Todd Lange, owner of Lange Design & Build, in Detroit, designed this fireplace for his own family room.
How important is a fireplace and mantel? Take it from a man who tours hundreds of houses a year and whose sales depend on features that attract buyers: “Every room needs a centerpiece,” says David Kean, an interior designer and real estate agent with The John Aaroe Group, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
According to Kean, an engaging fireplace and mantel can provide grandeur for an otherwise ho-hum room or it can “take an already fabulous room over the top.”
Stylistically, Kean says, a fireplace and mantel should blend with the architecture of the home. That rule dissolves, though, in sleek contemporary homes where old-world timbers and stone, often salvaged from old homes, “create a very dramatic juxtaposition of old and new.”
Off-the-beaten-track mantel materials Kean suggests include a translucent concrete by Litracon and handcrafted limestone reproductions such as the ones offered by Exquisite Surfaces.
Rich With Possibilities
He took down the standard brick of the existing fireplace, framed and drywalled a new curved hearth, and then set to work using scraps of slate — from India and South America — salvaged from prior jobs. He used stone trim around the fireplace and the firewood storage box because it is more durable than wood.
Traditional fireplace and mantel materials work well, albeit with some out-of-the-box designs, for remodeler Todd Lange, owner of Lange Design & Build, in Beverly Hills, a Detroit suburb. Lange has created a niche for himself upgrading look-alike fireplaces in his area, near the birthplace of Pulte Homes. “We have vast numbers of these homes that have the same brick fireplaces,” Lange notes, and those fireplaces are rich with possibilities.
“[The fireplace] is a feature of the house that people are willing to be more creative with,” Lange says. Whereas homeowners might have a firm idea of the cabinet style, the moldings, and the windows and doors they want, they often don’t have set ideas on the fireplace. And that allows Lange to express his creative side and blend some of his favorite materials: stone, tile, and wood. “I prefer to build (a mantel) like a piece of furniture,” he says, rather than using timbers, which twist and crack.
While fireplace remodels are more of a “want to” project for clients than a “have to,” Lange points out to clients that a striking focal point in a great room can help to sell a house in the future. A house with one of his fireplaces in it is for sale, as are several other houses on the same street. But the competition may not be all that tough: “I doubt any of them would have as beautiful and artistic a fireplace,” Lange says.
Lange’s fireplace and the rest of his remodeled home is so appealing that a production company rented the house for a day to shoot a commercial for a local hospital, which led to its use in a national commercial. In Lange’s case, an extraordinary fireplace offers more than just warmth and beauty, “It has earned me money,” he says.
—Kathy Price-Robinson writes about home improvement and maintains Kathy’s Remodeling Blog, www.kathysremodelingblog.com.