Gas, electric and other fireplace alternatives are no longer the unsightly, loud units you may remember. Today there are a number of beautiful stoves that will bring warmth and style into your home.
The cold weather season is officially here, and isn't going anywhere for a long, long time. It seems that nearly every iconic image of New Englanders bunkering down as winter approaches is someone curled up on the couch in front of a roaring, cozy fire.
So what if you live in a condo? Or don't have a huge (and often costly) fireplace in your living room? It used to be that your options were limited - wait for the holiday season and turn the TV on to the looped fire video, or buy an unsightly or noisy freestanding stove.
Luckily, these days there is a huge market of well-designed electric, gas and pellet stoves where you are sure to find something that fits your lifestyle.
Lisa Dougherty of Soca Design Studio in Manchester used an electric fireplace to dress up her client's living room (pictured far left). A true fireplace was obviously not an option for the Manchester condo, but the electric version with mantel creates much the same feel - and without the mess and maintenance of firewood, ash and soot.
The stove, says Dougherty, comes with options of what to put around it (in this case, a traditional-looking mantel was used) and needs no special electric installation - just plug it in and an atmosphere of warmth is instantly created. Plus, with the remote, everything can be controlled right from the sofa.
Though stoves like her client's are stylish in their own right, says Dougherty, people still don't really believe it until they see it. Stopping by a specialty stove store or doing some research online (see the information box for fireplace resources) is a good way to see what's available and how it might look in your home.
At Feel the Warmth in Bedford, owners Jackie and Steve Larose have many models of fireplaces - from gas, pellet stoves and, yes, wood-burning stoves - set up in their store.
Both gas and electric stoves have their advantages and disadvantages, says Steve Larose. While gas stoves will heat a much larger area and appear more like real flames, they require more energy and are not suitable for every home. Many condo associations do not allow gas stoves as they don't want visible outside vents. Though condo associations may not allow them, gas stoves are versatile, says Larose. Vents can run to the basement, the roof or on a side wall.
"They're very consumer friendly," says Larose. "I always say, if you can vent it, vent it."
Electric stoves, on the other hand, are perfect for condos - all they require is an electrical outlet.
Both gas and electric stoves are low maintenance, and can be controlled with the ease of remotes and thermostats, adds Larose. While pellet stoves require only a little cleaning, it's another household task many homeowners don't want to take on.
These types of stoves," says Larose, "really have come along way. They're pretty, almost like a piece of furniture." NH
Feel the Warmth
273 South River Rd.
Soca Design Studio
1750 Elm St. Suite 103
This article appears in the November 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine