There's nothing as romantic and wonderful on a cold winter's night - or afternoon, or morning - than a roaring fire in the fireplace. It's as beautiful as it is comforting. Warmth and light permeates the home and creates an instantly relaxed atmosphere. But fires, as wonderful as they are, require work. Logs must be constantly added and shifted in order to keep the flames full and bright. Fireplaces and chimneys need to be cleaned out from time to time, and proper maintenance is imperative for chimney health and safety. Flues left open after a fire has been put out force valuable warm air to escape up the chimney. And flues must be left open for a while after the flames have extinguished for safety's sake. For those who suffer allergies and respiratory illnesses, fireplaces can be troublesome. And logs can get pricy if you use your fireplace frequently. Fires make me nervous. I love them in other people's homes, but I am leary of them in my own.
When I was 16 my parents' weekend home in Newport, RI caught fire - The fireplace had not been properly outfitted. It was Christmas Eve and the event was pretty tragic. So much so that my parents have never lit a fire in any of their fireplaces since that fateful night
I've always enjoyed a fire burning in my fireplace. My ex husband was a pro at building and maintaining them. I felt safe. I never worried.They came in handy when the power went out in the wintertime. I loved our fireplaces and I loved our fires. One Christmas his mother gave us a beautiful candle holder that was designed specifically to be used in the fireplace. We used it in the living room. It was elegant and didn't require the maintenance or supervision - and didn't cause the room to get too warm when we were entertaining guests. How lucky were we to have 2 fireplaces? One was formal - that one housed the candles, and the other was casual.
Now, however, living on my own, I'm a bit leary once again. The children and I had quite a few fires last horrifically cold winter. I thought they were a lot of effort. I was burning through log after log after log. And I could hear the wind whistling through the chimney. And the house (which is about as airtight as a sieve) felt even draftier. But fireplaces are warm, relaxing, alluring and seductive. Then one night last winter, on one of the coldest days I had ever experienced, the scariest thing happened. The smoke, instead of billowing up, billowed back down and into my home. Smoke rolls in quickly - like a quickly changing tide. You must think on your toes and get out of the way. Soon my smoke detectors were screeching in their high-pitched wails and I had a hard time seeing across my own living room. I grabbed my phone, my handbag, jumped into the car and backed it out of the driveway into the small circle just beyond.
I called 911. I could see the glow of the fire inside. My imagination played tricks on me, influenced, I am sure, by my own memory of my youth. I was so glad my children were not with me to witness this. But I wish they had been. I was alone and wishing that I wasn't. Within minutes the fire department arrived with not one or two but three trucks.
One firefighter made it up to the roof and the rest went into the home dragging fans and hoses and other equipment with them. Doors and windows opened wide. On the coldest day of the year. I stood outside numb to the temperatures - or perhaps numb from them. I watched eagerly and nervously. Soon I was given permission to go inside. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The smoke was bad but the fire remained inside the fireplace, just as it was supposed to. I learned that sometimes when the weather is so cold, the cold forms a barrier at the top of the chimney. When this happens the smoke runs up against it and until that air warms, the smoke will not pass. And that is precisely what happened to me last winter.
I do love my fireplace but I do not love the worry. I have found that a fireplace filled with candles is the ultimate solution. It's warm, elegant, relaxing and all without worry and maintenance. You can arrange candles any way you wish - On the floor, in a multitude of sizes and widths, on platters, on mirrors and on candle sticks of varying sizes and shapes.
It's so simple and so perfect.