I think I’m completely justified in talking about fireplace installation on a day like today. It just doesn’t get much drearier than this weather, and it’s all the more difficult to take because we had already injected a healthy dose of spring weather into our veins. Nothing makes you feel more alive than that in my book, and nothing zaps the life right back out of you than getting the snow boots and hats on once again. If we didn’t have the weather, we’d have nothing to talk about… I certainly don’t want that to be the case, so I’ll stop complaining now and carry on.
So, several years ago I saw a smallish photo in a magazine that caught my eye and I carefully cut it out and pinned it onto my inspiration board. I didn’t write down any sort of identifying information – that would have been smart – but there was something about the room in the photo that spoke to me. It showed the wall of a room with tall bookshelves to the ceiling and a gorgeous fireplace ablaze in the center. It was simple and handsome and I knew that it was what I wanted our living room to look like one day.
When we started designing the bookshelves for the room, M suggested that we at least look into the installation of a fireplace since we would be building out that center bump out in the room to align with the new cases. As a quick reminder – our house never had fireplaces, just freestanding stoves that would have sat out in the room in front of the chimney bump out with an exposed cast iron flue that returned into the wall and out the chimney at the roof. We live in a neighborhood with a very broad range of housing types, and our house falls squarely into the simpler / smaller / working class model. Remember, it actually started out as a two-family, so each “unit” was just three rooms. In the larger single family residences around us the mantels would have been marble and they would have surrounded a real working fireplace, but in the more modest versions of this period’s style, the mantels are wood and the stoves are cast iron. When renovating these houses today many people install salvaged decorative cast iron summer fronts like we’ve done. They give the illusion of a fireplace closed up for the summer, but they really just hide a blank wall of plaster behind. When we install our bookshelves we’ll have more room to actually install a full fireplace unit which can be vented out through out existing chimney. Bonus! I started researching models that might work, and stumbled across this:
This is another photograph (different angle) of the same living room that I have tacked to the board over my desk. I followed the trail of links and arrived at the site of the Windsor fireplace – and now I had a name for the fireplace I’ve had tucked away in my mind for all these years. It does exist – and not just in old homes from a century ago. They are still made in Windsor, England, and one other company makes them in Vancouver, BC. So I’ve spent the last week or two contacting suppliers, dealers, and chimney sweeps so that we can find out how we can plan for this, either now, or in the future.
The best sales pitch for one of these beauties? A gray and white
spring winter day like today.
So, here’s a quick tour if you’re following the progress. You can see from this view the lines of the original wall, and how far the new shelves and chimney bump-out will project into the room. When we build this out we’ll re-center the center chimney – it’s slightly off center since our original work involved furring out that front window wall. You’d never know it by standing in there, but it’s very obvious when you try to install symmetrical bookshelves in there.
I really started watching how the girls interact with the books that we have now – I love the height of the ledge in E’s room, and I also love watching F pull the books off of her shelves until she finds just the one she wants. I realized that if we have a continuous bank of cabinets across the bottom then the books are really all out of reach. Some cabinets are a must – we need places to store our games and puzzles, but it’s important that this not become a room of grownup books at grownup heights. Tucking the end walls back slightly also gives more room for the drapes at the windows, and adds a little more visual interest than just a straight line of cabinets and shelves.
I’m currently showing the existing picture rail across the shelves and will likely do that – I love the look of framed pictures hanging in front of the shelves as well. But we could just as easily install a rail system at that same height and hang a library ladder on there – something to access those out-of-reach titles. I think we’ll get past the toddler years before we do that.
Notice I’m showing some out-of-reach furniture as well. A girl can dream in her fictional models, right?
One day we’ll put a pair of Barcelona chairs in here – we might be retired or too old to get back up out of them, but at least we’ll have a nice fire and a stack of reading material to keep us warm, occupied and happy.