A well designed fireplace can be a focal point for the whole room
To make something truly individual, a bespoke fireplace is best achieved with the help of an architect. Depending on the site, small projects like these start at about £7,000 (including fees, labour and materials). The Royal Institute of British Architects can provide you with a list of suitable firms, or contact the Federation of Master Builders for help in finding a suitable builder. For advice on fitting a corner fireplace with a Seventies tempo (these sit at the end of an ‘island’ in the room) contact Modus Design.
For both solid fuel and gas fires, think carefully about scale. Although a fireplace is a valuable focal point in a room, you don’t want to end up in overkill hell with a room that feels claustrophobic. Measure a mock-up in paper and see what it looks like pinned in the space. Similarly, an enormous fire surround will look pretty silly if it makes your gas fire look like a lonely candle (flue-less gas fires which operate in a sealed chamber with a catalytic converter can be particularly problematic in this respect).
Think about how the system will look when not in use, ask yourself what the room is going to feel like in summer. It’s worth visiting a supplier who can show you what their models look like up and running, so be very careful when you buy online. The fire surround you choose is important in terms of atmosphere. It can be uncomplicated, with clean lines or have traditional detailing such as an ornamental mantel.
If you have room, a double-sided fireplace (that sits like a column running floor to ceiling) will help emphasise the height and breadth of an open-plan scheme, while cleverly multitasking as a room divide and a cosy point of focus
at the same time.
The level of your hearth can determine the mood of the room, There are two types – constructional (lying flush with the surrounding floor), and superimposed (raised with concealed fixings). They both do the same job, but a suspended fireplace (with a higher hearth) appears to ‘float’ at eye level, which is a modern design twist.
For period surrounds, architectural salvage is a good option (salvo.co.uk or architectural-salvage.co.uk). Antique pieces are invariably more expensive than buying new and tend to be ‘price on request’, buy through your contractor or architect and they should give you a trade discount.