When your ancestors installed a fireplace, they were looking for one thing: heat. When your great-grandparents built theirs, they not only wanted warmth, they also hoped to create a cozy, homelike atmosphere. Over the past few generations, fireplaces have lost none of their age-old appeal. Modern fireplaces still bring warmth and cheer. They still act as focal points around which we can gather, but, these days, they also impart a little something else: style. Nothing exemplifies that trend better than the floating hearth.
In the past, hearths served a functional purpose. They protected flammable materials (think wood floors and carpets) from sparks. With the invention of the modern direct-vent gas fireplace, such safety measures went the way of the masonry chimney. That is to say, the hearth became obsolete, at least as a matter of pure utility.
What it lost in function, however, it gained in decorative appeal. Just as the fireplace evolved from a mere necessity into an ornamental luxury, so, too, the hearth has become an architectural statement in its own right. Designers and builders can easily skip the hearth, thereby creating a sleek, minimalist tableau. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have to forgo the charm that comes with a well-designed fireplace extension.
How do you create a hearth that inspires, awes, and delights—an architectural element that doesn’t merely mimic the conventional designs of the past? Enter the floating hearth: a modern take on a time-honored tradition.
It’s not exactly a novel concept—builders have placed brick and stonework at various heights throughout history—but the idea of separating the hearth from the ground has gained prominence in recent years as architects and designers look for innovative modern fireplace design solutions that transcend the mundane.
Beyond Function, Beyond Ornament
Any masonry extension can heighten the interest and beauty of a fireplace, but a floating hearth adds something extra. Placed in front of the fireplace but above the ground, the entire piece appears to float in space, creating a gravity-defying sense of lightness.
Not only that, but freedom from mere functionality means you get nearly limitless options when it comes to design, materials, and placement. Want to create a sturdy, balanced feeling? Center a square, concrete slab in front of the fireplace and place it low to the ground. Want a more contemporary look? A long, thin, rectangle that extends further to one side offers a more contemporary, asymmetrical look.
Modern floating hearths no longer belong to the world of bare utility, but that doesn’t mean they’re merely ornamental, either. Instead, they have redefined the function of the hearth. Instead of acting as a safety precaution, they double as ledges, shelves, and even seats.
A lot has changed when it comes to modern fireplaces. Our earliest ancestors had to tend to the flame through all hours of the morning and night lest their only source of fuel went up in smoke. Recent generations have had it easier, but cleaning and maintaining wood-burning fireplaces remained a chore.
Contemporary fireplaces that burn gas require less upkeep and less worry. Turn the flame on. Turn it up. Turn it off. Set a timer and watch the magic happen. Enjoying the warmth and beauty of the flame has never been easier.
Learn more about how Ortal champions innovative modern fireplace design. You can also browse through our gallery to see examples of our latest, most stunning designs.