Twilight Modern - Exterior
Twilight Modern - Exterior

The march of innovation in residential home design is relentless. It’s difficult to think of any building product category that hasn’t been fundamentally changed aesthetically, functionally, or both in recent times. The pandemic serves as a supercharging catalyst, a necessary response to material shortages and a shift to the home as workplace.

Consider the deck or patio. The idea of blurred indoor-to-outdoor environment is nothing new. The organic architecture movement traces its roots back to the early 20th century and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School style. Signature elements like windows, natural light, and open floor plans moved into the design mainstream by midcentury and continues to evolve today.

Allure and Warmth

One such signature element is the indoor-outdoor fireplace. The transparency of this feature works as a logical extension of the expansive window wall. In fact, today’s indoor-outdoor fireplace is certified to meet the same fenestration standards as any window product. Think of it as a window view transformed by the allure and warmth of dancing flames.

Few understand this expanding design role better than John Shimek. A master innovator and head of fireplace manufacturer Heat & Glo’s R&D unit, Shimek and his team claim many industry firsts. That tradition was set in motion 34 years ago when Shimek’s father and uncle introduced the first direct vent system.

What advice does Shimek have for residential architects looking to enhance design with fire and daylight? He shares several thoughts:

  • Fenestration Solution. “The indoor-outdoor fireplace is an ideal complement to an expansive window wall,” Shimek says. “The see-through design minimally disrupts a grand outdoor view and creates a compelling architectural focus.”
  • Go-To Application. Shimek reports the fastest-growing application of indoor-outdoor fireplaces is in covered two- or three-sided outdoor spaces. “The majority of growth comes from partially enclosed space,” he explains. “The family wants to be outside with an element of privacy. The outdoor face of the fireplace helps tie that space together.”
  • Simplified Venting. Heat is typically managed by a self-contained venting system directed to the outside. “Venting nearly all heat outside through a discreet opening above the fire box can extend the outdoor season by up to four weeks, Shimek says. “It also saves money by eliminating the need for a venting solution, expected for an indoor-only model.” Shimek cautions the open outdoor heat discharge requires designers to exercise care with combustible materials.
  • Limitless Design. Shimek is humbled by the pace and sophistication of the fire feature ingenuity leaving his company’s R&D center. “We don’t say ‘no’ to design ideas. If you can imagine it, the team here will create it.”

Shimek advises architects and designers to reach out to their local Heat & Glo architectural representative as early as the schematic design phase. “Early collaboration results in a fire feature product that works seamlessly across all trades,” he says.

Today’s indoor-outdoor fireplace smartly serves the imperative of outdoor health and comfort. As architects consider their design options, the two-way versatility of the indoor-outdoor fireplace can be an advantage to keep top of mind.

Next up: An examination of ultra-slim fireplace application and design.

Learn how innovation in indoor-outdoor fireplace technology can advance your design objectives.