Design + Architecture

A renter-friendly fireplace for frigid days, no chimney required

By Leigh Kamping-Carder | January 30, 2015 - 1:59PM

Congratulations, you survived the “blizzard” of 2015. But January is not done with you yet. The temperature is set to dip below freezing, a rain/snow hybrid is falling from the sky, and slush puddles have turned the city sidewalks into a quicksand-like obstacle course. If ever there was a time to curl up in front of the fire, this is it. 

In that spirit, we traipsed to Chelsea on Thursday at the behest of HearthCabinet, a company that's been selling ventless fireplaces to New Yorkers since 2007, to taste-test whiskey and check out the designs in person. (Someone had to do it.)

A wire mesh screen protects kids and pets

Approved by the city fire and buildings departments, the fireplaces give off real flames like their wood-burning counterparts, but run on alcohol-gel cartridges that emit a water vapor, which means no chimneys, vents or gas lines are involved.

The cartridges are oblong like a log, so the flames burn in a traditional shape

They're installed with screws, often into an existing mantel or other surround, and while they’re not exactly portable--you wouldn’t want to move one from room to room like a chair--they’re not permanently fixed either, so you could take one with you to a new apartment. Indeed, the company has had a handful of renters buy the fireplaces over the last year, says Robert Hendrickson, HearthCabinet’s marketing manager, though typically the company deals directly with architects and contractors. Considering that fireplaces are said to add 2 to 5 percent to the value of a home, and wood-burning fireplaces may be going extinct, it's potentially a decent investment for the average apartment owner as well.

Along with the color of the finish, you can choose what material forms the bed for the cartridge, from fake birch logs to clear crystals, above

That said, they’re not cheap. Made in Brooklyn, the fireplaces come in eight different standard sizes starting at roughly 26 by 24 inches. The least expensive model--the smallest one finished in a black powder-coated steel--starts at $4,100, whereas a three-sided version in stainless steel will set you back $13,500. (The company throws in a case of eight alcohol cartridges, which each burn for about two hours, with each fireplace. Refills cost $8 each, and come in unscented, vanilla, pine and cinnamon flavors.) The most popular finishes are stainless and black powder-coated steel, but you can customize them in whatever color or you’d like, including polka dots or Ferrari red. Some companies have ordered massive fireplaces for their corporate offices that run into the tens of thousands of dollars. “The sky is kind of the limit,” says Hendrickson.

Off the walls: Double- and tripled-sided models can go just about anywhere


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