As the world awaits Santa’s annual stopover (his sleigh isn’t subject to pandemic restrictions), all eyes are on the chimney.
But for some New Yorkers, that fixation on the fireplace is a burning obsession, year-round.
“Growing up, my family — my parents, grandparents — all their houses had [a fireplace],” said 49-year-old tech executive Valerie Bordelanne. “It’s a place of warmth and joy. It’s around the fireplace that you can have deep discussions about any subject.
Born in Bordeaux, France, Bordelanne has spent the last 20 years living around the world with her husband, Gregoire Maes. Then, two years ago, the family decided to settle in Manhattan. They toured roughly 60 apartments, but one stood out among them — a condo with a statement fireplace created by Noam Dvir and Daniel Rauchwerger of the New York-based design firm BoND.
“To be honest, it was twice the budget we were predicting,” Bordelanne said of their one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea just off Eighth Avenue.
Dvir and Rauchwerger — who previously owned the condo — clad the existing traditional fireplace in 100 percent stainless steel, in a nod to the New York subway, that was hand-fabricated in Chinatown for $1,200. They then designed the rest of the home around that shining centerpiece.
“In old buildings, the bricks can be very damaged, so the architects hid them behind a nice modern piece,” Bordelanne said of the redesign Dvir and Rauchwerger gave the working hearth. “In the summertime, we put candles in there to pretend there is fire, and the reflection on the stainless steel is really, really nice at night.”
just one example of a trend that’s setting the city’s luxury developments ablaze. Modern mantels — from glitzy marble showstoppers to artsier interpretations — that offer warmth during the winter lockdown, as well as places to gather with your pod, have become coveted amenities this season.
“Gazing into a fire while seated with a partner or cuddling with your kids somehow takes the angst out of uncomfortable conversations, so I use them both indoors and outdoors in modern buildings,” said Irish-born interiors guru Clodagh, who is known for her focus on natural materials. “Fire is one of the five elements in feng shui along with water, wood and metal, so it should always be represented in a room.”
A reimagining of the humble hearth is now de rigueur in Manhattan’s priciest listings. Take the four-bedroom, $22.5 million penthouse at 555 West End Ave. on the Upper West Side. This erstwhile private school has been converted into residences, which combine killer views with a double-sided marble fireplace that’s the focal point of the main living area. Or, sit down affront the standout fireplace at the six-bedroom in 70 Vestry, made from driftwood marble and black granite (on the market for $28.5 million).
Meanwhile, a penthouse at 15 Hudson Yards has a floor-to-ceiling statement hearth, which also doubles as an artwork by John Millei, all for $29.5 million.
“Fireplaces are a huge draw for people, because they’re one of those rare amenities not everyone else has,” said Gabe Kellermeyer of Corcoran Sunshine, who is marketing a unit at 27e79 (27 E. 79th St.) on the Upper East Side, which is asking $12.75 million and boasts a bespoke contemporary fireplace from Parisian firm Cabinet Alberto Pinto.
“They give an immediate sense of home, and it’s the perfect place for a signature, blue-chip piece of art — above the beautiful mantel.”
Designer Deborah Berke added that the “practical redundancy” of a fireplace — we no longer need one to heat our homes — is at the heart of their appeal as a luxury.
Her firm just completed a $29.5 million duplex at 40 East End on the Upper East Side, which features a custom marble fireplace.
“They are a singular luxury, an indulgence,” she said. “When the fireplace is lit, it provides a constant source of movement that’s engaging, comforting and almost hypnotic.”
And while the fireside chat may be have been rekindled by top designers — their lit looks do pose an obstacle to portly St. Nick.
“Santa might be a little confused once he sees his reflection [in the stainless steel fireplace],” Dvir laughed of his conceptual hearth design. “We hope he finds his way out.”