Working with new and existing Fireplaces

The fire has always been the focal point of any dwelling. From its most primitive beginnings it has been used to primarily warm the spaces we occupy as well as cook and heat water for domestic use.

Over time fireplaces have become more of an architectural statement with the hearths, surrounds and mantelpieces becoming more elaborate and matching the architectural style of the property.

With the days drawing in, heating being tentatively turned on and wood stores filled in anticipation, this article looks at the way in which fireplaces are dealt with in current extension and renovation projects, some contemporary fireplace designs that can provide striking architectural statements and also how new fireplaces can be integrated when a property is reconfigured.

In many of the projects we work on there is an emphasis on maximising internal space and one thing that clients frequently ask for is the chimney breasts to be removed. Much of the housing stock BTL work on, particularly in Hammersmith and Fulham is the traditional Victorian terrace. These properties are of a time when each room would have a fireplace as its sole source of heat and as a result will generally have a chimney breast in each of the front rooms as well as one in the rear outrigger, often with an open fireplace in the bedrooms above.

Removing the chimney to the rear of the property is the most common. These rooms are often the smallest and the fireplaces are almost always redundant. It is also tempting to remove the chimney breasts in the front two rooms. However, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of doing this. Is it worth losing some of the character and original fabric of your property as well as the associated structural implication for the gain of a few additional square feet? Often restoring and retaining an existing fireplace can make a striking statement (see fig 1 a BTL project at Trinity road where the chimney breast has been retained and a new marble mantle fitted making the fireplace really stand out against the dark painted backdrop)



Design - Ade Architecture.

Build - BTL

There are also ways of successfully retaining both chimney breasts whilst creating an open plan living space (see Fig 2 a BTL project at Bernard Gardens where both chimneys have been retained and the internal partition removed - joinery has been put to clever use to retain some symmetry and tie the room together)


FIG 2 -

Design - Granit Architecture.

Build - BTL

Every design we do is bespoke but often we suggest keeping the chimney breast in the front room and potentially removing the one to the back room. The front room then becomes a more formal living room with the fireplace retained as the traditional focal point and the back room (usually the smaller of the two rooms) a more informal space to be used as a playroom, snug or study. The bedroom above the front room is commonly the master suite so it can be an attractive and cosy feature to retain the fireplace in this room also.

If the plan is to remove all of the existing chimney breasts, then there are a number of interesting ways to reintroduce a fireplace into the room. Companies such as 'Modus' have developed a range of double sided fireplaces that work well as a way to define different spaces without fully enclosing them (see fig 3 and fig 4)


FIG 3 - Modus 2600T Linefire


FIG 4 - Modus 2600TS Linefire

BTL used a similar system to this in a project on Chiddingstone street (see fig 5). A fire like this one is an effective way of softening up a contemporary and open plan space with lots of glazing but in a subtle and space efficient way without disrupting the flow of the room.



Design - BTL

Build - BTL

Another more traditional way to introduce some warmth to a space is with a log burner. Log burners work well in a Living room but also an open plan kitchen/dining room following an extension. They are also, in my opinion beautiful looking, usually cast iron or steel. You also have the option to have them free standing without a brick enclosure meaning they are quicker and less costly to install and can be located in front of glazing if needed, this was implemented in a BTL project at Broadgates. (see fig 6). The fitting, altering or replacing of external flues and chimneys to a rear or side elevation falls under permitted development although it is advisable to check with your local authority if your property is listed or in a conservation area.

It is worth mentioning that if you already have a wood burner you need to make the most of using it this winter as London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a ban on private wood burning stoves by 2025 in many areas in an attempt to improve air quality in the city.



Design - Granit Architecture

Build - BTL

Lastly, fires should not be restricted to the inside of a property and when designing your Garden, it is worth thinking about how a fire pit can be simply integrated into your seating area (see fig 7). These can double up as a BBQ, act as an impressive gathering point and can extend your use of the Garden as the days get colder.


FIG 7 - Pinterest Image

If you have any questions relating to this article, why not ask our Architectural Design team?

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