Christian Franco, Architectural Designer
Christmas is near! And as the song goes, “Chestnuts roasting on an open stove”…wait, what?
That can’t be right.
I’ve always believed that the classic Christmas tune summarizes the essence of the holidays. But what if someone doesn’t have an open fire (or a closed fire for that matter)? Is Christmas dead for them? Surely not. But many of the images and family activities once associated with Christmas will be nothing more than the memory of a movie scene. Some people might argue that fireplaces are a hassle or that heat-generating features in high-temperature climates do not serve a true purpose … I beg to differ.
Fire has a hypnotic effect, the same way a barrel vault or an arch does. It taps into our subconscious nature. Since our primitive beginnings, it has attracted us because it provided warmth during cold nights, helped us keep watch over wild surroundings and (my personal favorite) allowed us to cook food. It has given us light without altering our circadian rhythm. We could go even deeper by mentioning that the color temperature emitted by fire (around 1800 K) has a biological effect on us, tapping into our appetite and levels of relaxation. And the list goes on… All of these qualities have ensured survival and comfort for thousands of years, so it’s pretty safe to say that over many centuries, our genetic code has been conditioned to view fire as a friend, not a foe.
Source: Homesale Realty
Now, putting biological aspects aside, the romantic nature of a flame is second to none (cue the dimming lights). There is nothing quite like the flickering orange hues that whip back and forth, casting strategic shadows over the face of your significant other while reminiscing about another time or promising for the future over a full-bodied glass of wine.
And from a child’s perspective, a fireplace is where they discover (and respect) heat; the place where they toast marshmallows; where everybody gathers without being zombified by the television; the place where conversation can be interrupted by silence and still be enjoyed. The place where they can forever come back to after wearing down their soles…the place they call home.
Ok, so remove the significant other and the kids and what are you left with? Well, the idea of one’s own company is probably just as attractive as having that special someone at your side. The promise of losing yourself in contemplation over an object without external distractions is meditation at its best…reverie. Or as Gaston Bachelard honestly puts it in his book, The Psychoanalysis of Fire:
“The fire confined to the fireplace was no doubt for man the first object of reverie, the symbol of repose, the invitation to repose. One can hardly conceive of a philosophy of repose that would not include a reverie before a flaming log fire. Thus, in our opinion, to be deprived of a reverie before a burning fire is to lose the first use and the truly human use of fire.”
None of this would be possible without a fireplace. However, some still make the conscious decision to deprive themselves of the fireplace!
When adding up the numbers and looking at the many options Ashton Woods Homes has to offer on some of our designs, many choose to sacrifice the fireplace. When taking a step back and thinking about the life and richness that a fireplace brings to a home, especially during the holidays, it’s hard to imagine a home without one. In the minds of many (mine included), the fireplace continues to play an essential role in the very definition of home. So, my recommendation would be when making a decision on what your future home looks like, don’t think “what luxuries can I do without?”, but think “what luxuries provide the most amount of pleasure?” I truly believe that this way, your home will surely provide the essentials that will bring happiness and warmth day in and day out