It won’t be long before the last vestiges of Indian summer flee the northern part of the nation, to be replaced by the arrival of Jack Frost. It’s the season when rooms with fireplaces take on renewed favor as gathering spots in homes, inns and other settings.
In recent years, when people have sought out the charm, warmth and dancing flames of fireplaces, they’ve noticed a new head-turning style. The pleasing aesthetics are delivered by increasingly popular custom fireplaces, particularly the frameless variety. Fittingly, one of the creators and many of the buyers of these fireplaces are based where such hearth pieces are as much a functional necessity as an aesthetic desire.
That place of course is frigid, frozen Minnesota.
“The frameless fireplace trend is about having a minimalistic look that creates a unique space in a home where the focus is on the fire,” says Chris Maxson, CEO and owner of Big Lake, Minn.-based Acucraft Fireplaces, which builds each of its custom fireplaces by hand to customers’ specifications. The company creates fireplaces for luxury homes of celebrities, executives and others from coast to coast.
“As a permanent fixture, a fireplace must adapt with trends, yet remain timeless. Whether it’s wood or gas burning, or the viewing area is open or sealed with glass, homeowners, architects and builders love the nearly limitless options a custom fireplace can provide. Not to mention, the fireplace will lend itself to being a focal point in a sophisticated or elegant space.”
What exactly is a frameless fireplace? It’s typically a gas fireplace with little, if any, steel on the exposed frame and trim, Maxson says. An example are linear fireplaces, which feature clean, sharp edges for a seamless style being seen in the toniest of today’s luxury custom homes. “Typically, they’re surrounded by marble, tile or stone,” Maxson says. “Choosing a custom fireplace for your home means you’re selecting a one-of-a-kind fireplace your family can enjoy for generations.”
If the experience of Tim Whitten is any indication, more and more homeowners are opting for their own distinctively different fireplaces. Whitten is owner of Whitten Associates, Inc., a Wayzata, Minn. architectural firm, and as an architect, land planner and developer has been involved in more than 100 single-family, multifamily, mixed-use, redevelopment and senior housing projects across the U.S.
“We’re seeing a strong demand for more contemporary style architecture in our residential projects,” he remarks. “The frameless fireplace is perfect with its clean, simple lines. We are also designing a more transitional architecture, which includes traditional forms but with contemporary details and materials. A ‘modern farmhouse’ style is an example. A frameless fireplace fits here as well . . . Looking ahead to 2022, I believe we’ll see fewer traditional fireplaces. Our clients, the entire market, are moving toward contemporary and modern styles.”
The modern approach to home design places the fireplace as the focal point in a room, says Amy Hendel, principal, designer and head of marketing at Hendel Homes, also based in Wayzata. “While I anticipate the clean, modern style will stay strong over the next 5 to 10 years, the frameless fireplace design is timeless,” Hendel says. “Not only is it in style right now, it’s also stunning. The frameless fireplace is really that classic interior design style that goes with anything. It can be a juxtaposition to more traditional looks or blend with the clean coastal to the strong contemporary.”
Hendel predicts her clients will increasingly choose fireplaces that are open, without being glassed in. “The linear fireplace will continue to play well for 2022,” she says.
Come to think of it, the question of what form custom, frameless and highly artistic hearth pieces will take is a fitting topic for a chill evening’s cozy gathering of friends comfortably ensconced — where else? — around a cheery fire.