Vintage Fireplace / July 18, 2018 / Leia Burnette.
In the 20th century, the fireplace continued to serve as a dreamlike emblem of the happy home. Colonial Revival houses relied heavily on the simpler designs of the Colonial and Federal periods, and while mantelshelves and colonettes abounded, there was scarcely an overmantel to be seen. In Prairie School houses of Frank Lloyd Wright and his followers, monolithic brick and stone chimney walls may be of simple fieldstone or glazed brick or tile.
Fireplace surrounds might be of marble or marbleized wood. Black marble with white or cream graining (or, often, faux marble painted on wood or slate) was a favorite mantelpiece material. The best houses, however, were likely to have mantelpieces of white marble. The 1850s and 1860s ushered in Victorian design influences—heavy arches defining the opening of the firebox and heavy molded paneling of marble or iron on the surrounds. Elaborately decorated iron fireplace inserts were common, and coal grates by now had almost replaced the earlier wood log and andiron arrangement, especially in the East.
Faux painting became common in this period, as marbleized or "grained" wood mimicked the real thing on mantelpieces. Toothlike dentil molding edged the undersides of mantelshelves supported by consoles. The Federal period from 1785 to 1825 saw lighter treatments for mantelpieces, as well as for other architectural elements, while the grandiose overmantel of the Georgian era became far less common. The mantelpiece was typically composed of a broad, decorated frieze, or band, below the mantelshelf, with pilaster trim or colonettes at either side of the firebox. It might be made of wood, marble, or a marble look-alike such as Coade stone (an English cast-stone product). Decoration was graceful and slender, with applied neoclassical motifs such as swags, garlands, and urns often set into rectangular or oval plaques in the frieze above the fireplace or in slim, paneled pilasters beside it.
If somebody would ask you, "Is this type of fireplace a good substitute for wood burning heating device?" your answer would be either yes or no, depending on which perspective you believe. Propane fireplaces were created to eradicate the difficulty of severe smoke, which is essential in the vintage wood fireplace types. Since propane fireplaces use propane to heat homes, there is no particulate component being scattered into the air.