Cool isn’t how you’d usually describe a fireplace. However, advances in technology are allowing designers to do innovative things with this ancient source of warmth—without sweating people out of the building.
We’re now seeing fire—once confined to a hearth—extend (safely) throughout interior spaces. Whether long and linear, round, or fully exposed, fireplaces and fire features are becoming more common at multifamily complexes, student housing common areas, and hospitality and entertainment venues. It’s a trend that’s accelerated since COVID-19, says Casey Harvey, vice president of sales at Ray Murray, a Bensalem, Pa.–based wholesale distributor of propane equipment and appliances.wholesale distributor of propane equipment and appliances.
“People want a sense of calm and tranquility when they go out,” Harvey adds.
Here are four trends giving guests a warm welcome—along with a bit of wow factor.
1. Heat management
Go ahead. Touch the glass. Fireplaces with heat-management technology allow designers to bring these features out into the open, without the need for a safety screen. Custom fireplaces from the Langley, British Columbia–based manufacturer, Montigo, come with the proprietary COOL-Pack system that creates a wash of air between the panes, making the glass cool to the touch.
Advanced heat-management solutions also allow fireplaces and flatscreen TVs to share the same wall – not always advisable under normal circumstances. (Heat and sensitive electronics don’t mix.) Methods vary by manufacturer, but the result effectively redirects heat around monitors, artwork, and decor.
“Your fire and TV are your focal points, especially in a commercial setting that needs some kind of entertainment,” says Jeff Bolze, president of Pennwood Home and Hearth, which serves Central Pennsylvania.
2. Grander designs
You might think that 16 feet of flames would make for a toasty environment, but an installation in the VIP lounge of Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia prove otherwise. Power venting and the ability to channel heat elsewhere is removing restrictions, giving designers the freedom to dream up bolder, more dramatic fire features without diminishing comfort.
Ian Zankman, general manager at Dreifuss Fireplaces in Philadelphia, oversaw the Wells Fargo Center project. In this case, vents directed the heat to the story below where it traveled across the ceiling and up through the roof. It’s one of several elaborate projects he’s completed as entertainment facilities compete in a game of one-upmanship.
“Every major job, especially if you’re in a well-to-do area, is competing against other tricked-out places,” Zankman says. “They’re going to have all the amenities. That means multiple fire features with real flame.”
3. Centrally located
Thanks to advanced venting and combustion technology, fireplaces are no longer confined to the wall. More and more, these features are taking center stage. Montigo offers a custom, round commercial model with 360 degrees of glass, making the fire a literal centerpiece attraction. Long, linear fireplaces with see-through glass are also popular options for bisecting large, open spaces, such as lobbies.
With power venting that transports heat elsewhere, fire features don’t need to compete with a building heating system, making them primarily decorative. Freed from the constraints of a wood-burning hearth, flames can take fantastical shapes, such as columns and spirals.
“Realism is not the main desire in a hospitality application,” Harvey notes.
Nor are designers limited to natural gas. For applications in rural areas away from natural gas access, propane is a viable alternative. Some installers note that propane produces taller, slower-moving flames for an even more relaxed atmosphere.
4. Open concept
The open-concept trend, which encompasses spaces with few barriers, extends to fireplaces. That means a glassless, exposed flame.
A word of caution: “You have extreme considerations of where you’re putting it,” advises Sharon Murray, Montigo’s vice president of business development.
That rules out places where small children could be present or high-frequency public spaces. Consider reserving the open-concept fireplace for exclusive clubs or adults-only environments.
Visit propane.com to learn more ways designers are integrating fire features into commercial settings.