Ever actually roasted chestnuts on an open fire? I highly recommend it, but it takes practice, and of course---an open fire to roast them in...
Maybe I'm just getting a bit nostalgic this time of year or maybe it's the fact that I have 2 fireplace projects in my shop right now, but I decided to 'pen' a few thoughts on the fireplace mantle and what it means to the modern household. If anything?
We all have that idyllic image in our minds where a roaring fire crackles as people read books, sings songs or smoke a pipe next to its warm light. Well, pipe smoking sing-alongs and even 'book' reading, are going the way of the dinosaur, so what should we do now around fireplaces beside hang stockings once a year. Because how many people use them for daily heat these days?
Just about every house has a built in chimney somewhere. And it was once the center piece of a well designed living room. You actually arranged furniture and seating around it's presence. Now we all know the device that has taken it's place as the center of attention. But can a big screen TV really coexist in perfect harmony for the symbol of comfort and community? I think so but not in the obvious way.
By this I mean, placing a TV in the ergonomically tragic position above the fireplace. It may look kinda cool, but your neck will tell you a different story in a couple years. And even and 3D HD projection loop of bright toasty flames in 5.1 surround is anything but 'toasty'.
When I lived in England it surprised me that most fireplaces were inoperable, even illegal to use. Pamela and I had to actually smash through the wall of our first flat like Indiana Jones to reveal the mystery fireplace within. I then built a mantle with an abandoned beam from the back garden. Looky here for the results...
I really miss this one and I have a clear image of the many cool fireplace designs of all of the flats we inhabited during our British days. Now that I'm back in the states I hope to incorporate their inspiration into things I build on this side of the pond.
So whether it's merely for annual stockings, a place to hang a painting (not a TV) or something that will actually be used to gather around and relax; I am a firm believer that a good fireplace is the perfect place in the home to disconnect from the modern life spin cycle. Just sit-think-chat-relax in any order you find fit. Lord knows we need it.
Now excuse me, I think my chestnuts are ready;)
PS: All the pics in this post are fireplaces I've built over the years. I can't wait to make some more...