At Connecticut Stone, Design Trends Spark New Fireplace Designs

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Text by Debra Judge Silber

 

Fireplaces have been a centerpiece of New England homes for centuries. We’ve devised much better ways to cook our meals and heat our homes over the years, but we’ve yet to invent anything that invokes warmth and coziness like a flickering hearth.

But our vision of that hearth is changing. Our image of a fireplace has moved beyond that massive stone tower in the living room. Today’s gas and zero-clearance fireboxes are rewriting the rules, making it easy to kindle a flame in bedrooms and in kitchens, in lower-level rec rooms and spa-like baths. At the same time, new facing materials and the inventive application of traditional materials have taken the way we dress those fireplaces in exciting new directions.

As a result, fireplaces have entered a period of unusually creative design. “We’re really seeing a trend in high-end design for surrounds and custom mantels,” says Tyra Dellacroce, vice president of interior sales and marketing at Connecticut Stone. In business for nearly seventy years, the company is a leading supplier of stone and stone products for interior and exterior applications.

The reason for this trend is that designers are bringing fireplaces into more modern spaces. “We’re seeing the architecture and design community bring forward designs for clean, detailed fireplaces that really set the tone for the room and the furnishings,” Dellacroce explains. Homeowners, inspired by fireplaces they see online and in magazines, are also driving the trend. “There are so many visual aids available, people come in with a pretty good understanding of the style they want,” said Dellacroce. “Where they need help is in narrowing down the stone options that work for the style they’ve selected.”

A Wide Variety of Fireplace Options

“Whether you select natural stone, building stone, a wood mantel, or a custom stone mantel, it really goes a long way to expressing the personality of the room, be it rustic, modern, or transitional,” Dellacroce says. It also can have a significant impact on the cost of the project.

Connecticut Stone’s interior products include natural stones such as marble, travertine, and limestone, as well as the latest synthetic “sintered” stones. These products, which include Dekton and Neolith, are created by bonding minerals under heat and high pressure in a method that mimics the way natural rocks are formed over millennia. Porcelain, especially new ultra-thin products such as Crossville’s Laminam, have also broadened design opportunities.

Today’s emphasis on sleek, clean styling has made creamy limestones and white marbles (think Calacatta), popular choices. Their composition and smooth texture lend them well to mantels and facings. But, Dellacroce notes, “We also see the other end of the spectrum, with people choosing busy marbles with intricate patterns and veins that make really a statement.” Absolute black granite is also popular, and one of the few granites with a grain fine enough for modern fireplace mantel application.

Clean Burning, Clean Look Fireplaces

Mantels—those revered stages for family photos—are no longer the default dressing for the family fireplace. “There is a definite trend to just cladding the surface, getting away from the traditional mantel and keeping a clean and streamlined look,” Dellacroce says. Today’s zero-clearance fireboxes have accelerated this minimalist trend by dispensing not only with the mantel but the hearth as well. With reduced code clearances, designers can elevate the firebox in the wall and design a surround that encircles the flame entirely. These hearth-less fireplaces are a great option for bedrooms and baths, where floor space is limited.

Minus mantels, creativity has gone through the roof—or to the ceiling, at least. “We’re seeing a lot of slab fireplaces that go up eight, nine feet in the air,” Dellacroce says. For these impressive facings, the new ultra-thin slab materials, such as the new porcelains or sintered stones, are the way to go. Not only are they less expensive than natural stone, their ¼-inch thickness (compared to ¾-inch for stone) translates to lower installation costs, too.

An End-To-End Process for Fireplace Design and Installation

At Connecticut Stone, designing a custom fireplace begins with the homeowner’s or designer’s inspiration. The site is measured, the material is chosen, and Connecticut Stone’s resident architect prepares drawings, working with the customer on final details. Before any stone is cut, it is photographed from several angles. These images are stitched together in a 3-D digital representation of the finished project, with every seam and vein in place. “It’s like looking into the future,” Dellacroce says. “People love it. They know their expectations will be met, and they get to be part of the creative process.” About eight weeks later, their new fireplace will be installed, and become an enduring part of their home.

To find out more, visit Connecticut Stone at connecticutstone.com.

Headquarters & Showroom:  138 Woodmont Road Milford, CT (203) 882-1000

Milford Stone Yard: 138 Woodmont Road Milford, CT  (203) 882-1000

Stamford Stone Yard:  39 Larkin Street Stamford, CT (203) 967-2937

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