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Liz Lee
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Over the past few months, we have had the incredible opportunity to work with the Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew, on their new Celebrity IOU TV Series!

In this HGTV series, the Property Brothers help A-list celebrities like Michael Bublé, Jeremy Renner, and Viola Davis express their deep gratitude to individuals who have had a major impact on their lives by surprising them home renovations!

We were approached by The Scott Brothers because they had seen and liked what we had to offer and we were thrilled to be given the chance to provide fireplaces for the series!

Viola Davis

Viola headed to Minneapolis to surprise her acting school roommate and best friend of 30 years with a home renovation.

It is safe to say that the Scott Brothers have an eye for design. They decided to go with the elegant Modore 75H by Element4 for Viola’s friend’s new living room.

Our sales manager Chris, was invited to be on the set during the installation to give some advice and guidance.

“Having an opportunity to work with the Scott Brothers was something special for us. It can get crazy on set, and what appealed most to me about Drew and Jonathan is their approachability during filming. They were energized and great listeners. Their ability to absorb key information about our fireplaces, then put that knowledge to work in front of the camera was what impressed me the most. I look forward to working with them on set again!”

Our friends at All Seasons Fireplace were instrumental in making this install possible!

The final look features natural wood, soft colors, and a marble mantle.

Michael Bublé

In this episode singer Michael Bublé pays tribute to his grandfather by fulfilling his final wish: to provide his caretaker, Minette, with a place to live. Michael calls on the Brothers to help him renovate his grandfather’s home.

In this build, the Property Brothers wanted not one, but two of our fireplaces. The dining room is now a large space made cozy with our Summum 100 Single-Sided.

In the living room, they went with grays surrounding our Modore 140  to tie in beautifully with the rest of the room for a relaxing sanctuary. A great dealer we work with, Urban Fireplaces, helped to make this install happen!

Jeremy Renner

Jeremy is moving his mom to Los Angeles to be closer to her family. He calls on the Property Brothers to transform her dated condo into a modern-meets-cozy oasis where she can entertain the family, especially her grandchildren.

European Home co-founders Holly & John Markham were on set for the installation of our Modore 100H fireplace that was chosen for this renovation.

Even in the most organized installation issues can arise. John describes what happened:

“In the picture that you see on the above right with Jonathan and Jeremy, you see the vent pipe behind Jonathan’s head.

This had to be moved because the condo association didn’t allow the venting on the side of the house. I worked with the installer to find a new termination location. It ended up having a vertical termination. The vent behind Jonathan was removed and the wall was patched and repainted on the outside.”

Holly comments:

“What I noticed right away about the visit to Celebrity IOU/ Jeremy Renner was the coordination that was taking place. There were a lot of workers, a lot of cars and trucks meaning the logistics in a tight side street is tricky. They keep everyone moving. No Stopping could be the motto.

Once we went in, we signed documents, they took our pictures – my joke was that they did it so they would know who to cut from the show…my joke turned into foreshadowing, unfortunately.

Inside the house, it was similar to the outside, lots of people, lots of movement. You had to find an area and not get in the way.

Once the taping was about to start, the camera operators were in place, the mics were tested and they yelled: “Quiet on the set”. It felt very official. I enjoyed seeing Jonathan in action because I could see how natural he is in front of the camera. There were not many retakes if any. He really enjoys both the personal conversations as well as the materials and installation conversations.

Outside, the neighbors were stopping by and Jonathan could not have been more gracious. He took pics with the neighbors, joked around, and gave hugs.

At the end of a hot, sticky day, he jumped into his black limo and was wisked away. We stayed to figure out the installation.”

In the end, they transform Jeremy’s mothers dated condo into a welcoming space where she can entertain the family and host sleepovers with her grandchildren. This build was accomplished with help from our friends at Fiddler on the Roof Chimney Service.

We cannot thank the Property Brothers enough for the opportunity to be apart of this truly heartwarming series!

Liz Lee
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If an automobile has beautiful lines, but a sputtering, powerless engine, would it be considered a keepsake classic? How about a home with a transcendent exterior, but an interior with cookie-cutter rooms and cheap fixtures?

 

What about a gas fireplace with obvious quality design and components, but an anemic, static flame? From our standpoint, a resounding no to all three, especially the last! To us, an inferior flame is heresy, punishable by a lifetime supply of Sterno.

 

Which is all the more reason why we consider the fireplaces created by our Dutch partners Element4 to be the absolute gold standards of the industry. Like their fellow Dutchmen, Rembrandt and van Gogh, they are masters in replicating the beauty of the natural world in their own inimitable style.

 

Element4 founder and owner Jan Kempers and his team have pored over every minute detail for the past 15 years to create gas burners that produce a flame picture that is unmatched in the industry. From their single burner fireplaces to the industry’s first quad burner with a fifth bottom burner, the flame is the essential beating heart of their fireplace.

 

"The flame is the essential beating heart of a fireplace."

 

Looking at an Element4 flame - whether it be in their corner gas fireplace, double-sided gas fireplace, outdoor gas fireplace or any of their other modern direct vent gas fireplace models - is like standing in front of van Gogh’s iconic The Starry Night. It’s mesmerizing, in part because the flames swirl like his brushstrokes, creating a timeless, indelible image.

 

The beauty of the flame, the clean modern design of the firebox, and the incredibly realistic look of the logs and other fireplace media like embers and glass would be enough for most. But Kempers and his team are quintessentially Dutch, which for them, means that their product has to deliver function as much as form.

 

That design aesthetic is rooted in the Dutch style, which mirrors the more recognized Scandinavian style in its bedrock principles of clean simple lines, practicality, and use of natural materials.

 

Dutch design style gained prominence in the 1980’s, with the likes of industrial designers Hella Jongerius, Frans Schrofer and Hester van Eeghen, architects Rem Koolhaus and Francine Houben and the recognition of the Design Academy Eindhoven as one of the world’s preeminent design influencers.

 

So it’s no surprise that Kempers and his team have embraced those principles as they’ve built out Element4’s extensive line of modern gas fireplaces.  As simple and intentional the modern lines of their fireplaces are, the company never forgets that function is just as important as form.

 

One of the most practical and important features of an Element4 direct vent gas fireplace is the ability to either turn down or off individual burners, reducing heat output, emissions and fuel use. This results from the extensive R&D and testing the company has done on designing burner systems that produce the perfect flame for the chosen setting - with no waste and no reduced efficiency. And no need to dump the heat outside with wasteful "summer kits" either, further stressing our environment.

 

The company's proprietary Eco-Mode setting controls the flame height automatically, adjusting the height up and down - much like a natural fire as it consumes fuel. This setting enables for up to 40% less fuel consumption than a traditional gas fireplace, resulting in lower operating cost and emissions.

 

Another Element4 difference lies in the quality of the flame picture on both its highest and lowest setting. Its Real Flame technology doesn’t shoot a jet of flames up between logs, like so many of its competitors. Instead, the flames wrap sinuously around the logs, producing an effect that is so realistic an observer might be tempted to grab a twig and a marshmallow.

 

"Real Flame technology doesn’t just shoot a jet of flames up between logs."

 

Whether it be the smaller Cupido 70 - which at slightly over 11 ½” is the slimmest fireplace on the market, perfect for condos and older buildings - or the three-sided Summum 100 3S, which offers an LED-illuminated ember bed controllable through the company’s E Save Remote or Pro Control App, the flame picture produced by the Element4 is unrivaled perfection.

 

All this seamless function shouldn’t give the impression that Element4 doesn’t know how to let its hair down and have some fun! The Summum series, which include the Summum 140, the winner of the prestigious 2019 Hearth & Home Product of the Year award, all feature adjustable LED lights in the bottom and sides of the fireplace.

 

 These mood-setting lights change to a wide range of colors and can be put on “party” loop, switching from different effects, including Zen, Glowing Ember and Romantic. Other models offering this innovative feature include the 8’ wide, see-through Club 240H and it’s expansive bed of glass brilliants. This innovative feature makes an Element4 fireplace a mesmerizing presence in any space.

 

Bells and whistles aside, the flame is the focal point of their fireplaces. While an idle Element4 gas fireplace is a showcase of striking design simplicity, a lit Element4 fireplace is a work of harmonious art.  

Fifteen years after its founding, the company sells its fireplaces in over 20 countries worldwide. They’ve understandably found their niche with architects, designers and discerning customers who recognize quality and innovation when they see it.

 

Which makes them the perfect partner for European Home!

 

Story by: Robert Conlin

Robert Conlin is a freelance writer living in Wiscasset, Maine. A former certified chimney sweep and retail stove shop owner, he has returned to his roots as a journalist/writer in producing enterprise reporting and online content for a variety of publications and companies.

Liz Lee
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H Series This H Series 3 sided fireplace features an impressive custom steel vent hood. This vertical wayfinder is a subtle signifier to guests as they enter the lobby and make their way to the check-in desk. St. Gregory Hotel, Washington D.C.

From a design perspective, large open spaces or walls can be intimidating but they also present a great opportunity. Often you start with your focal point, in this case we will look at breaking up a large wall with a modern linear fireplace. The U.S. design trend for big walls seems to be ever bigger fireplaces, but we want to illustrate that you can create a dynamic design without creating an inferno! Below we present 8 different design techniques to help you create a masterpiece with your blank canvas.

1. Create Architectural Intrigue

Who says your wall has to stay flat? A large wall is the perfect opportunity to create a dramatic push and pull of architectural elements. The natural recess of your modern fireplace can be echoed by a built-in shelf or contrasted by a chunky modern mantel. The added bonus of this technique is it often leads to new spaces you can use for decoration or storage. 

2. Extend your Linear Fireplace without Extending your Flame.

Do you have a 20-foot wall but only a 6-foot linear fireplace? One way to break up a large wall while also bringing more emphasis to your fireplace is to extend the horizontal space your fireplace takes up. In this extended space you can create a niche for books, small sculptures or keep it empty for a more asymmetrical approach. This means you can have a smaller fireplace (read: less unnecessary heat and fuel cost) while giving your fireplace the design prominence it deserves!

3. Create a Distinctive Vertical Element

Another way to accentuate a small to medium fireplace in a large space is to create a dramatic vertical element. This works particularly well for tall walls and in expansive spaces, like a hotel lobby, where the distinctive vertical element can also act as visual way finder for guests. In many ways, this method is a modern nod to the centralized and structural chimney/hearth utilized by architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, for generations. Moreover, it is also a convenient way to hide any venting that may be a required for the installation of your linear fireplace.

4. Create Modern Storage for Logs

While many linear fireplaces today use either gas or electricity for fuel, we still cannot deny the natural beauty of rough-cut wood. By creating a modern storage for logs near your fireplace, you not only break up the large wall, but also bring a beautiful textural element to your fireplace motif. The logs can be stacked horizontally or even vertically, depending on the fireplace and desired wall composition. 

5. Utilize Multiple Materials for your Fireplace Surround

The perfect antidote to the blank white wall may be a fireplace surround that utilizes multiple (and unexpected) materials and colors. The world is literally your palette as you introduce stone, patina or rusted metals, brick, wood, or even leather (see image below) to your fireplace surround. For those that want a more ‘curated approach’ check out our interactive surround builder and design your custom fireplace surround today.

6. Embrace Minimalism

Not to contradict ourselves here but sometimes a predominantly clean white wall is just the ticket. Minimalism is an aesthetic in art and architecture that embraces the idea of “less is more.” With a large wall and smaller fireplace this mantra can be beautifully interpreted. Just remember, when you have less to look at every gesture and every proportion must be exacting and perfect. A small bench, simple mantle, or a single pop of color can help the viewer’s eye move around the space before it rests on a beautiful clean fireplace.

7. Install a TV Above Nearby the Fireplace

Fireplaces create natural gathering spaces. During a rainy day, or a snowstorm, they are places of warmth, where friends and family come together. But we would be naive to think a fireplace can keep the attention of the modern teenager all on its own. Enter: the television. Just remember, while it’s easy to plop the TV above your fireplace there may be a more elegant way to design your wall. For example, the TV could be offset or hidden by a custom cabinet so it doesn’t distract (too much) from the beauty of your linear fireplace. 

*Note you should always read all manufacturer installation manuals before installing electronics above a fireplace as excess heat could potentially cause damage.  For more information on safely installing a TV above your fireplace check out our Cool Wall Installation Guide for Element4 Fireplaces.  

8. Come Off the Wall to Create Depth

Think outside the box (or off the wall in this instance). Yes, we admit this last method doesn’t directly involve a wall or even a ‘linear fireplace’ exactly but stick with us for a second. A hanging fireplace is a great way to create multiple levels of depth with the large wall acting as background. This helps break away from the typical static fireplace and gives a totally new dimension and flow to your room.


This article was a collaboration by: Cory John Ploessl and Paige Huntress-Parr

Liz Lee
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Nestled in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, Texas sits Taula House. The name “Taula” is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “Balance” and influenced by Vastu Shastras a traditional Indian system of architecture which literally translates to "science of architecture”. The designs are intended to integrate architecture with nature and Taula House is a perfect example.

 

The lead designer for this project was Michael Gooden who is the founding principal and president of M Gooden Designs. Michael has nearly 15 years of both residential and commercial design experience, including 9 years at one of the top architecture firms in the United States.

 

We had the pleasure of getting some of Michaels’ insights into this unique project:

 

Liz Lee, European Home: “I would like to get to know you and M Gooden Design a little bit better; how did you come to start your own architectural studio?”

 

Michael Gooden, M Gooden Design: “After I graduated from college, I moved to Dallas and began working at a large Commercial Architecture Firm in Downtown Dallas.  I had several years experience working in residential design during my high school and college years.  Several years into at the commercial firm, I began taking on residential projects on the side.  Once I established a small portfolio, I decided to take the leap in 2015.”

 

Liz: “I see that, on this project, you were influenced by Vastu shastra, a traditional Indian system of architecture. Do you see yourself as a modern practitioner in this design style?”

 

Michael: “Ha-ha!  No, the principles of Vastu Shastra were introduced to us by our client.  This was just part of the equation of the design for this project. Just like all of our projects, we love tackling unique facets and challenges during the design process.”

 

Liz: “Can you talk about some of the early influences that helped you develop your unique aesthetic?”

 

Michael: “My design point of view is heavily influenced by the Case Study Houses of the 1940s through 1960s.   During this period, modernism broke onto the scene in the United States.  I am fascinated with the Case Study Architects, such as Neutra, Koenig, and Eames.  A more contemporary influence is Japanese Architect, Tadeo Ando.  His work inspired my exploration into Concrete architecture.”

 

Liz: “What is it actually like to walk into this balanced space?”

 

Michael: “That’s hard to put into words.  Its scale is equal parts massive and intimate.”

 

Liz: “Did the natural colors of Texas influence the subdued palette throughout the house?”

 

Michael: “Yes, that’s a good parallel.  This project has a very warm, natural palette throughout.  Our goal was to have a seamless transition of materials from the exterior to interior.”

 

The exterior is adorned in concrete, steel and basalt stone with accents of Brazilian Ipe siding, polished stucco, and zinc composite. These materials extend into the interior to create a subtle transition from outside to in. This minimalist space brings together the perfect balance of an eye-catching look and a concealed refuge.

 

Liz: “European Home’s H Series vent free fireplace and G Series custom burner are central parts of this design. Can you talk about what drew you to these models?”

 

Michael: “We found that the H Series was one of the only offerings on the market at the time to have a vent-free option without a glass barrier.   We love the flexibility of the G Series burner to be able to create a custom vent-free fireplace that is discrete with little to no maintenance.”

 

Liz: “Are there any little details or design attention that you’re particularly proud of in this home that maybe someone wouldn’t get from a photograph?”

 

Michael: “There are probably too many to mention.  One of the most striking features of the house is the Precast Concrete exterior facade.  You really can’t comprehend the scale, texture, and shadow-play of the material.  The deep, fractured-fin texture of the concrete transforms throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. “

 

Overall, Taula House reflects the family’s love for entertainment and the importance of peaceful seclusion. There is a graceful mix of public and private – both gathering and intimate spaces. Bold expression and materiality are not lost on this house, yet there is calmness in the beauty

Liz Lee
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For architects and designers, commercial projects are a little bit like public art. They can be enjoyed by all; however, they also pose a number of design challenges that simply do not need to be considered for a residential project. We picked out some of our favorite fireplace installations in public/commercial settings and talked to a handful of the architects and designers involved in these projects.

1.  Flour Bakery: Cambridge, MA

Looking for a morning pick-me-up or a comfortable spot to settle in with your laptop and the most thoughtfully crafted ham and cheese sandwich you ever laid your taste buds on? The Flour Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge, MA is the perfect spot. Owner and James Beard Award-winning baker, Joanne Chang opened her first Flour back in 2000 but this newest location features more than just great coffee cake. 

This newly designed space draws influence from Flour’s own unique color palette paired with a cozy Scandinavian vibe. Notice the prevalence of simple, white walls, washed-out woods, pale blue pops, and finally black accents throughout to tie the entire composition together.

At the center of it all is a stunning 4-sided modern fireplace with a custom metal vent hood. Architect David Hacin told us he wanted this space to be inviting, feeling more like your own living room than your local coffee joint. It’s a space where you can really spread out and make yourself at home.

Check out our video interview with architect David Hacin: here.

2. Mendocino Farms: San Diego, CA

Let’s stick with the restaurant theme but travel across the country to Mendocino Farms in San Diego, CA.  This Cali hot-spot serves up fresh, farm to table, sandwiches that are as big on flavor as they are on integrity. They partner with local farmers to ensure the freshest ingredients and innovative seasonal flavor combinations.

At Mendocino Farms their passion for design doesn’t stop at the edges of the plate.  As you walk up you are greeted by their quirky mascot, a blue spotted dairy cow, as well as a reclaimed wood facade further hinting towards their farm-to-table culture.

With the inside teeming with business folks trying to grab-and-go, the patio is the perfect place to take your time and relax.  Featured on the patio is a beautiful single-sided outdoor gas fireplace surrounded in lush turquoise Moroccan tile and (once again) reclaimed lumber.  The linear J Series fireplace comes in a number of configurations including single-sidedsee-through and corner.  The long, communal table in front of the fireplace features live succulents and another unique Moroccan-inspired pattern.

3. Southern Ocean Lodge: Kangaroo Island, Australia

Next stop: Australia. One of our favorite installs of the iconic Gyrofocus fireplace is at Southern Ocean Lodge, located at Hanson Bay on Kangaroo Island’s southwest coast. Settled on the edge of a rocky clifftop, the lodge offers 21 suites with curved walls and large windows, showcasing the beautiful coastal views. Imagine a panoramic view of the Australian scenery interrupted only by the wood fire crackle and dramatic lines of a sculptural suspended fireplace. The lodge’s design-centric interiors and epicurean focus create its unique style.

The Lodge is within easy reach of all major attractions on the Island. Whether it be kayaking through the American River, taking a scenic bike tour, or enjoying some delicious local cuisine, you will have the experience of a lifetime. After a long day of swimming with dolphins, and climbing your way through the trails sit back and relax next to the warmth of the Gyrofocus fireplace by Focus Fires. Suspending from the ceiling, the fire rotates 360 degrees to ensure all guests can enjoy the view and warmth.

The sleek and simple design of this fireplace matches the modern and luxurious look of the lodge. Their goal of providing a haven of comfort, style, and personal intimacy is realized while sitting by this iconic fireplace. So, get cozy, grab a glass of wine (or two), and enjoy the breathtaking sights as the sun sets over the Australian coast.

Read more about the Gyrofocus at the Southern Ocean Lodge: here.

4. Mithun Agency: Minneapolis, MN

You walk into many office buildings and what do you see? Cubicles, desks, and people hiding behind computer monitors. Mithun Agency, in Minneapolis, wanted to take a different approach when designing their work environment. They are an advertising and marketing firm that was founded back in 1933 by Ralph Campbell and Ray Mithun. They built their team with a strong focus on design, and collaboration. With a team-oriented approach, it was essential to create a space suitable for daily meetings.

To get their creative vibes flowing, they designed the area to be comfortable and minimalist. The color palette of whites, tans, and greys complement the warmth and orange tones of the 3-sided fireplace. This cozy environment was created by designer Kar-Keat Chong, promoting what the Scandinavians call an aesthetic of “hygge.”

The intention was to encourage creativity and collaboration while feeling a sense of togetherness and well-being. Chong hoped to reinvent a space for employees to escape the open office environment they were used to, and offer a more casual and comfortable zone. He explains that the fireplace serves to anchor the space as a “central highlight and focal point.” The Trisore was the perfect fit for Chong’s vision of comfort and serenity.

Read more about the motivations behind Chong’s design and the tenants of hygge: here

5. The Inn at Aspen: Aspen, CO

At the base of Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado sits an inviting lodge that we couldn’t help but explore. When you first walk through the doors, you’re greeted with the sounds of holiday classics and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and untreated cedar. The rustic feel of the Inn, from the wooden structures to the earthy tones, and green plants, makes you feel at home immediately.

As you continue through the lobby you can’t help but notice the clean lines, and repetitive, almost modular setup of the space. The exposed wood beams, held tight by blacksmith forged fasteners, give the entire space a rustic handmade quality.  As you turn the corner into the bar, you’re met with the sight of two back-to-back fireplaces stretching over 10' wide. 

The Inn at Aspen teamed up with Crystal Springs Builders and Z-Group Architectsto design the fireplace and surrounding area.

According to Project Manager, John Underwood:

The main design challenge we faced was creating a dramatic focal point in such an expansive space.  The ceilings alone were 30' tall, so we knew something substantial was needed.  The back to back Lucius 140 fireplaces paired with the custom steel vent hood created a strong vertical design element and a floor to ceiling focal point for the gathering space.

Read more about the Inn at Aspen: here

6. St. Gregory Hotel: Washington, DC

For those with a passion for history, and an eye for design, come check out the St. Gregory Hotel. Sitting in a lively cultural scene in Dupont Circle, it’s within easy access to the city’s most iconic neighborhoods. Here you’ll find some of D. C’s finest art, best shopping, and dining choices all at your fingertips.

During your stay, take a stroll along the Potomac River in Foggy Bottom, explore the monuments and memorials of the National Mall, or wander Georgetown’s charming cobblestone streets.

Pam Fleming of Day or Night Home & Hearth on her collaboration experience for the St. Gregory hotel lobby project:

“The design team and owners of St. Gregory contacted us and were very interested in European Home’s product.  Being a multi-story high rise building there was no possible way to vent the fireplace outside given its location in the floor plan. I did my research, and suggested to them that the H Series vent-free fireplace would be the perfect fit. We all got together to discuss the plans and they ended up very happy with this choice.”

Read more about the St. Gregory Hotel project: here

7. Kona Grill: Minnetonka, MN

At Kona Grill the unique design and saturated splashes of blue light create a theatrical experience that begins as soon as you walk in the door. If you look over by the bar, the sushi chef is cutting sashimi on his illuminated stage. And around the corner, is the Tenore 240, an eight-foot long see-through gas fireplace which brings drama and warmth to the entire scene.

We asked, designer, Sky Adler what influenced the Kona Grill design aesthetic he helped develop and here’s what he had to say:

Sky Adler: “When I came in, we wanted to create a complete update to Kona’s image.  I completely re-imagined the color palette – bringing in blues, grays and patina coppers to create a signature look.  I also wanted to bring in new textures, like tile, concrete, and rusted metal.  When you walk into a Kona Grill you can’t help but be reminded of the elements.  Fire and water are central to our identity.  I let these elements inform nearly all of my decisions from the fireplace to the aquarium to the specific color of the light that permeates the entire space.”

Sky Adler: “I wanted to create different fields of light for different activities.  For instance, the dining area or the bar is lit differently from the lounge where the fireplace really warms up the space and provides a lot of drama amidst a sea of blue.”

And why did you pick the Tenore 240 — a double-sided, see-through fireplace for this space?

“Like I said, I like to create different dining experiences within the same space while maintaining the connectivity and energy throughout. The double-sided fireplace allows more visibility between the distinct spaces and with a single fireplace you can create two completely different atmospheres on either side. The appeal is to have division between the patio and dining room areas with the dynamic fire feature bringing it all together.”

Read the entire interview with Sky Adler: here

Liz Lee
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Situated adjacent to the Sun Valley, Ketchum, Idaho is a small mountain town that’s big on natural splendor.  The best architectural design is informed by its surrounding environment so this place, more than most, is bound to have some gems.  Case in point, the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum.

We had the great pleasure of sitting down with Sarah Broughton of Rowland + Broughton Architects to talk about the condominiums she and her team designed for the Limelight.  When you view photographs of this space you might see a warm and inviting place, with clean modern lines and a gorgeous fireplace in the center.

Sarah sees these things too, but she also sees so much more.  She sees how the color palette talks to the natural creams and browns outside the window.  She is thinking about how your body will move in this space, your sight lines of that fireplace when you sit in your favorite chair and where you’ll be inclined to set your purse when you come home from work.

Sarah thinks of all of these things so everyday gestures and indeed the entire designed space can feel incredibly… natural.

Cory Ploessl, European Home:  First of all I would like to get to know you and Rowland + Broughton a little bit better; how did you come to start your own architectural studio?

Sarah Broughton, Rowland + Broughton Architects:  My husband John Rowland and I started Rowland + Broughton in 2003 here in Aspen, and I think that while it was not something that we outwardly spoke about a lot I think we always had a desire to start a firm where we could design projects for clients both residential and commercial that are thoughtful and timeless.  We believe that good design should be accessible to everybody, and that good design really does make a difference in people’s lives and the world.

We started the firm in our condo in Aspen back in 2003. A year later we moved to a studio in Denver because it was really hard to hire good talent working out of our condo. Fast forward to today we still have studios in Aspen and Denver and we currently have a team of 43 strong!

Cory: We have been seeing an architectural movement coming out of the west in recent years, what I like to call “modern mountain aesthetic.”  You know, a lot of industrial materials coming together with natural elements.  The Limelight Hotel project has a bit of this feel. Do you see yourself as part of a larger design movement? 

Sarah:  I would say that we don’t come into any project with a preconceived style. The style emerges from working closely with our clients, the way they live, the site and its history, and the context really informs the ultimate style of the project. For the Limelight project, the inclination is a clean aesthetic, but one that is really warm, that’s comfortable, that again is more minimal but it is a space that you can also sink into and be really comfortable. I would say that a lot of our modern work makes use of natural materials, and we do get this feedback a lot. The use of natural materials such as wood is informed by setting. I don’t have an exact label to put on it, again we often receive feedback that our work is timeless, featuring clean lines and minimalist design, with a warmth to it.

Cory: Can you talk about some of the early influences that helped you develop your unique aesthetic?

Sarah: Both John and I met at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Environmental Design Department in the School of Architecture and Environmental Design. One thing I really valued about the education I received at Boulder was the focus on critical thinking and not just about form. We delved into form, function, sociology, environmental concern, all of these factors and how they come together to inform the design. That’s something that has always been a part of our process. We just started a large hotel/condominium project in Breckenridge and the first stages of our process involve diving deep into the context and history of this place, not replicating necessarily, but informing what we are doing today and into the future.

Cory: I guess you can’t ignore nature when you live amongst so much splendor!  I love that you bring thoughtfulness and a sense of sustainability to your work.

Sarah: Yeah, I think one of the best things you can do for sustainability is to build something that will last.

Sarah: We work on a lot of historic preservation, I was a chair for a preservation commission for 8 years. We have an obligation to design spaces that don’t need to be redone every 5 years. Spaces that are thoughtfully laid out, a lot of care went into the layout of the Limelight condominiums in Ketchum. Each one was individually looked at, and not only looked at in terms of highlighting mountain views outbuilding windows and bringing natural light in, but also simply how you function in the space when you walk in. Where do you put your purse? Where do you hang your coat? What does it feel like to be with a group in this space as opposed to a quiet night in with your partner?  It all goes back to those sociology courses we took in school, how do people want to interact with a space?

Cory: Okay, I can see that you did your homework!  So what is it actually like to walk into one of these condo spaces?

Sarah: It’s just awesome! First of all the pallet is something that really speaks to us.  There is a good mix of natural textures going on but it still feels simple and clean because there are places for your eye to rest. Again, there is a thoughtfulness to how it’s all laid out. We talk about smart design a lot, especially in smaller spaces. These are condos, after all, they aren’t 6,000 square foot houses, so every square inch really matters and we bring that philosophy into any size project that we are doing. I think that this is pretty prevalent when you walk in.  There is the comfort and there is a place for everything, this is very important. We painstakingly thought about the moment you walk into that door, and I think that really comes across in the whole design of the space.

Cory: I’m glad that you brought up the mindfulness that goes into every design gesture.  The Lucius peninsula fireplace is a central part of this design.  Can you talk about what drew you to this focal point?

Sarah: The fireplace was a big consideration. What drove us to you was our three design needs. We wanted a fireplace manufacturer that could build a fireplace in the wall with a three-sided configuration. We needed a fireplace that could fit in our space. We needed something that was proportional, this was really important and we think about scale and proportion all the time.  It starts with built-in things like the fireplace then it goes into the furnishings. It all comes back to thoughtfulness and creating a sense of spatial harmony.

Cory: Absolutely, are there any little details or design attention that you’re particularly proud of in these condominiums that maybe someone wouldn’t get from a photograph?

Sarah: I love where we put the fireplace, it’s a little atypical in a lot of the units. Typically you would have the fireplace on one wall, then you would have the living room, then the dining room, then the kitchen, we used the fireplace as a see-through divider in a lot of units between the dining and the living room consciously, that came with a lot of coordination because all of a sudden we had flues that had to come up through the middle of other spaces, we had to snake our way around structure, but we liked turning the whole idea and notion of hearth around and having the fireplace be not so one-dimensional.

Cory:  This was a great conversation and project Sarah, I really appreciate your time.

Sarah:  I’m glad you love the project! Those fireplaces are beautiful! 

Liz Lee
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Method Cabin The Method Cabin, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom prototype home in scenic Glacier, Washington.

One of the greatest perks of manufacturing and distributing modern fireplaces is being able to collaborate with amazing professional architects, designers and builders to turn a client’s dream into reality.

Of the many that European Home has been fortunate enough to work with, our West Coast partner, Method Homes, stands out for their unique ultra-modern prefab home designs as well as their commitment to sustainable living and handmade craftsmanship.

“Our products work really well with their aesthetic. They’re into very clean lines and interesting angular shapes,” pointed out Holly Markham, founder and President of European Home. “I think they recognize the same in us. We’re a really good fit for each other.”

Home is Where the Truck Goes

Method Homes just celebrated its 10th anniversary. In that time, the Seattle-based builder has built over 150 homes across a wide swath of the West and up into British Columbia. Often working in rugged, remote terrain, they’ve created homes that look as natural in their often stunning surroundings as the thick Pacific fog.

The company offers seven standard home designs, all built with sustainable materials, systems and practices. They also team up with architects to produce custom homes. All their houses can be built to LEED, Energy Star, Passive House or other environmental certification standards.

In addition to having the controlled space to engineer their homes for transportation over long distances and rough terrain, their building process offers a number of other advantages.

“The modular process is inherently more sustainable”, explained Christy Beaver, Method Home’s lead interior designer. “We have much less waste during our construction process in a factory setting. Any waste we do have gets recycled right into the next project. Sustainability is a core value of our company.”

This is music to Holly Markham’s ears. It also further explains why the two companies developed a mutual admiration in the first place. European Home has gone to great lengths to offer energy efficient modern gas, wood and electric fireplaces. When they’re installed in an energy efficient home, like those built by Method Homes, the carbon footprint is negligible compared to the average home.

Taking the Guesswork Out of Choosing the Right  Fireplace

From Method Homes’ point of view, the partnership with European Home has made it easier to build a specific fireplace into a project, cutting down on the guesswork of code compliance, clearances and venting concerns.

“One challenge we had with fireplace specifications, in general, is that it’s very easy to get on the Internet and find beautiful, yet obscure units,” Christy explained. “Often these products aren’t available in America, don’t meet American codes, are significantly over budget and don’t have the product and sales support we get from a local company like European Home. That’s one aspect of our partnership that’s made our process smoother.”

That’s always been a key point of emphasis for her company, Holly Markham said. Yes, European Home loves to show off its products on its website, but it’s also designed as a working resource for building professionals. One click on the Design Professional Resources button brings building professionals to all product technical files and manuals, access to CAD and BIM files, 3-part specs downloads, fireplace glossaries, how-to videos, information on AIA & IDCEC CEU credits and a whole lot more.

The Big Picture Includes Doing the Little Things

Customers also know when they call their Middleton, Massachusetts facility they’ll get a real human voice on the phone. Holly makes herself available to customers, as does her husband, and co-founder, John on the technical side.

“We try to be aware of what our customers want, what will make their job a little easier,” she pointed out. “I could never understand why manufacturers would make their customers call to track down their orders. We provide tracking numbers right on the invoice. That way they know exactly where their order is and when they’ll get it. That’s really important for customers like Method Homes in terms of scheduling. It’s simple, but it’s important. We’re proud of our products, and we try to be good at the simple things too.”

The benefit of their partnership is certainly not a one-way street. European Home has had the distinct pleasure of having its fireplaces installed in a Method Homes display home at Dwell on Design, an influential annual trade show for architects, designers and design enthusiasts. Cory Ploessl (Marketing Manager, European Home) and Christy had a chance to chat at the 2018 show in Los Angeles.

There, Christy said, she learned that the design team literally went into the woods to find the perfect birch logs to serve as inspiration for their “Fallen Birch” fire media mix.

“Very soon after the show I had a client say to me, ‘I want a fireplace that doesn’t have those cheap or cheesy logs in it’ and I knew exactly which brand to recommend. Realistic fire media was a priority for this client and European Home was the perfect fit.”

Unlike traditional builders who have to deal with the onsite elements, the pace at Method Homes hasn’t slowed much with the onset of winter. As they tackle ongoing projects in Big Sky, Montana, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sun Valley, Idaho and other premier destinations, they know that a modern, clean-face fireplace is a phone call away (there’s a good chance a familiar and friendly voice is on the other end!).

“For me personally as the in-house designer, I’ve learned a great deal about European Home’s company philosophy and the nitty gritty details of their products,” Christy remarked. “The more I learn, the more I can recommend European Home fireplaces to the right clients and architects.”

Not to be outdone, Holly puts the finishing touch on a partnership that has paired two like-minded companies.

“We’re really happy to partner with a builder that is clearly proud of the work they do, and we’re honored that they’ve chosen our fireplaces to feature in their homes,” she concluded.

Liz Lee
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In this article, we lay out some of the cultural factors that have lead to a boom in outdoor living spaces nationwide and also treat you to a number of outdoor fireplace ideas to help get you get inspired for your own outdoor living space project.  

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report produced at the turn of the millennium, Americans spent 87% of their time indoors and another 7% in a vehicle. Given the explosion of computer use and traffic delays on the road since then, those numbers have undoubtedly increased. 

Is it any wonder then that one building and remodeling trend that shows no sign of slowing down is the popularity of outdoor living spaces? Walking from the living room into an attached open air kitchen or sitting area with a gas fireplace isn’t the same as hiking the Appalachian Trail, but it does get people outside and (presumably) away from their devices. 

This outdoor living trend has slowly followed the jet stream from west to east across the country, taking root in areas with warmer climates and eventually making its way to colder climate regions like the Upper Midwest, Great Plains and Northeast. In fact, the publisher of the hearth industry magazine Hearth & Home recalls writing about it as a Californian trend 20 years ago. The rest of the country has clearly caught on.

The U.S. Census Bureau has tracked the recent growth of outdoor room building in the United States. It notes that the addition of outdoor living space to new home construction projects has skyrocketed from the years 2010-2017. Patios, for example, saw a 112% increase over that period. Decks and porches 40% and 28% respectively.

Those figures track with surveys conducted by the American Institute of Architects. In a survey of residential architects, 70% said that outdoor living areas are the number one “special function” room that their clients request. Home offices and mud rooms trail behind. This continues a six-year number one ranking. 

Bring the Inside Out and The Outside In

It was inevitable that some editor would write a headline that said Outside Is the New Insideas Realtor.com did last year.  The days of sun-baked patios, faded Adirondack chairs and rusty Weber grills are receding into distant memory.

Instead, we’re seeing rooms that transition from inside to out, with matching indoor and outdoor furniture. Or floor tiles that continue from in to out with only a change in the finish to account for the weather.

We’re seeing more large modern windows or windows and doors with seamless tracks that allow the spaces to flow together in a continuum. We’re seeing exterior materials like stucco, stone and wood becoming interior focal points, while interior color palettes are shifting to neutral grays, creams and browns to put the focus on the accessible exterior.

Along with this striking design toolbox, we’re seeing spaces that provide as much function as they do form. People these days aren’t content to sit in a canvas chair with a cup holder and gaze at the stars. They want to entertain, eat, play, and relax. Now is the time for full outdoor kitchens, entertainment centers, outdoor gas or wood fireplaces, home theaters, hot tubs and much more.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

Just as they often are inside the home, the focal point of many outdoor living spaces is the fireplace. In fact, the lure of a fire – be it an open wood fire or an enclosed gas fireplace – seems even more compelling when the flames are dancing under a canopy of night stars. With the myriad of design options available, the number of outdoor fireplace ideas are as numerous as the constellations above.

Outdoor fireplace manufacturers like European Home, along with outdoor furniture, grill manufacturers and others are expanding their product lines for an outdoor furniture and accessories market that’s forecast to top $9 billion this year.

This blurring of the lines between residential home interior and exterior has created a huge cottage industry. A Google search for “outdoor living areas” produces page after page of striking photo galleries, links to furniture, grill, fireplace, fire pit, umbrella, decking, gazebo and a gazillion other manufacturers’ websites.

Let’s not forget all the professionals involved, including residential architects, landscape architects, interior designers, contractors and the like. In short, this yearning for Americans to fling open the doors and get outside has a huge financial upside.

They’re undoubtedly heartened by news that Americans are staying home far more than they used to. A recent New York Times article cites a study that shows that Americans spend an average of 7.8 days a year more staying at home than they did just a decade before. 

The fact that people work from home more, shop online and binge watch Netflix are considerable factors. It could also be that they’ve extended their living space outside and feel they’re getting the best of both worlds, all under one roof.