best of both worlds, so when you want, you can focus on the fireplace."
    Look for fireplace bargains through online suppliers and auction sites. "A lot of people are under the assumption that it takes a lot of money to redo a fireplace," says Fraley. "You could probably do it for anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on how patient, diligent and resourceful you are."
    Whatever option strikes a flame in your heart, be sure to do your homework before hitting the pavement (or the Internet). Look closely at your existing fireplace, carefully measure its exact dimensions, and talk to some experts to find out what will work in your space.
    Also, consider switching from wood to another resource, such as natural gas when you update an existing fireplace. Traditional wood-burning fireplaces waste energy, are less safe, have seasonal limitations and generate work and mess.
    "It's really hard to find someone to repair them anymore," Fraley says. If you can't live without the wood, add glass doors or a Heatilator to increase the fireplace's efficiency.
    Then, once the re-design is done, get ready to make a roomful of warm memories.
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