Wood-burning stoves bring a fragrant warmth into the house that cannot be duplicated by any modern day electrical or gas appliance. Your ancestors depended on the same type of stove to keep their homes heated and to cook their dinners. Stoves have changed little in looks, but their efficiency and safety have been greatly improved. The surround areas for the cast iron stoves are chosen more for aesthetics than function today.
Brick has been a common material used for the hearth and the surrounding walls of a wood burning stove. Instead of the typical squared-off brick wall, build the surround in the shape of an arch, which looks like a half of a circle over the top of the stove. The hearth can be built about a foot off the floor which would finish off this rounded look.
Wood and Field Stone
The newer cast iron wood-burning stoves have built-in fire proof walls to their sides and bottom according to the Rafter Tales website. As long as you keep the stove away from the walls at the distance the manufacturer dictates, you can use any type of material for a surround. A rustic wood surround would complement the dark cast iron that sits on a hearth made of field stone. Another option is to use the field stone as the surround, but frame it in the rustic wood.
To create a surround on a budget, use the peel-and-stick tiles that are found in most home stores. These tiles are sold in solid colours or in a multitude of designs. Choose a plain, coloured tile that goes with your decor and add a decorative stencilled tile every few feet to give the surround some detail. If your room is dark, use mirror tiles to reflect some light into the room. Frame either tile selection with wood moulding. Use two or three odd pieces of granite that you may be able to purchase cheaply as a remnant or a mistake from a countertop company.
For a rustic cabin or lodge look, use the medium to large river rock to build a hearth and surround for your stove. This chunky rock will add a design of depth and curves to the hearth area that makes it a striking focal point of the room. The river rock heats up and radiates the heat back out into the room much like the cast iron does. This is heating efficiency at its best.