American Hardwood Information Center

Warmth, Style & Durability. Treasured for Generations

It has been a long time since a fireplace was a practical necessity in the typical American home. Nowadays we have much more efficient, economic, and environmentally friendly methods of heating our houses and apartments. But the fireplace hasn’t lost its considerable architectural and decorative power; it’s still a marvelous way of bringing focus, visual interest, and a sense of welcoming warmth to any residential interior. Those qualities are further enhanced by the use of hardwood for mantels or fireplace surrounds. Here are three examples that prove the rule.

A walnut fireplace in the den of a Cape Cod-style house in Minnesota by Ron Brenner Architects and Kristin Hoaglund Design. Photograph by Annie Wiegers

 

Modest, practical, and homey, the Cape Cod style has stood for warmth and comfort, integrity and security since its beginnings in 17th-century New England. Architect Ron Brenner was inspired by the colonial archetype when designing a new house in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. Designer Kristin Hoaglund kept true to that spirit when decorating its interiors. The cozy den epitomizes how successful the simple, clean style can be in the right hands. A custom solid-walnut fireplace surround anchors the space, its unfussy silhouette and tan-leather color set off by soft gray Carrara marble tiles and walls painted a rich shade of slate. A honey-color white-oak floor completes the picture.

 

 

Walnut fireplace, paneling, bookshelves, and cabinetry in the Georgian-style library of a residence by Stuart Silk Architects in Seattle, Washington. Photograph by Benjamin Benschneider

 

Originated in 18th-century England, the Georgian style is as polished and imposing as Cape Cod is plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean it has to be pompous or overbearing, which architect Stuart Silk demonstrates in the library of a recently completed Seattle house. By filling the stately room with walnut—wall paneling, mouldings, bookshelves, and cabinetry, all of it burnished under many layers of hand-applied lacquer—Silk has created a warm cocoon that embraces rather than intimidates. And by using the same wood for the mantel and surround of the large fireplace, he has seamlessly integrated what could have been a showy element into the beautifully detailed, calmly atmospheric space.

 

 

A custom fireplace with a cherry mantel and side columns and black-granite surround in the library of a New York City apartment by Ania Stempi Design.

 

Polish-born, New York–based interior designer Ania Stempi brings an eclectic, European sensibility to the renovation of a Tribeca apartment she recently undertook. “Not rigidly following any one particular style, region, or time period is the key to an interesting design,” she says. “You can’t be afraid to mix different styles.” In the library, for instance, Stempi brings a wide array of furnishings—an upholstered ottoman, a midcentury coffee table, contemporary Italian armchairs, a Donegal-style area rug, and a collection of artifacts from around the world—together with custom fireplace whose cherry mantel and side columns and black-granite surround have an Art Deco vibe, which somehow unites the otherwise disparate pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

Ron Brenner Architects
226 Myrtle Street East
Stillwater, MN 55082
www.ronbrennerarchitects.com

Kristin Hoaglund Design
Lake Elmo, MN
www.kristinhoaglund.com

Stuart Silk Architects
2400 N 45th St, Ste 200
Seattle, WA 98103
stuartsilk.com

Ania Stempi Design
137 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
www.aniastempi.com

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