Concept design fireplace

The Fireplace reinvented

Brief summary of my concept design practices. In this case, for a significant project requiring 18 months development (and counting).

Know your subject – reviewed for this project :

  • a few thousand contemporary fireplace designs
  • hundreds of industrial design patents
  • range of available fabrication and material options

Develop an understanding of the historical context of your project (viewed a range of historical fireplace designs and materials).


  • Develop an inspired attitude.
  • Original vs imitation – avoid putting a spin on an existing design (depending on time available).
  • Specific goals – create or work from a detailed brief.


  • Contemporary fireplace design
  • Commercial space, hotel lobby, etc.
  • Optimize firelight reflection
  • High quality materials
  • 10’ ceiling

Flexible process, move ahead before completing each step (to get inspired by what comes next) – a dynamic process can lead to a more adventurous design.

Like collecting a dynamic set of puzzle pieces and putting them together in your own preference. Push the boundaries – you don’t actually know where the limits are until you take a design beyond good taste.

Contemporary design benefits from a level of playfulness, due to the dynamic nature of modern fabrication techniques, other arts examples, etc.

Requires thoroughness, you will know when you are beginning to grasp the totality of the brief.

Be objective, mentally stand back and consider strengths and weakness’ in practical terms. View images of concepts from a distance (in very small scale) to better see the overall impression they create. See through the eyes of your client and users – fully understand the “user experience”.

Develop the ability to see design and form in your mind and mentally revolve structures in your mind
Includes form, structural, material and other aesthetic considerations.
Firelight optimization via back and base reflectors as well as the screen.
As an extensive project, there are a wide range of possible solutions.

Concepts need significant refinement to achieve their full potential.
Look for balance, authenticity (embodying the original inspiration).
Understand your design parameters and work to resolve them (firelight optimization, contemporary, etc)

Base plate - simple reflective surface with minimal raised detail.

Back plate - faceted, repeated pattern to provide significant firelight reflection without detracting from the beauty of the flame.

Stone surround – initially had a separate heath and formal looking side panels – gradually evolved into one cohesive unit with a less formal appearance.

Screen - Eventually settled on a vertical format to capture firelight through the full height of the structure. Worked back and forward on random and mathematically defined arrangements.

Explored dynamic vs simple patterns. Settled on a random sculptural screen which pushes the limits of impact.
Rendering - constant rendering to maintain a strong understanding of potential results/subtleties.


DESIGN DEVELOPMENT - note the treatment at the top

As this is the concept stage, a few options are important, giving the engineering and fabrication process room to manoeuvre.

Design a - employs material separation between the firebox and the surrounds (sides and hearth) with all the firebox extending to the ceiling in a brass material allowing for a strong sculptural effect without being overpowering.

Design b – screen is mostly transparent, fully utilizing the interest of the back plate design. The “matrix” arrangement of the design is more understated.

Following up on the playful design characteristic, a facet form to the hearth stone was later extended to the sides of the fireplace as well, giving an even stronger sense of simplicity / material continuity.



Alternate designs (rough renders):
FIREPLACE_scene_fan_wedge_2019_20 FIREPLACE_scene_tendrils_entwined_2019_20 !)

Comments and constructive criticism very welcome.


Is it gonna be a gas fireplace?
What would the smoke-stain effect be, after a while?

I prefer the ‘randomness’ of design A, a pile of wooden branches held above the fire place, feeding the flames.

The more geometrical options could be curtains or rolling shutters, as well…(?)

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Yes, I think I like the randomness of design A as well.

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Good question - the designs are flexible enough to adapt to a range of solutions. If gas was used it may be the filtered variety and some sort of quiet extractor fan system to further reduce any soot build up (EPA rules are rumoured to be tightening up on this), along with a high polish surface that would require less frequent cleaning. Once a year cleaning would not be much of a hardship.

With some refinement A has my vote!

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Yes - definitely needs further refinement - random takes more work.

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Design a – “Peoples Choice Award” with a unanimous vote of 3 to 0.

re investigating the design exploration phase– many contemporary adaptions of existing designs were considered and explored (hundreds of variations) before the current design evolved which is appropriate due to the extent of the innovation of this design.

After some basic thermodynamic engineering analysis, confident design rearrangement is viable to suit engineering requirements (flue height, glass, etc.), so concept design finalization can begin.

Recognize / decide on the design qualities to be emphasized / perfected.


  • positive space design priority (minimal negative space)
  • animation effects – firelight reflections dancing on brass
  • reflection effects on the front faces of the VST
  • engineering innovation potential

The clean, contemporary lines of the hearth and sides to be maintained to complement the contemporary, sculptural form of the VST, to achieve design consistency.

Priority – balanced, random arrangement – is it a screen, or is it a sculpture (positive vs negative space)?

  • Floral arrangement inference – avoid upside down knife block appearance
  • profile - added angled front facets (to complement stone façade)
  • increased depth – design authenticity (original louvre inspiration)
  • too thick - clumsy* reduced the number of positional variables (rotation on 1 axis only instead of 2)
  • mathematical interpretation of arrangement - more "musical")
  • fabrication considerations – no VST intersections
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