Talking Fireplaces with Madeleine Blanchfield

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There’s a high chance you’ve stumbled across one of Madeleine Blanchfield’s beautiful homes and you don’t even know it.

Regularly featured in the very best interior design and architecture magazines, awards lists and design blogs, Madeleine’s style is the epitome of timeless Australian architecture.

Working from a corner store in downtown Paddington, Sydney, Madeleine and her team strive to create architecture that elevates people’s mood and spirit. Her homes are pared back and purposeful, simple and considered. They’re front cover material.

With architecture that focuses on proportion, balance, light and volume, Madeleine also knows the importance of good fireplace design. We caught up with Madeleine to talk all things fireplaces, surrounds and the design process.

Hi Madeleine! You often include fireplaces in your projects. Why do you think they are an important part of home design?

Fireplaces are a great sense of comfort. They ground a room and give it a focus (a much nicer one than a TV).

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The Crescent Head House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects features the Escea DL1100 gas fireplace. The fire’s flexible flue system means that the flue can run horizontally rather than vertically, ensuring the fire doesn’t dominate the living area but instead subtly fits in with the design and décor of the space. Image: Robert Walsh

What do you look for when choosing a fireplace for a client?

We select a fireplace that suits the style of the room but also have to consider practicalities like flueing. The heat output is also important, some fireplaces are purely decorative. If there is another source of heating in the room this needs to be factored in to ensure it’s not too hot.

Talk us through the process you go through when designing a fireplace surround for a client?

We treat the fireplace as any other element in the room – it needs to relate to the architecture and the other finishes. Sometimes we use stone and make a real feature of it, other times the approach is simpler assuming art will be hung over it.

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Madeleine’s Clovelly House II was entirely re-built to create a ‘calm and whimsical’ space. Fire by Escea Fireplaces. Image: Prue Ruscoe.

Have you got any favourite fireplace surround styles or materials?

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite surround but we love using black granite or painted brick.

Do you have a favourite fireplace installation?

I love the fireplace we have just installed in a house in Coogee. It’s an original fireplace from the turn of the Century and has a brick arched opening, which we have managed to put a rectangular fireplace in and painted it black.

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Madeleine’s favourite fireplace is a retrofit installation in this Queen-Anne style home in New South Wales. The Escea DF960 fitted into the existing cavity and the surround was modernized by painting it black. Image: Anson Smart

And lastly, what’s your best piece of advice for someone incorporating a fireplace into their home design?

Ensure the location works with the furniture layout of the room and suits the style of the house. 

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Soft tones combine with robust materials to create a warm space that’s filled with light in the Coogee Home by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects. Artwork displayed above the Escea fireplace sits on the fire surround which doubles as a functional storage unit. Image: Robert Walsh

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