A Historic Home Welcomes a Contemporary Ortal Fireplace



Photo by Christopher Stark (@christopherstark) 

“Without the Ortal fireplace, something would be missing.”

California-based designer Brigitte Wettstein of BW Design Studio was recently asked to create a contemporary interior for a historic San Francisco home—all while keeping the exterior intact. The designer still wanted the interior to reference the building’s original history, so she opted to install an Ortal Front 110 fireplace for its modern look contrasted with a black frame reminiscent of what she describes as “19th century black cast iron Victorian finishes.”

Raised and educated in Zürich, Switzerland, Wettstein strives to create light, open, inviting and comfortable modern spaces with a bit of European sophistication. From selecting and sourcing materials and artwork, to creating custom furniture designs, every one of her projects is a wholly unique endeavor that reflects her minimalist-style philosophy as well as the needs and desires of the client.

Originally built in 1891 as a 1,000 square-foot single-family residence, the Noe Valley home was due for a complete makeover. The interior was completely transformed with a larger, more open and modern floor plan on the ground level, with a second story added to increase the square footage.

As part of the Noe Valley home’s remodel, a new front facing Ortal fireplace contributed to the reconfiguring of the upgraded floor plan, which included placing a new living room at the front of the house, off the entry door. Wettstein’s decision to install a fireplace in the living room came from the idea that the space was once called the “parlor room,” which is where hosts would usually entertain guests against a backdrop of a flickering fire. Her original plan was to have a full height stone surround, but she modified the design to be all drywall “to not overwhelm the room and give the room a more open and spacious feel.”

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Asked which key factors she had in mind while selecting a fireplace, Wettstein responds, “We had to consider the homeowner’s preferences, comply with local standards and restrictions, environmental concerns, spacial limitation and sizing options to work proportionally in the space. This fireplace met all [these] requirements and works with the contemporary design, but also pays homage to the characteristics of the past.”

Ortal conformed to all the design and aesthetic criteria, with a straightforward installation part of what Wettstein describes as “a step-by-step and easy to follow process.” Still, there were a few architectural challenges the designer faced when revamping the Noe Valley home, and luckily, Ortal was on hand to provide solutions.

“The architectural challenges were minimal projection into the room and clean design … for the required heat release,” Wettstein explains. “Ortal was very responsive, forthcoming and helpful in providing solutions with detailed specifications and drawings. They worked very closely with us in reviewing our designs and drawings and providing feedback and making recommendations to work with the design intent.”

In the end, the question remains: How does the front facing Ortal fireplace contribute to the home’s overall design?

“It adds that focal point … and gives the space the inviting but also more formal feel,” Wettstein says. “Without the Ortal fireplace, something would be missing.” 

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