Welcome neighbors, to winter’s snowy embrace. Here in the Hamptons we endured a fair dumping of the miraculous white stuff this past month and, despite our cold noses and low back pain, we stopped in our tracks amid the quiet stillness of our gardens feet deep in snow to wonder at the beauty and heavy calmness of a winter’s day under a glorious sky of periwinkle blue.
The night time scene above, outside a snow clad luxurious Hyatt, shows a wonderful fire pit surrounded by comfortable wicker armchairs—the perfect spot for a hot toddy after a hard day on the piste. Outdoor fires connect with us on a deep level, reminding us from whence we came. In England one of the best nights of the year is November 5, Bonfire Night, when young and old, rich and poor gather together to warm themselves, watch firework displays and eat treacle toffee.
The importance of a warming fire cannot be underestimated in the design of your Hamptons home. Hearth and home are fundamental to the gatherings of family and friends which create the foundation of our lives. The fireplace as an essential feature in newly built homes, however, is in decline although it remains a key selling point for home buyers…especially in the Hamptons as the night’s become chilly quite quickly, and many delightful older properties are available. My goal is to reverse that downward trend but, as I read recently that new fireplaces are regulated to have fixed glass screens, I might have a problem. Fires are great feng shui for our living spaces, though, and a home’s occupants benefit greatly from their presence. The fireplace arrangement above draws together the Fire element colors of yellow, orange and red to create a welcoming seating area. The rattan furniture, representing Wood, supports the Fire element perfectly. This fireplace has a wooden mantelpiece with a green marble surround and hearth—elegant yet contemporary.
The perfect focal point for any room, a fireplace sits well in a beach house, country home or city dwelling. The room above, from a home by Nantucket interior designer Kathleen Hay, illustrates beautifully the balance and sense of proportion provided by a well situated fireplace. This room is light and airy yet grounded by the squared off fireplace molding under the coordinated architectural arch and large colorful landscape over the mantel. The eye is led along the curve of the artwork’s sandy road into the village supplying the energy of movement yet the serenity and rootedness of the village invokes a sense of calm. Notice how the purple hydrangea display on the coffee table offsets the black of the fire’s interior structure and picks up from the color in the painting. The mood of the room is set by the fireplace focal point and the personality of the homeowners is reflected accordingly.
Another more contemporary Hamptons arrangement is shown next; with the simple, modern fireplace structure providing an excellent display area for a large, impactful work of art. The clean lines of the surround and tile inlay are mirrored in the design and fabric of the two armchairs which, though a little austere, still look comfortable enough for the Sunday papers. The sturdy dark wooden legs nestle into the shag pile rug cozily and ground the furniture along with the dark slate hearth and grate. The gently lilting orange (Fire) tulips on green stems (Wood) with dark indigo centers are perfect against the dark opening of the fireplace. Logs always need to be set in place, or a fire screen, to camouflage the gaping hole. Tea lights and candles work beautifully here in the summer months.
Mirrors over fireplaces usually work extremely well. Above the natural wood mantel in this wood paneled room the mirror provides depth and reflected light to enliven the entire room which could otherwise be too monotone. The small light at the right of the mantelpiece greatly enhances the whole arrangement balanced by the two white votives to the left. A most exquisite feature is the ornate metal fire guard depicting delicate leaves and birds. The design and femininity of this piece serves to lighten the more dense effect of the wood walls and flooring. Fire guards are an important fire side accessory for safety and enhancement, along with simple or ornate brass fenders surrounding the hearth.
Fireplace surrounds are available in wood, marble, limestone and sandstone. Most reproductions show an English or French influence while reclaimed antique items are available for those who desire an authentic period feature. The elegant and distinctive living room above has a carved marble Chatelaine French style mantel and a gracious brass fire grate really designed to burn coal or smokeless fuel rather than substantial logs. The proportions require a sizeable room to accommodate this fireplace, and to allow it the space to stand alone as a quite beautiful focal point. The darker tone of the teal paint helps accentuate the carvings and the perfectly balanced form. The painting above does not dominate but harmonizes with the female curves and shapes below. The burnished gold frame works with the brass grate and emphasizes the rectangular design of the top section. The family’s memorabilia set on the mantel itself provide a welcome informality: fires are meant to be used and enjoyed by home owners often, not just in formal settings. The subdued tones of these items allow the beauty of the marble surround to continue to shine through. A truly spectacular centerpiece for a stately Hamptons home.
Other options of warmth and glow from a real fire are becoming more popular. The old-fashioned standard of a wood burning stove comes in many sizes and styles these days; from chunky rustic brick and beam type models designed for country kitchens and dens, to elegant stoves at home in gracious living rooms and dining areas. Whichever type suits your home and purpose best doesn’t matter—the important thing is to bring fire, warmth and coziness into your precious home and sanctuary. Then locate the crumpets and long toasting fork and toast away happily in front of the fire, hibernating from the winter chill outside.
Helen Lind is an interior decorator, organizer and home stager working in Long Island and Manhattan. You can contact her at (516) 922-3518 for a proposal or consultation, or visit her online at englishivyinteriors.com.
Pictorial references from Period House, Period Living, The English Home, Elegant Homes, magazines and Color with Confidence.