The Tudor period in England, from 1485 to 1603, saw design changes that would remake how people lived in their homes and how those homes would look. The design built on medieval architecture and shapes, so there is something simple, appealing and domestic about even the grandest Tudor design. Today a Tudor fireplace is a graceful and complementary addition to a library, living room, bedroom, dining room or kitchen.
A Tudor fireplace typically will have no mantel or a minimal projection that works as an extremely modest mantel. The firebox has a rectangular opening and is lined in symmetrical stone, brick or herringbone design. The pointed arch of the opening is gentle and usually slightly rounded—an arch of about 10 degrees. The arch may be edged in rectangular or squared stones, pavers or bricks or just blend into the facade with no extra border. Some Tudor fireplaces have simple carved shields, leaves and fruit or chevrons over the opening. Others are left plain to emphasise the clean design or the beauty of the surround material. The style is most often replicated in stone and rarely has wood panelling or any extraneous decoration.
Tudor fireplace surrounds can be carved in marble or limestone, set on a marble hearthstone, or loom, oversized, in proportion to the room. A large hearth evokes a travellers’ inn or the great room of a castle so, if you want a den suitable for Henry VIII, you can design your Tudor fireplace to dominate one wall. Engage a stone carver to sculpt a custom fireplace in elegant stone for a very formal room. Embellish the simple arch further by hanging an oil painting over it—the lack of a prominent mantel in Tudor design means artwork displayed above it will hold its own. The impulse to do something grand or showy with a Tudor hearth is grounded in history. During the Tudor period, the enclosed hearth and the chimney stack were introduced, people began to situate fireplaces on second floors and built enormous exterior chimney stacks to signify their wealth, architectural design savvy and good taste.
An outdoor room with a Tudor sensibility mixes an open “ceiling” of treated wood beams with a stone patio that has as its centrepiece a Tudor fireplace for gathering around on chilly nights. A traditional barbecue can be built into the stone island that houses the fireplace for those who indulge in serious backyard cooking. Otherwise, the hearth itself can be used to heat a hanging pot of mulled wine or cider on a brisk autumn evening.
If you want to live in a stage set, panel the walls around your Tudor fireplace, hang a coat-of-arms banner over the mantel and replace at least one window in the room with stained glass. Furnish your castle with heavy, carved pieces and cover cushions or beds with ruby, sapphire, deep emerald and royal purple velvets and brocades. And keep a fire burning in the hearth, summer and winter to dispel the damp from the stone walls.
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