The alluring glow of a flickering flame conjures a sense of comfort and romance. When the temperature drops, there’s nothing better than gathering around a fire to warm the body and soul, and it is particularly coveted for the wonderful atmosphere it creates.
“The ever-changing flame is simply captivating, and wood-burning fireplaces also produce a fantastic aroma and crackle to delight the senses,” says Guillaume Roux of heating specialists Oblica.
We’ve rustled up everything you need to know when it comes to selecting and styling a cosy fireplace this winter.
What are the rules for fireplaces in Australia?
When planning to install a fireplace, do your homework – regulations vary depending on the state you live in. “Councils usually require approval for the type of fireplace added to a new or existing home, and rules impact where it can be installed,” says Joel Belnick of fireplace experts Jetmaster.
“The type of flue used, potential impact to neighbours, proximity to high-rise buildings and safety features are all taken into account.” It’s also important to use a qualified builder, roof plumber and gas fitter to ensure safe installation.
Types of fireplaces
With so many factors to consider – whether to go open or closed, in-built or freestanding, gas or wood, traditional or modern – you’re not short of choice. Refine the selection process by deciding where the fireplace will be located.
“The size of the area to be heated can often influence which type of fireplace is most suitable,” says Joel. “Radiant-style, open fireplaces are great for outdoor entertaining, as they quickly heat the area in front of the fire. To heat larger indoor spaces, a convection heat fireplace may be more effective.”
One indicator of heat delivery is the kilowatt output rating. “One kilowatt heats an area of 3 metres x 3 metres, but it’s often a case of the larger the heater, the larger the output,” says Rick Wignell of Wignells Heating & Cooking.
Fireplace fuel types
Here’s how to find the right heat source for your space…
It takes effort to source and split, but wood gives an authentic fire experience with high heat output. “You can also choose between an open or slow combustion (closed) fireplace,” says Guillaume Roux of Oblica.
“Slow combustion units offer more control and efficiency, yet raw open fires provide great sound and smell, and are ideal for toasting marshmallows.”
“Good looking and simple to use, a key advantage is easy installation, as no flueing or gas supply is required,” says Rick Wignell of Wignells Heating & Cooking.
“Primarily decorative, an electric flame doesn’t produce direct heat, yet it can evoke the realism of a wood fire without the need for a flue,” says Joel.
Easy and convenient, with a variety of styles to choose from. The beauty of gas is the ability to turn it on with the flick of a switch or a tap on your smartphone. “It can require more servicing, though, as gas components can break and need replacing,” says Joel Belnick of Jetmaster.
Fireplace design ideas
When it comes to design, take inspiration from your home’s architecture and landscape. Cast-iron heaters evoke a rustic feel which works either indoors or outdoors.
In-built units and wall-mounted fireplaces are a fantastic space-saving option and, teamed with a decorative mantel, floating shelf or niche, can be a beautiful design feature.
In contemporary homes and areas with floor-to-ceiling glass where you want to make a statement, a sculptural suspended unit like the ‘Gyrofocus’ or ‘Slimfocus’ from Oblica is just the ticket. A double-sided fireplace in an open-plan layout is a fabulous option.
“They’re a striking design feature which cleverly zones living and dining areas and adds a sense of luxury,” says Guillaume Roux of Oblica.
Inspiring fireplace design ideas
1. Coastal style stone fireplace
“I love to have a glass of wine in front of the fireplace after the kids have gone to bed,” says Michelle, who revamped this 80’s era ‘ugly duckling’ home on the Gold Coast, alongside husband James.
Today it’s a bright and airy home with soaring high ceilings and uninterrupted coastal views. The fireplace is a Jetmaster enveloped in Random Free Form Stone in Thredbo White from Neo Rox Concepts. The print is from Boho Art & Styling.
2. Sleek and contemporary marble fireplace
‘Simple yet sophisticated’ was the design brief for the refresh of this Victorian home in Mosman. In the living room, the fireplace was kept minimal, with a sleek ‘Concordia’ honed marble surround which gives the fireplace a grand, yet understated appeal.
A plush navy ‘Agra’ rug in Juniper from Armadillo adds to the room’s undeniably cosy vibe.
3. Freestanding fireplace on a concrete ledge
Large windows and sliding doors give this bushland home an unrivalled sense of connection to the great outdoors. Homeowner Lucinda’s says her favorite thing about the home is “Watching the change is seasons but being warm inside.” They have a Nectre woodburning fireplace to thank for that, as it keeps the sunken living room and adjacent spaces toasty and warm.
4. Statement stone fireplace
Every day feels like a holiday at this newly built family home on the Gold Coast. The fireplace was a major splurge, as the owners searched far and wide for the perfect stone which was eventually treated with ageing techniques to create a weathered look.
The overall effect was well worth the cost, as it forms the focal point of the open plan living room, dining room and kitchen. “It would have been a lot cheaper to purchase pre-fabricated cladding [for the fireplace], but the hand-cut natural stone gave it the feel I was after,” says homeowner Bec.
5. Ultra modern fireplace
The modern extension of this circa 1900s cottage in Melbourne’s north-east connects the home’s indoor and outdoor zones. The bluestone that surrounds the fireplace has also been used for the home’s back terrace and pool surround.
‘Bowen’ artwork by Katie Wyatt.
6. Contemporary-meets-heritage fireplace
The heat from this Real Flame ‘Heatseeker’ fireplace emanates through this entire home on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Atlantic Stone from SNB Stone surrounds the fireplace, while a built-in arched bookshelf references the home’s heritage detailing and arched windows and doors.
7. Dark and moody fireplace
During the renovation of this cottage in the NSW Southern Highlands, the owners converted the double garage into a spacious living room. Now, the woodburning fireplace is the central feature, and cosy layered rugs and a deep blue colour scheme create a coccooning effect.
8. Tiled fireplace surround with wood storage
This seaside weekender on Sydney’s Northern Beaches offers rest and relaxation all year round. “The fireplace is in use in colder months. It makes the house feel so cosy,” says homeowner Nancy.
9. A place for family to gather
Heather, co-founder of Oak and Orange, says her family regularly gathers around the fireplace to play charades or celebrity heads. “We don’t have a TV in this area and, when people come over, it’s where everyone sits,” she adds.
The fireplace is a Universal Insert 1500mm Jetmaster and is surrounded by ‘Lodge’ cladding from Artisan Stone. “We picked that stone because it most resembled the Palm Springs modernist style,” says Heather.
10. Create a cosy moment
If space allows, create a cosy armchair moment directly in front of the fireplace. In this revamped Leura cottage, a weathered timber console keeps drinks close to hand, while creating distinct zones for chatting by the fire and curling up on the lounge with a good book. The fireplace is clad in Crazy Paving sandstone from Eco Outdoors.