Hearths in the Home

Traditionally the corner stone of a home, hearths are rife with symbolism and synonymous with light, warmth, food and protection. However, technological advancements in home heating over the last half century have rendered their place in most homes largely obsolete. As we strive towards greater energy efficiencies through air tightness and increased insulation the case for the inclusion of hearths in a home becomes increasingly difficult given their inefficiencies.

At the same time, there is perhaps an intrinsic desire within the human psyche for a hearth in the home. A focal point for people to gather around, away from the distractions of technology. Balancing these seemingly opposing interests has been a pleasing challenge for us as we have begun schematic design work on a large energy efficient home for a client in Whistler. The project sits on a sloping site and will likely be spread across multiple floors with a strong emphasis on vertical circulation.

Early concepts and conversations have centered around how a hearth should function within the home, what purpose is it serving serve and where. Due to the non-combustible nature of a hearth, it’s material lends it toward being a key structural component of the house. Placement within the layout is critical not just structurally but also in how it determines the flow of spaces, frames views and how it is expressed both internally and externally. We are exploring a concept of a large structural anchor in the house serving as a hearth, a mass which could house multiple fireplaces across a number of floors. This mass thereby becomes the pivot or centre of the home, consolidating the fireplaces in one area will also hopefully allow us greater control of the openings, mitigating against the inefficiencies associated with hearths and energy losses.