Fireplace Accessories with Flair

Fireplaces have come a long way since people relied on them as their sole source of cooking and heating, but they’re still a natural attraction in any room when it’s cold outside. Even though we’ve switched to central heating and sophisticated kitchen ranges, the hearth remains a source of comfort and relaxing light on cold winter nights.

Accessories can turn an average-looking fireplace into a dazzling centerpiece of the room. Your choice of fireplace tools and accessories can express your unique personal style and your decorating talents.

The enormous selection of accessories available today can make choosing difficult. It’s best to begin with the basics.

Fireplace screens are practical as well as attractive. They keep sparks and debris inside where they belong, and keep your pets out. A flat screen sits in a frame and is pulled aside using a pull chain, much like a set of draperies. These screens are typically made from flexible metal mesh. Folding fireplace screens fold into two V-shapes like a set of bifold closet doors. Glass is the most common material for folding screens, although mesh panels are also common. Each type is available in a tremendous selection of styles to match your decorating approach.

Fireplace tools are practical too. You’ll need a poker for stirring the fire, a scoop for taking out the ashes, and a set of tongs for picking up logs and rearranging them. All of these tools should fit securely in a holder. Tools should match or enhance your screen. Most fireplace tool sets are made of brass or iron, but they’re available in other metals including copper, pewter, bronze, and and chrome.

Andirons are mostly decorative, although originally they were used to keep logs from rolling out. You’ll have to be careful to get a good match between your andirons, your tool set, and your screen. Andirons can be very ornate or very plain, or anything in between.

A log holder near the hearth is a good way to keep your firewood neat and keep debris from getting scattered around. Wood carriers will help you get your logs from the woodpile to your fire without dropping dirt and sawdust along the way. If you decide to sacrifice tradition for convenience, then a gas log fireplace unit will save you the trouble and mess of bringing in firewood and taking out ashes.

Fireplaces aren’t very practical as sources of heat. Because they’re not airtight, most of the heat goes straight up the chimney. A fireplace insert is a wood stove that fits tightly into the firebox and transforms it into a super-efficient heating unit. Many fireplace inserts have glass doors so you still get the effect of an open fire.

An electric fireplace insert is an electric heater that fits into your existing fireplace and gives off a warm, friendly glow. An electric insert will give you the good looks of an open fire, without the mess and possible safety concerns of burning wood.

Wood stoves come in a full range of sizes and price. A good woodstove is airtight and very efficient and can be set to hold a fire for five to six hours while you’re away. Safety is more of a concern with woodstoves than with a fireplace because an airtight fire burns in a low oxygen environment. This produces creosote, which can plug your chimney. Creosote is highly flammable and can set your chimney on fire. A variety of wood stove accessories is available.

Whether you have a fireplace or a woodstove, you need to have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly. A professional chimney sweep service is the best way to have this done.