a winter flame

gas fireplace
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gas fireplace
free standing fireplace
wood stacker
woodburning stove
custom fireplace
fireplace screen
fireplace with bench
stone fireplace

by Catherine Adams

The Hearth is Where the Heart Is

Going back to the earliest forms of houses, the hearth has always been the nucleus of the home. It’s the spot from which heat and light emanate, a safe and welcoming gathering point. It evokes a primal sentiment in people, drawing them to its warmth and to each other.

“Anthropologically, fireplaces have been the center of the home since the beginning of time,” agrees Jim Lyle, owner of Mountain West Sales in Albuquerque. “We have a deep connection to them.”

There’s no end to the types of fireplaces available. There are wall hung, see-through, bricked-in and standalone versions—contemporary, ornate, traditional and regional. In New Mexico the regional is best represented by the kiva.

“Many people are converting wood fireplaces into gas.”
— David Rentfrow, owner of The Firebird

“The kiva is still very popular,” Lyle says. “There’s nothing like it in terms of a regional fireplace. It has represented authentic New Mexico style for hundreds of years. But kivas are harder to make energy efficient.” So, Mountain West Sales offers a prefabricated kiva of modular masonry that utilizes gas, reducing costs while preserving the look and functionality.

Turning up the Heat
An efficient fuel source is indeed a consideration today. Modern fireplaces and stoves run on wood, electricity, pellets, or the universal favorite, gas. “Many people are converting wood fireplaces into gas,” says David Rentfrow, owner of The Firebird in Santa Fe. A drafty woodburning fireplace is easily transformed into an efficient heat source with a gas insert. “And when it comes time to replace an old woodburning stove, they switch it out with a gas one. A sealed stove or fireplace that runs on gas is about 85 percent efficient. A sealed wood insert is about 75 percent efficient.” Those percentages drop to around 30 percent when a fireplace insert is unsealed, or open. An old, open, woodburning fireplace is around 10 percent efficient.

The Matter of Ambiance
There’s nothing like the sound and smell of an open, piñon or cedar fire crackling.

“The truth is, people want the fireplace but not all the work,” Lyle says, referring to the chore of cleaning out the ashes after a wood fire. “You can do a lot of things with gas you can’t do with wood. You can’t inset an eight-foot-wide woodburning fireplace into a wall.” Plus, with all the different log inserts available you can customize the flame to your satisfaction.

Another way to add ambiance to the hearth is through accompanying accoutrements like grates, screens, mantels, and surrounds. Enter blacksmith Jeremy Hedrick, co-owner of The Iron Anvil in Albuquerque. He practices the waning tradition of old world blacksmithing where everything is handcrafted from iron that’s heated, hammered, forged and shaped into signature works of art.

“…fireplaces have been the center of the home since the beginning of time.” — Jim Lyle, owner of Mountain West Sales

“We’re keeping real blacksmithing alive,” Hedrick says. “People are tired of low quality, mass produced products.” Even people with artificial fireplaces order his screens, log racks, and tool sets, preferring their authentic look to those sold in stores. “People buy them because they want to stand them on the hearth like sculpture.”

Whether it’s gas- or wood-fueled, the hearth is an inviting place to gather, to absorb warmth, and to watch the flames dance. No matter the size or style of a home, there’s a fireplace option for everyone.

Mountain West Sales

The Firebird

The Iron Anvil