BREAKING: My Kitchen has a Fireplace!

demo4

I decided to just tear the band-aid off and fully demo my kitchen. I’m not positive that this was the smartest idea but given that the pantry was already torn out, two of four walls were down to the studs, the ceiling was gone, and the floor was some mix of original tongue-and-groove subfloor in some places, a first layer of plywood subfloor in other places, and a second layer of plywood subfloor with my black VCT flooring in other places, it felt stupid to be holding onto what was left! Which was really just a wall with some cabinets and a kitchen sink.

So now I really don’t have a kitchen, but whatever! At least now I can easily-ish and efficiently-ish level out the subfloor and put in a new floor, run my new plumbing, electric, and gas (YES, GAS! SEE YA, 40 year old electric stove!), insulate, and start putting things back together. I don’t honestly know how far I can stretch my dollars so a real finished kitchen with fancy things like permanent countertops might still be a ways away, but I’m hopeful that I can at least at least get the foundation in place and achieve something usable in the near-ish future. I’m dealing with a lot of -ish right now because I don’t totally know how this is all going to play out. At least I have plenty of time to plan? Which sounds absurd since I’ve been mentally planning this kitchen renovation for over three years. It still changes on a nearly daily basis.

chimney2013

Now here’s a throwback! This is my kitchen after living in my house for about 2 days. Note the brick-patterned vinyl wallpaper! That always struck me as funny since the entirety of that wallpapered part is, in fact, a plastered-over brick chimney. When I bought the house, this chimney was being used to very unsafely vent a hot water heater, but now the chimney doesn’t do anything.

One thing I’ve known and continue to know for sure is that the layout of this space is completely changing. The stove will no longer sit on this wall where there’s very little room for any prep space adjacent to it. The sink is moving, all the cabinets are moving, even the exterior door is moving! I’ll share full plans ASAP when I can pull a sketchup together.

2chimney2013

Anyway, first order of business was tearing off the vinyl wallpaper and taking out the drop ceiling. Behind it was this color-blocked plaster which I actually kind of loved the look of, leaving aside how nasty it was.

3chimney2013

After lots of paint and stuff, things started to look more like this! See that round hole in the chimney up toward the ceiling? That’s a vent hole for a wood stove, which is how I always assumed this room was originally heated. This house was built before radiators, so the original heat sources would have been in fireplaces and wood stoves.

This is how I was planning to leave things until a bigger kitchen renovation down the road when I could expose the brick, but then I got subway-tile-happy. I thought I’d be working with this kitchen longer than I did (I was expecting it to be about 5-10 years, but the whole side-of-house-restoration and its effect on the kitchen have bumped this priority up significantly!), so at the time doing the extra subway tile seemed like a nice way to enhance this space in the short term. It was. I liked it. No regrets.

basementfireplace

I’m sorry to say I don’t have a good picture of it, but here’s what’s happening directly below, in the basement. See how there’s a whole fireplace (which is actually quite beautiful) down here? I thought this indicated that this room in the basement was probably the original kitchen—which could still be true, as there are also remnants of an early plumbing system). Fireplace in the basement, wood or coal stove in the kitchen, and possibly another one in the room above it was what I always imagined.

4chimney2015

All of this is to say that I felt pretty certain that the only thing behind my subway tile and the plaster would be a solid brick wall, which I always planned to expose during the eventual kitchen renovation. I had this idea that maybe I’d try to preserve my subway tile and expose just the brick above it (and probably paint it), and I also had this idea that I’d place a longer, lower radiator across the width of the chimney, which I hoped would look great and heat the room better.

demo1

Trying to preserve the subway tile was kind of not worth it because the chimney had been furred out on one side so that the kitchen sink would fit snugly in that space, and it definitely wasn’t the best tiling job in the world to begin with, and I did want to see what the whole chimney looked like before committing to keeping half of it tiled, and…who cares, tear it all down.

demo2

This is what my 27th birthday looked like last week! My life is so cute.

demo3

But look, brick! The plaster came off the brick REALLY very easily using just a hammer and a pry bar. The key is to take your time because old bricks will break if you get impatient and start hammering away too hard. The hardest part is just hauling the debris out of the house, because plaster is super heavy stuff! I’ve brought about 2,500 pounds of plaster to the dump just in the past two weeks.

demo4

So I’m chipping away at plaster and tile and all of a sudden I see THIS! WHATTTTTTT. That’s pretty unmistakably the curved top of an actual firebox!! I was amazed. I was stunned. I’d long accepted that all I was uncovering was an old and probably pretty brick wall with a hole in it for a wood stove. I literally had to take a break to get my breathing under control.

demo5

Before long…OH HELLO! Obviously the whole thing was bricked over at some point, I guess when they switched to the wood stove set-up, abandoned the fireplace, and plastered the chimney? I don’t really know a ton about this so I have some research to do.

clean-out

You can see this in the third photo of this post, but there was this funny cut-out in the plaster toward the floor, lined with metal and with this flimsy metal cover. I took the cover off exactly once when I was  painting this wall, saw a dark pit of despair with a bunch of dirt and leaves and stuff, and put the cover back on and tiled around it because I didn’t know what else to do! I figure it’s basically a clean-out for anything that might come down though the chimney or soot from the wood stove.

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Now that I could see that it was part of a whole firebox, I removed the metal lining and started tearing out brick!

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Inside was pretty nasty! The old soot and stuff was packed in a few feet high, along with some broken glass (??), a bunch of leaves, brick fragments…nothing fun, just yucky.

chimney2016

But now! LOOK! LOOK! LOOOOOOOK! In case you couldn’t tell, I’m VERY excited about this discovery. One of my big goals with the kitchen is to make it look and feel more in keeping with the original details found in most of the rest of the house, so being able to uncover this fabulous existing feature is SUPER motivating.

As to what I’ll actually do with it, I don’t know yet! I’ll definitely be adding a hearth stone in front of it (not sure what…I guess conceivably it could either be a slab of something, continuation of the brick, or tile?). The firebox is only a foot deep, so in terms of making it at all functional, I think gas logs might be the way to go here. I’ll call a chimney person to see what can/should be done in terms of a cap at the top of the chimney, probably a new liner, I guess some kind of damper to keep the heat from all escaping out the flue…like I said, research time! I’m just still so shocked and excited that it’s even there that my mind can’t process all this activity at once.

My kitchen is going to be the best kitchen, folks. CAN. NOT. WAIT.


94 Comments

  1. OMG this is even better than the insurance card discovery!

  2. Wow, just wow!

  3. I love that you just tore into the brickwork filling the thing. Like, no fcks given at all. Happy belated birthday, this is going to look sickening. I’m interested to see how you reposition everything for workflow, and I assume you’re losing some wall frontage with this not being a solid wall, but who cares about that. Old houses are the best.

  4. holy mother of God….that’s fantastic…a dream …what about doing like the brits and have a wood burner in there….a cream coloured one….it’s so charming….all british home magazines show houses with small wood stoves inserted in the fireplace..and yes..this one is shallow and the stove would stick out…but it’s an option….I’m sure you jumped up and down…admit it.

    love this…..

    • Definitely something I’m looking into! Sounds like that was the original purpose (see Ross’s comment, below!)—a wood stove that may have been for both cooking and heat. After the civil war, stoves began to look more like what we have now…with a larger cooktop and oven space, and maybe fueled by coal instead of wood. So I’d guess that’s when the insert was bricked over and the other vent hole was added at the top, since those newer, larger models wouldn’t have sat inside the insert space or vented the same way. Huh!

      I did jump up and down, for sure! :)

    • As a Brit, with a wood burner (open, not enclosed) I have to implore you to do it, if finances allow. The heat and smells from an open (or closed) stove are a delight, as are the aesthetic results.

  5. Whoa! Amazing find.

    Also, happy belated birthday :)

    A

  6. Nice discovery! I can see a nice little curved marble mantlepiece happening, maybe?

    • Maybe! There are two small pieces of wood actually embedded into the masonry that look like they’re there to provide a place to screw a mantel into. I’m guessing some kind of simple wood mantel would be more appropriate, but something to look into for sure!

  7. I totally agree with debbie in toronto – a small woodstove would look AMAZING and would also give you a cooking surface in an emergency if you choose one with a flat top.

    Less of an issue if you are bringing in gas for your actual stove top, but still a nice to have – in case of a really bad winter or the zombie apocalypse…..

    That brick is swoonworthy.

    • exactly threadbndr….the smell of woodsmoke in the morning…..heaven

      • The idea is certainly nice! I’d have to get over my somewhat irrational fear of burning actual fire in the house (I grew up with gas logs in a 90s suburban house, which is as close as I’ve gotten to fire inside anywhere I’ve ever lived! It just seems so scary!), but I think I could do that if I was sure the installation was safe and correct and not going to burn the whole house down. O_O

      • Doooooo itttttt. Wood stoves are actually really simple and safe. And they make every room more cozy!

      • yes do it! I get the heebeejeebies from having gas in my house, too absent-minded and always afraid I’ll leave something on.
        But I just love love love my stove and never had any issues whatsoever!

      • The reason we put the gas fireplaces in were: 1) your brother had an asthma attack everytime we burned any kind of real wood in the previous house and we didn’t know if he’d ever outgrow that and 2) no muss, no fuss, no schlepping in the wood, no cleaning up the ashes, and the gas logs were looking better and better. Just FYI. It wasn’t a fire danger thing.

  8. Yes to the woodstove. Tea kettle simmering. Beans simmering. Rocking chair where the sink was. Ummm. When do I move in? May be cheaper since gas weakens brick chimneys?
    Oh so exciting. Happy birthday, Daniel!! may this be your best year yet.

  9. First things, first- HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    This is amazing!!!! Your beautiful house holds many surprises.
    I would die to have a home with a history. Ours is unfortunately built in the 60ies with not the slightest trace of creativity. Nothing salvagable – horrible wallpaper and pink flowery tile paired with babyblue sink and bathtub…..

    • Thank you! And hey, sometimes that’s fun—it means you get to do whatever you want!! Working with history is fun for me but working on more modern buildings definitely has its own appeal!

    • Keep that baby blue sink and bathtub! At least live with it for a while. You’d be surprised how hard people look for a set like that, especially if there’s a toilet too! Google it, I promise you’ll find lots of ideas that aren’t tacky.

      • Yes, I LOVE those fixtures—especially in a house like yours where they’re appropriate! But if you can’t love it, just don’t send to a landfill—you probably know, but salvage shops, craigslist, Habitat for Humanity ReStore…plenty of other places for them to go. :)

      • We did indeed live with this for a while (a too long while…), but I could not love those tiles. The sink was still fine so it’s now installed in the garage, but the tub was so beaten up that there was no way to reuse or sell. Since all the piping had to be replaced, we are now blessed with a more contemporary, serene bathroom without hot water tank over the tub.
        In my previous appartment we had a pea-green toilet, which I adored :-)

      • Good call on the hot water tank. I don’t think there’s a reason to keep everything, but I definitely think it’s worth living with and noodling on before tearing out something that doesn’t immediately feel like “you.”

  10. So happy for you. What an awesome find. Can’t wait to see what you do with it when the kitchen is finally done.

  11. Belated Happy Birthday! And another endorsement for the woodstove. So excited for you (and my vicarious future enjoyment of the new kitchen)!

  12. I am sad to inform you that you do not have a fireplace.

    Sorry! I feel bad!

    You have an “insert” for a coal/wood stove. The back of the stove would sit in the insert.

    I have the same thing in my old house.

    A fireplace would be much deeper.

    • nothing sad about that….WOODSTOVE.

    • Ah, thank you, Ross! I didn’t know the distinction and thought the 1′ depth was very odd! I guess I was picturing one of those cast iron basket kind of things holding coal, but not a typical wood-burning fireplace. Cool!

    • Based on the size of the plastered over chimney, this is what I was expecting Daniel would find. I’ve seen a lot of examples of people tucking stoves into these, and I love them. If it’s tall enough – and I think it is based on the door handle for scale – that’s what I think you should do, Daniel.
      P.S. Happy birthday!

    • Ross, thanks for explaining that this was created for an insert. I just knew there had to be an explanation for a ‘firebox’ only 1 foot deep.

  13. Happy birthday, you fabulous gem of a human! Cannot wait to see what marvelous things you will do with this space. Lots of admiration from a fellow old house lover in Tennessee. xoxo

  14. Woweee-Kazowee! That is an awesome Happy Birthday find!

  15. “I’m dealing with a lot of -ish right now.” I will be using this phrase, if you don’t mind. As always, your words and your home renovations reveal the best gems.

  16. Congrats! You are almost exactly half as old as I am. It’s weird, that’s all, since I’m still about your age mentally (no insult intended). I say wood stove, too.

  17. This is SO exciting! And good for you for going along with what the house wants/needs. I was very impressed by your original fix-up but I am far more impressed by the way you are peeling off the (rotten) layers of onion to get to the part that’s still tasty.
    My aunt in Iowa has a gigantic wood stove to heat her house, which smells a bit like smoke even in the dead of summer. And that is not a complaint.
    As for gas cooking stoves, however, I just have to say I LOVE induction. We had a big propane tank in the back yard, being too much in the sticks for gas, and it cost an arm and a leg (though in French the term is “ça coute la peau des fesses”–it costs the skin of your ass–which is even more alarming). So we got rid of the propane and went all electric, with a dream of doing solar one of these days. That led to an induction stove, which I LOVE (and which also would prepare us for the zombie apocalypse). Just saying, that if for any reason at all gas doesn’t work out for you, there is an alternative that is as good as gas plus has other advantages (like leaving stuff on the stovetop that won’t burn even if the stove is on…unless it’s magnetic).
    Good luck. Can’t wait to see your next step!

    • I second induction…if you can handle keeping the electric stove for a while longer or find yourself a sugar daddy. It is awesome. A touch more expensive than gas, but so worth it.

    • I third this – we just built a new house and decided to go with induction instead of gas, even though I originally was absolutly sure I wanted gas. We’ve been living with it for about a month, and I LOVE it. Water boils instantly – like, I put the kettle on, and run upstairs to grab a pair of shoes, and oops, it’s boiling already by the time I’m back down. Cooking dinner is actually significantly faster than it was on our old electric, or even on the gas stove we had in an old apartment. It’s working wonderfully with all our cast iron cookware. We had to replace most of our cheapo alumnium pans that weren’t induction ready, so we splurged and got some All Clad (such a sacrifice!). It does have a low hum which sort of bothered me at first, but I don’t even notice it now. The other thing that I love about it is that it means there’s no propane tank – no possibility for a gas leak/explosion, no scheduling deliveries, no chance of carbon monoxide issues, and nothing like the interior air pollution that you would get from a gas stove. It does cost more upfront (although I think we only paid about $1300 for ours – Sears Kenmore Elite), but not having to run the gas lines does save something. Seriously – think about it. We actually bought a little induction hot plate on Amazon when we were trying to decide, just to try it out. It was about $60 and definirly helped us feel more comforatble with the decsion. Plus, you’re kitchenless right now, so the hot plate might be useful!

    • Thanks so much for that expression. I have been trying to dust off my French and la peau des fesses is a gem! In Brazil we go for gas stoves all the way, electricity is too expensive here and, for me, in the middle of a huge city wood is out of the question. It’s funny how choices made way above our heads impact our everyday little choices: France runs mostly on atomic generators, that’s why it’s so cheap to run electric stoves, Brazil runs on hydro power – on the limit of it’s production with distribution and sale done by for profit companies, that is why electric stoves are so rare here. I cooked my first meal on an electric stove in Paris. It is weird.

  18. I love brick! What an exciting find!! Can’t wait to see how it all turns out :)

  19. I have never gotten a fireplace for my birthday :D You lucky man.

  20. Happy birthday! I hope you did something fun to celebrate, not just tear your kitchen apart. Thanks for sharing this latest discovery, too. I saw the stove in a photo of your dining room from the last post and was a little puzzled, but just assumed that I had forgotten which wall it lived on. These posts are helping to keep me motivated, since “winter is coming” and we aren’t done with our outside work yet…

    • Also, I think I replanned my kitchen every day and questioned every choice right up until it was “done” – and there are only two small things I would have done differently, had I to do it over. Both can be accomplished later if I decide they bother me enough and neither will break the bank, just result in a couple of nice items for the Restore. All this to say that whatever you choose, you’ll end up loving, if I had to guess. Just keep moving forward!

  21. YASSSSSSSSSS. Happy belated! I wish I could uncover an original brick fireplace for my birthday too! Cheers to another year, and having many a fine drink next to your new old fireplace.

  22. That is amazing! What a great surprise. We had a Franklin stove in our house, but didn’t have the inlet like you found. It was great when we lost power and it was winter in rural Illinois. Wood burning stove to the rescue.

  23. I like reading your posts because I feel like we are not alone trying to take care about our old house and I think you are more crazy than we are ! Your discovery reminds me what we found behind the plater of the walls of the kitchen, last year. (It is in french) https://au33delarue.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/cuisine/
    https://au33delarue.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/les-dessous-de-la-cuisine/
    Well, our discovery was not so nice but was very helpful for the new kitchen. I am looking forward to see what you are going to do with your kitchen. I wish you the best !

  24. Daniel, this is so fun! Peeling back the layers is exciting. And messy. Plaster IS heavy – we removed 13 tons total. I can still remember trying to shower that dust out of my hair, only to find that once my hair dried it was STILL there.

    As you know, we’re about to tear out our first kitchen – we call it the “practice kitchen”. I can’t wait. I’m pretty sure we know all the secrets, but there’s always a chance we’ll find something we weren’t expecting. I know there’s a chimney with a flue in there – fingers crossed we can use it for our vent hood exhaust.

    Also, happy birthday! You’re so young, lucky!

  25. Happy Birthday…the house gods gave you a great gift today! I actually gasped when I saw the pic on IG and ran over to my laptop to read all about it. I’m a giddy schoolgirl (ok, 61 years old but in spirit) right now and am so happy for you! Thanks for the adrenalin rush, I needed that.

  26. Happy Birthday, indeed! That is going to look so amazing. That pile of debris from the sink wall is horrifying! You are a machine, I swear. So much work. But man, it is going to be so worth it.

    (Also, at the risk of sounding like a crazy person, I had a dream the other night that you updated your blog every day for a week, and I was overwhelmed because I had too much to read. Yeah, I don’t know, either.)

  27. SCREAM.

    OMG, it’s even cooler than I was expecting from your IG!!!!! I don’t even have coherant thoughts yet, just glee!

  28. what a birthday present! this house KNEW just want you would love!
    so excited and happy for you !

    Happy Birthday!

  29. P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I can’t believe how much awesome shit you’ve already accomplished at 27 & I hope this year is magical for you!

  30. This is really, really exciting. I’ll bet you thought there were no more “good” surprises in store, but here you go!

  31. YESH

  32. Happy Birthday! You’re so young! What a lot you’ve achieved! Yay, you!
    I have the same sort of fireplaces in my house (throughout — six of them total) and am told they were built to hold coal-burning stoves that would sit inside them and the soot would go up a pipe through the hole and the little box was to collect chimney soot. I still find coal in the basement sometimes. My house is an 1872 rowhouse in New England. None of the houses in my neck had wood burning fireplaces, just the stoves to heat with coal (and presumably servants to clean the soot from the coal and the gaslight).

  33. Can. Not. Wait!!!!!
    Despite my Northern Californian 1950s rancher sensibility I adore your house and your news.

  34. I’m so pleased for you! I’m not certain, but yours looks like it could be a Rumford fireplace: Tall and shallow, it was invented by a Count Rumford, and the design was found to reflect heat into a room very efficiently. Have fun with it–what a great focal point for your new kitchen design.

  35. Three words: Wood fired PIZZA.

  36. Maybe it’s meant to hold one of those shallow, roundish parlor stoves that would fit on the hearth. Here’s an 1840s Greek Revival example. You won’t have to go far to find more. It says there’s a collection in Albany. http://joanbogart.com/classical-furniture2690

  37. I know money is tight, so if you want the look of a wood stove without the cost, look around for somebody trying to get rid of a Scandia stove. These were cheap Taiwanese knock offs that were sold for a few years until people realized how very unsafe they were. I have one sitting in a weird nook of my living room and I got it free. Sure it’s essentially a very large, very useless knick knack, but it fills up the weird space and cost me nothing but the elbow grease of hauling it off.

  38. The kitchen will be great, I understand it feels like jumping into the deep end, but it still must be a good feelnig to get to do this so early! I love revealing old walls… If you are concerned about the fire place I would recommend a tube and filling the chimney with vermiculite. I am not sure how your regulations are written, but if it is ok it is by far the safest way to go about. If your chimney is structurally sound you will not need to reline it, only fill it. The tube is heatresistant and contains the gases and the insulation reduces the heating of the chimney. You also get a better draft with a smaller pipe. I haven´t found any links in english but this shows a drawing of the principal idea.
    https://www.skorstensbutiken.se/skorstensrenovering/i-35.htm
    And then you could install a little cream white cutie from Jötul….
    https://eldabutiken.se/produkter/jotul-f-3/

    best of luck with the debris!

  39. It’s gorgeous! And I totally called it in a comment a few posts back :)

    I concur with Ross that it probable had some cookstove, and further concur with the other posters who said to put one back in. Maybe one of those cheery enameled European stoves? They’re so adorable. Let me know if you need a cast-iron skillet, I’ve got more here at Gay Gardens than I know what to do with.

    I quite randomly stumbled on this gas heater today – definitely not Greek Revival but too cool not to share: http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/for/5811873671.html

  40. What a find, Does it have a chimney? Does it have a hearth under the floor? Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  41. Never before have I heard of houses giving people birthday gifts! It’s downright miraculous.
    Congratulations! And I love you and your blog!

  42. What great news! I share your excitement wholeheartedly. I felt the same way when we found the near-perfect hardwood floors in the kitchen. They were buried under vinyl and linoleum. There is buried treasure in these old house.

  43. Happy belated birthday Daniel!
    You certainly know how to throw yourself a party – not everyone can rock the filthy pink insulation and crumbles of house oddments decor like you can!
    Yay to your real birthday present fireplace/firebox/place for cozy stove!

  44. This is such a great find! I’m imagining cold winter mornings spent in the kitchen with a fire going and then just downing a few cups of coffee to try and wake up. Heck! Even a bunch of candles in the hearth would be so warm and lovely.

  45. This is SO EXCITING, I’m SUPER jealous – what a find?!

  46. AMAZING. What a super birthday present. Yay you! Happy birthday!

    I am breaking my “never give advice unless it’s explicitly solicited” rule to offer a comment on types of stoves. I, like you, was all gas, all the time (that sounds weird?) until we moved from Brooklyn to Vermont and we didn’t feel like paying an exorbitant amount of money to run a gas line that could only be connected to a propane tank. We got a half induction range, and three years later updated to a GE Profile all-induction range. I cannot tell you how much we love it. I have cooked professionally, and this really outstrips gas in every way. It’s truly instantaneous responsiveness–something which gas purports to offer but, with those cast iron burners that hold heat, really doesn’t. Also, we can cook inside in the summer.

    I hesitate to even offer this comment since I know stoves are such a personal thing, and the aesthetic of a gas stove is certainly so much better, but I thought I’d mention this because even the somewhat exorbitant price of a GE Profile range comes way down when you don’t have to factor in the addition of a gas line.

    Happy birthday, again!

  47. Call me not surprised – I would have been surprised if there wasn’t some opening in what was clearly a chimney wall. In a home built before the era of central heating, each room would have some form of heating device in it (whether the device was also used for cooking or not), and would have clearly been connected to the chimney to vent in this room.
    .
    Many old Brooklyn brownstones with wood burning fireplaces in them now were originally not built with wood-burning fireplaces in them – they were built for coal or gas burning inserts, and so were originally too shallow to be wood burning fireplaces – but many have been converted to wood burning fireplaces by rebuilding the fireboxes in modern times. Even so, yours looks like it may be even less deep than most I have seen that were so converted. So whether this would be convertible to an actual wood-burning fireplace is doubtful – but in any event, you likely don’t want a wood burning fireplace at floor height in your kitchen.
    .
    Wood burning stoves are great (though I also get asthma from them if they aren’t well vented.) BUT they are not the wave of the future in urban settings. Due to the great amount of particulate they put into the air, some cities have already banned making wood fires in homes, and this is clearly the trend of the future. Now I realize that you are not in a large city, but you are in an area of smaller cities, and not far from a huge one, so even if you like wood-burning stoves, I’d try to figure out how soon wood burning fires are likely to be banned where you live. Then, if you truly want a wood-burning stove, put one in knowing you won’t be able to use it forever. Or, go with the future and do not put in anything that burns wood. This is what you would do if you are thinking green for the future. Yes, wood-burning smells great, but I also get asthma walking around outside in an area where a bunch of people are burning wood in their homes. Sure, I’m like the canary in the coal mine, being extra sensitive – but the problem of urban area pollution and rapidly increasing rates of asthma, especially in children, is due largely to environmental issues we can control. Being green would suggest another solution than burning wood.
    .
    It would make a great focal point without a wood-burning insert. I think I’d be likely to incorporate this area into my radiator heat system somehow, with a radiator in or in front of the insert. It isn’t like you need a wood-burning stove for when the electricity is out when you have a gas stove – it will work without electricity. When laying out a new kitchen, trying to figure out where to leave space for the radiator(s) is often a main concern. You have a bump out chimney here that would serve that purpose better than many others.
    .
    If you don’t decide to use this wall for that (it would look really most fine with just a mantle and no heater there) – one thing I saw recently that I did not know existed are small radiators that can be connected to a radiator system that are designed to fit under kitchen cabinets in the toekick space – google “toekick radiator” – so you can have a home with radiator heat without losing kitchen floor space to a large radiator – check them out. If you do this, your fireplace insert can be a thing of beauty on its own in your kitchen.

  48. so.cool.

  49. SQUEE!! *hands flapping excitedly* OMG! That’s so fucking exciting!! :D :D Congrats!

  50. Wow what a beautiful chimney!
    please don’t paint it.

  51. Kitchen sinks are highly underrated. The sink is the last t,hing out, first thing back when I do a kind tchen. And we cut the old bench so the sink can be juryrigged ASAP, too.

  52. You’re only 27!?!?! IMAGINE what you will accomplish at 37 or 47 . . .
    Well done finding the firebox! I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  53. I just came here to say:

    HO. LY. SHIT! :D

  54. I only know one thing about word burning heat–you have to have a really big supply of small cut dried wood. My grandma had a large woodbox in her vestibule and a garage half full of wood. They both smelled really nice.

  55. Growing up in Newfoundland in the 80s and 90s we had a wood stove in the basement of a split level. The house was set up for those baseboard electric heaters but my parents never turned them on. We chopped wood and lit the fire to keep us warm. It was a lot of work but there were benefits. When there was a winter storm (there were many) and the power went out, we were warm and could make tea and toast on the flat top of it. When we were sick and had the flu, my dad would pull the sofa closer to the fire so we could lay close to the heat and “sweat the virus out”. It worked like a charm, sweaty flu induced lucid dreams all night, but we’d wake up stronger and better.

    I now live in a high rise condo downtown Toronto, with all the modernity that comes with that. I don’t miss chopping wood and schlepping it into the house every wintery Saturday, but I miss the comfort and hominess that stove brought us.

    Just a story. Nostalgia reins!

  56. And Happy Birthday!

  57. That is SO COOL. What a find! It is going to add such character to your kitchen.

    I also wanted to echo the recommendation in the comments above to consider an induction cooktop. The technology is so far beyond the electric cooktops of old. Induction is AMAZING. Fast, efficient, safe, powerful, and no need to run a gas line. The only drawback is for those who view a giant gas range as a focal point in a kitchen. But given your more modern aesthetic, an induction cooktop may be right up your alley. The flush mount cooktops are truly gorgeous in the right setting. Something like this would look amazing next to all that exposed brick: http://www.houzz.com/photos/11202298/Wimbledon-Bespoke-Contemporary-Kitchen-contemporary-kitchen-london

    • Thanks for chiming in in praise of magnetic cookery! Whoa…gorgeous. That’s the next iteration of our kitchen. (Of course, I have to rip out drywall and put in brick and then plaster over it and then expose it first.)

  58. You should take a gander to the Hill Hold Museum. They have a shallow fireplace like yours and they show how to cook on it. It’s really interesting. You have a very small fire and these arms that swing the pots in, or a low fire and the pot right on the fire. I’d never seen that style of fireplace or cooking before. Kinda makes me nervous to think the fire is not ALL the way in the fireplace, but hey, seems to work.

  59. 1. Happy birthday!
    B. What a great birthday surprise!
    iii. Didn’t that door to the right of the fireplace wall used to lead to the laundry room?

  60. How exciting! I love reading about the hidden history you’re revealing in your house.

  61. You are the craziest homeowner/renovator that I know.
    You are also my favorite.

    I am dying for this fireplace and can’t wait to see what you do in this space again.

  62. A belated happy birthday. Once upon a time, I saw a nice little insert that one could put into a fireplace box to use to barbecue inside the house. I cannot find it anymore (all I found was a fireplace conversion system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atgFD2iNOcU). I’d probably be searching to find that (extremely expensive, if I remember correctly) insert if I were lucky enough to have found such a thing in my kitchen. What a lovely birthday present! But, yes, I’d put in a wood stove if I could. I don’t know that there’s a much greater fire risk to having open flames in a well-designed stove and having wires embedded in the walls where critters can gnaw them, unseen. Insurance and smoke detectors, I guess, might work for both?

  63. I’m feeling compelled to share my woodstove pinterest board with you in support of the other woodstove supporters. Many, many options out there that would fit in that space. https://www.pinterest.com/mspaulal/wood-stoves/

    When we exposed our brick chimney I wished that we uncovered a fireplace. Woodstove pipe insert? Yes. Fireplace? Not so much. (Not that I complain, we’re pretty on board with any kind of brick exposure).

  64. I thought you might get a kick out of this: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/mcmansion-hell-devil-details/ It’s an essay of everything that you are the opposite of. Please post more blog!

  65. It might be a warm air vent system that would transport hot air from the furnaces in the basement. In many Brooklyn brownstones, each room in the house would have something looking like a mantel, but with a beautiful metal insert with hot-air vents.

  66. Would a bit of bluestone as a hearth be out of the question?

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