Critical thinking lies at the heart of good design, with many architects balancing square inches with the quest for maximum return on investment or net operating income. Accounting for aesthetic, space, and budget requirements can present a tricky design problem.

That’s one reason why gas and electric fireplaces manufacturers are now presenting architects with products that solve for space issues, maximizing usable interior space with slimmed down offerings.

Versatile Slim Design

Created by the Lakeville, Minn.–based fireplace manufacturer Heat & Glo, the compressed profile of the SlimLine heating units is up to 40% slimmer than traditional box or linear hearths. That skinny profile makes the series a realistic consideration in tight residential and commercial applications.

John Shimek, the R&D team leader at Heat & Glo, is a veteran observer of fireplace design. His work at the company has helped advance the hearth industry across a number of fronts, including the narrow profiles in the Heat & Glo’s SlimLine Series.

“Over the last 20 years, the hearth industry has gravitated to a slimmer and slimmer depth,” Shimek explains. “When you get into the basement, for example, you’re faced with a below-grade situation where a standard bump-out or doghouse hearth is unacceptably large. Interior space is expensive real estate. A depth of 16 inches is a good balance between function and aesthetic.”

Shimek offers architects and interior designers several other observations from his 32 years in hearth innovation:

  • Venting. Venting solutions, necessary for any gas-fueled fireplace, are “a very easy, common install,” Shimek says. “The longer you go in a linear format, the more you have to adjust venting piping. What architects need to know about venting is how flexible these systems are. For example, the venting systems in our SlimLine Series are tested and approved to run safely up to 40 feet in length, with up to four elbow joints in the assembly.” Extended vent runs simplify room placement: Just about anywhere works for gas units. For many exterior wall applications, the only venting requirement is a straightforward single horizontal rear vent, vastly streamlining installation.
  • Multifamily & Commercial. “Today you can put a fireplace in any wall as long as it complies with code,” Shimek says. “The abbreviated format of slim gas fireplaces can be a good solution in multifamily and commercial. The venting is extremely easy and works with most building envelopes. With electric [fireplaces], venting or heat management aren’t issues. It’s a great solution in multifamily units where space, budget, and marketing differentiation are chief considerations.”
  • Linear Models. On-trend linear styles in gas and electric fireplaces are typically specified in production lengths of up to 8 feet, Shimek says. Longer lengths are available on a custom order basis, and electric linears are available in ultra-slim styles that can be finished as part of the wall or recessed into it.

Critical thinking helps architects develop creative solutions to project challenges of form, aesthetic, and function. Knowledge of alternative approaches to common architectural elements—like the slim fireplace—help extend possibilities within the profession.

Learn more about how slim fireplace design opens the door to dozens of fresh hearth applications.