Maybe it’s a holdover from our cave-dwelling days, but indoor fires draw us in both physically and emotionally. Fireplaces are warm, they’re welcoming, they invite easy conversation when we gather around them — and they’re the ultimate way to level up your home’s coziness in the cooler winter months.
“Fireplaces are a comfort of home; they’re a gathering place,” says interior designer Nyla Free of Calgary-based Nyla Free Designs Inc. “When you combine fireplaces with candles and music, it creates a whole experience.” This ability to enhance ambience is one reason Free is starting to see her clients requesting fireplaces in multiple rooms in a house, including dining rooms and bedrooms. “You can have your fireplace on with a cup of coffee in bed, on a cozy winter morning,” says Free. “It can really set a mood.”
Fireplaces are especially important in Calgary, where the dark, chilly days of fall and winter call on their main function — to heat things up. With that in mind, here are three fireplaces designed by Free that will inspire you to keep the home fire burning this season.
Transitional bridges the gap between traditional and modern. In this living room, the classic,
square gas fireplace has modern lines and a concrete surround, but its parchment-coloured finish, combined with the furniture’s warmer tones and textures, keeps the overall look somewhere in the middle.
Free wanted the fireplace to be the focal point in this space, with the furniture arranged accordingly. The chunky surround and five-inch mantle add dimension and presence. “The size and shape of the mantle are a great scale for the room, keeping furniture and conversation in mind,” says Free.
Get the look
Choose a square fireplace, says Free, and use simple, clean materials for the surround such as concrete or natural stone. Select a herringbone pattern or brick lay option for the fireplace panel. Consider a neutral colour palette, but don’t shy away from creating contrast by pairing taupe with black, or cream with charcoal. Mixing textures is key, too — this room has upholstery and leather, a nubby area rug, plus patterned pillows, candles and a floral bouquet for visual interest.
Clean lines, rectangular shapes and monochromatic black, grey and white tones are the hallmarks of contemporary style. This double-sided, low and wide gas fireplace checks off all the boxes. In the living room (first photo), a large panel of grey natural stone makes up the top of the surround and acts as a piece of art, while the hearth is composed of black custom millwork. On the flip side, in the family room (second photo), the millwork extends to the ceiling and the hearth is a piece of concrete-coloured quartz. On both, raw steel immediately surrounds the linear silhouette, and works to connect the two rooms.
Due to its size and volume, the living room needed a commanding showpiece above the fireplace, while the cozier family room, with its sectional and camouflaged TV, called for a less formal treatment. Hence, Free designed two very different spaces that are tied together by the millwork and fireplace.
Get the look
Two-sided linear fireplaces are a great choice for contemporary homes, providing two looks with a cohesive feel, says Free. “In a modern space, the focus is less on the fireplace unit, and more about the materials surrounding it,” she says. Downplay the fireplace panel with a solid colour like black, grey or brown, but play up textures and interesting materials, such as stone, oversize tile, rich wood or the whimsy of a button-tufted ottoman.
This old-meets-new look pairs clean lines with rustic accents, such as wood floors or chunky support beams. “Warm and inviting is the goal when considering a modern prairie aesthetic,” says Free. “Come in and put your feet up and leave your worries at the door.”
This dining room inside a new home on a rural property is a closed-off space that functions as the everyday eating area. “The owners didn’t want this space to feel too precious,” says Free. The tall, rectangular gas fireplace, with its limestone surround, adds a relaxed sophistication and a layer of warmth and intimacy to the vaulted space. It’s the focal point when the sun goes down, but during the day, the view from the bank of windows takes precedence.
Get the look
Soft finishes and textures contribute to a successfully designed prairie home, says Free. Square- or portrait-shaped fireplaces are fitting options, and can be framed in limestone, concrete or quartzite — materials that provide texture and warmth.