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Fire Features Lend a Warm Glow

Fire features are increasingly popular for both indoor and outdoor spaces – making them a great way for designers to generate added profit.

authors Jamie Gold | June 4, 2018

Ever since Prometheus stole fire from the ancient Greek gods and gave it to humans, we’ve been enchanted by its warmth, glow and power. The good news is that bringing fire features to your kitchen and bath clients doesn’t have to subject you to titanic torture. You will need to mind local rules, though, or the modern “gods” of local codes will punish you mightily. Fortunately, there are professionals to help guide you through the process. Here are some of the trends they’re spotting, along with insights from design and appliance colleagues.

BURNING ISSUES

Chicago area architect Michael Menn’s namesake design-build firm sees fire features on the upswing as the economy booms, but cautions, “When it comes to the indoor environment, codes set the standard. So, if you are adding more and more gas appliances, make-up air requirements will be affected.”

Jack Goldman, CEO of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, shares, “The industry keeps a close eye on codes – which can be updated every three years – and regulations, which can be developed whenever the federal government or any regional, state or provincial government feels that there is a need to do so. Specifiers shouldn’t worry too much about this as the industry is on top of it.” Be sure to consult a local specialist when you’re planning a fire feature for your project so you know what the codes are for your area.

Lyle Perry, v.p. of operations for The Kerrisdale Lumber Co. in Vancouver has seen the industry address environmental concerns, one of the leading causes of code and regulatory expansion: “I have seen manufacturers place more emphasis on the efficiency of energy use. If gas is being burned on a grill, they are doing a much better job of directing that heat where it needs to go, not escaping elsewhere. All sectors need to chip in where they can to mitigate and slow the impacts of climate change. I don’t think our relationship with fire is going to cease, so it is good to see the products adjusting with the times.”

HOT TOPICS

“Our research is showing that Millennials are starting to buy houses,” Goldman adds. “As a result, we expect to see continued healthy demand for barbecue products.” Fireplaces are another growth area, he predicts.

Ingrid Schroeter, immediate past chair of HPBA’s board and co-owner with her husband Wolfgang of manufacturer Napoleon Fireplaces, shares results from their research last year: “Participants were asked where they currently have fireplaces in their home, and where they’d like to have them in their next home. The largest discrepancy was found in the bedroom and outdoor space. When participants were exposed to pictures, desire for rooms with fireplaces increased 41 percent.”

Might showing clients a fireplace in your designs improve your bottom line? Perhaps. “Our research also showed that the consumer’s perception of their contractor, builder, remodeler, designer or dealer increases when they include features such as fireplaces in multiple rooms,” Schroeter adds. They’re hot on customizing styles and features too, she points out.

KITCHEN FIREPLACES

“We’re starting to see more electric fireplaces being incorporated into kitchens,” Schroeter  observes. “One of the most popular places is on the end of kitchen islands.” She adds that models offering heat reduction or elimination are especially popular in kitchen areas, which often get hot from cooking.

“We have been designing and installing gas fireplaces and pizza ovens in kitchens,” architect Menn shares. “The fireplaces are being designed because they provide a focal point either directly in the kitchen or as a divider between living spaces and the kitchen. Most of these are free floating and act as a focal point. In most designs, traffic flows around them.”

KITCHEN PIZZA OVENS

Pizza oven prices have dropped, Menn comments, and that makes entertaining with them more affordable: “More and more, people love to entertain and will do this with a pizza oven and cooking at home.”

They’re definitely getting more popular. Kristen Elder, senior director of appliances for Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, observes: “We’ve seen sales increase steadily as high-end consumers become more aware of what’s available. For example, Monogram offers an indoor pizza oven that fits in the same space as a traditional wall oven and does not require custom installation or special venting.” It should be noted that the Monogram model, which got even sleeker and more high tech with its 2018 KBIS release, is electric, not wood-fired. Your pizza palate may not detect the difference.

WARMING UP THE BATH

“In the last six months, as the economy has bolted forward, we have seen an increase in the exploration of adding fireplace features in bathrooms,” Menn says. “The fireplaces are either placed to set a ‘mood’  for the bathroom experience or are a common design feature linking the bedroom to the bathroom (i.e. a two-sided fireplace opening to both the bathroom and bedroom. We have been specifying and installing mainly linear, decorative gas fireplaces using decorative rocks.”

Napoleon’s Schroeter is also seeing a surge in shared master bath-bedroom fireplaces. Some models allow for split controls, too: “The heat can be turned off in the bathroom if the room is steamy from a shower, and be kept on in the bedroom side for cozier relaxing.” Smaller gas fireplaces are also popular in bathrooms, she notes.

Kerrisdale’s Perry adds, “Low-profile linear electrics are great here as they can be inset into walls (even in a 2’x6′) to have them flush and unobtrusive. Unlike gas, they don’t have any venting requirements, which really keeps the net costs down.”

OUTDOOR KITCHENS

These increasingly popular features offer endless design possibilities. “We have designed and installed everything from just a BBQ to a full-on kitchen with running water, pizza oven, refrigeration, ice makers, cooktops, etc.,” recalls Menn. “Everything that can be installed in an indoor kitchen can be done outdoors.”

Ferguson’s Elder observes, “The outdoor kitchen trend is popular coast-to-coast. As such, we’ve seen sales of outdoor pizza ovens follow this trend and sales have substantially grown over the past five years.”

There are other popular fire features coming to outdoor kitchens as well. Perry comments: “Outdoor appliance lines that have been pushing the envelope have come out with products like gas-powered teppanyaki griddles, deep fryers, cooktop-style and wok burners. They are seen by most to be accessories, still, but those end users who really appreciate the culinary experience see their value the most. The aim is to not be limited to grilling and smoking when cooking outdoors, which is a paradigm that we see a shift towards.”

OUTDOOR LIVING AREAS

Many clients are expanding from outdoor kitchens to complete outdoor living environments, with all of the comforts of indoors al fresco, and enjoying them far beyond the summer months, fueling the popularity of outdoor fire features. “While traditional styles of outdoor fireplaces remain the most popular, linear outdoor fireplaces are growing at an extremely fast rate,” notes Napoleon’s Schroeter. “We’re also seeing a lot of peninsulas featuring see-through units that can be enjoyed from multiple spaces within the outdoor living area.”

“In designing and building outdoor living environments, anything is possible – from water features to fire pits, to just about anything you can imagine,” Menn shares. “I think the fire pit is the most popular. You can design and build a custom one either using wood or gas as the fuel. You can build in seating using a low masonry wall, or design custom seating. Do you want it protected from the elements, or do you want it open to the sky? Do you want a large screen TV? You name it, it’s been designed,” the architect declares.

Perry with Kerrisdale Lumber adds, “In the outdoor space we are seeing big growth in fire pits and fire tables. People are trying to stretch the night out in their spaces and use them more in the shoulders seasons, it seems. Fire pits that have a rim for drinks and food are very hot right now.”

LAST WORDS

HPBA’s CEO Goldman suggests, “I would recommend to anyone who is working in the design, contracting or building field to put these ideas in front of their customers and see what happens. Fire features create a desirable ambiance in any room or outdoor space in a home.” They can also create increased profitability for your projects. ▪

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