Monday, December 7, 2009
Fireplace Bans Aren't the End of the World
You know, we don't talk about it enough in the fireplace industry, but air quality is a legitimate concern, especially in densely populated areas that are already suffering from industrial pollution and heavy automobile emissions. That's why I don't always have a problem with periodic bans on wood burning fireplace use. In many areas, it just makes more sense to have a gas line installed and to outfit the existing wood-burning fireplace with state-of-the-art gas logs and an appropriate set of fireplace glass doors.
Myself, I don't live in a densely populated area where smog and ozone alerts are a part of daily life. Even so, I do think about the environmental impact of burning real wood.
Luckily, because I spent so many years in the industry, I have two fireplaces in my current home. The one in the den is a traditional wood-burner, while the other, in the living room, is a gas fireplace that heats things up nicely, even on its lowest setting. I can therefore limit my wood burning to special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and that first chilly morning in October when, let's face, nothing else will do.
Obviously, as I said, I'm lucky -- at least in the fireplace department. Most people find themselves in an either/or situation, weighing aesthetics and value against tradition and charm. As a result some people, like the author of this piece from a New York Times blog, end up making all sorts of, well, unfortunate decorating decisions. That's the blogger's randomly decorated fireplace at the top of this post. If you honestly think that looks good, I'd love to hear from you.
Now, I'm not bashing the woman who wrote this article. Her heart's in the right place, and she's clearly working with what she's got. Also, not everyone lives in a house or apartment that can easily be hooked up to a gas line, especially in The City. What I don't understand is why people feel the need to turn a fireplace into something it is clearly not, in this case a knee-high display case for random odds and ends.
I mean, look at the thing again. I'm sorry, but it reminds me of my first apartment after college. And that's a shame.
See, there is absolutely no reason that a non-working fireplace has to be refashioned into something other than what it is. Indeed, if this were my house or apartment, I'd treat that ashy black hole no differently than I would a brand new wood-burner back in the day before we made such a mess of our atmosphere. In other words, I'd find the best glass fireplace doors I could afford and put some tools on the fireplace foot. Then I might even stack a few logs in wood holder at the opposite end, and pretend. I mean, nobody said you had to light the things, did they?