Our very early ancestors discovered and learned how to tame fire, and the colonization of cold climate areas became intimately tied to its use. In modern-day California, however, we don’t need to rely on a blazing fire to keep us warm, nor do we need to prepare our food over woodburning flames. In fact, the use of firewood has become a controversial topic because of air quality concerns and the matter of deforestation. Still, as ancient fireplaces are a far cry from those used today, incorporating one into new home design is a popular choice - the hearth or the outdoor firepit a cozy place to enjoy with family and friends.
Stemming back from primitive times when people clustered around the open fire for safety and warmth, a modern fireplace, too, brings people together. Therefore, the majority of hearths are found in the living room – commonly the largest room in the house - a room that easily can accommodate a gathering.
A living room hearth is usually the space’s centerpiece, competing only with the television for attention. It is no wonder the two often are found in close proximity to each other. Smart design, however, can put focus on one or the other, as seen below in the 19th Street House, where the fireplace becomes a shelf and a bench when not in use, and the television hides behind sliding cabinet doors when no one is watching.
When designing the dining area - another communal space of your home - a fireplace can create a warm and welcoming atmosphere when entertaining guests for dinner. By situating the fireplace higher up on the wall, it can double as an animated art piece that can be shared in from afar.
But as much as it can be enjoyed by many, the warm glow and soothing sound of a crackling fire can bring comfort to private times, as well. Incorporating a fireplace in the bedroom adds a layer of peacefulness to the space. An adjacent reading nook or favorite chair completes a cozy room.
The most rudimentary of hearths - the outdoor firepit - is a favorite amenity in the residential garden. As dusk settles in, family and friends can come together for warmth, to share stories, or to prepare a simple meal - the comfort of a firepit still resonating with modern man.
A freestanding firepit can easily be added to most yards and safely positioned on a variety of surfaces, be it a simple bed of decomposed granite, a stone paved patio, or a polished deck of Larch wood, such as the one pictured above at our 19th Street residence. Custom varieties, as seen below, are incorporated into the initial landscape design and can therefore blend even more seamlessly with the built environment.
There is no doubt that a firepit brings echoes from ancient times, but unlike then, modern technology allows us to harness heat energy for use at a later time. In a sealed fireplace (a code requirement in many states) your open hearth is supplemented with a cassette insert to capture the radiant heat it extrudes and help warm up your home. Your architect can help guide your decision on which energy source to choose (gas, propane, electric, or wood), some more eco-friendly or economical than others. In addition to benefits we have touched on earlier, your fireplace can become both a sustainable and cost-saving feature of your home, further adding to its appeal.
Anki Pineiro has been a part of EYRC’s marketing team since 2004 and is the firm's Graphic Designer. In addition to leading the firm's branding, she is managing the digital archive—an index of all EYRC designs over the years. Her in depth knowledge of the firm's portfolio and visual aesthetic give her unique insight on presenting the projects through visual storytelling. As a longtime homeowner—she is passionate about exploring topics related to experiential residential design.