Nothing warms up a home during a chilly northern winter like the soft glow of a cozy fireplace.
"They're a necessity, especially here in Minnesota," says Rob Sloan, co-owner of Stellar Hearth Products in Prior Lake.
A fireplace remains a most-wanted feature for home buyers, according to Angie's List, and increases a home's value up to 12 percent, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.
But while fire is eternal, fireplace styles come and go. And new technology has ignited more options from which to choose.
Right now, sleek fireplaces in clean-lined surrounds are in vogue. "Modern design is trending," Sloan says. "There are a lot fewer mantels. People want that clean look with no metal showing on the face of the fireplace. Gone are the traditional doors."
"We see more long, linear fireplaces, lower to the ground," says Kristine Anderson, co-owner of Peterssen/Keller Architecture.
While the traditional mantel decked with knickknacks is less common than it used to be, a raised hearth is still a hot commodity. "People love the hearth, so they can sit there and gather around," she said.
Sloan is seeing a spike in demand for island units that take center stage. "It becomes the focal point in the room vs. the focal point on the wall," he says.
And the renewed popularity of midcentury modern design has revived interest in the hanging fireplaces of that era, Anderson said. Modern Scandinavian wood stoves also are seeing increased demand.
The majority of today's new fireplaces are gas, but some people still want at least one wood-burning fireplace in their home, according to Anderson. "They love the feel and look."
Families with young children can opt for double-paned glass with a sliver of air between, so the outer layer stays cooler to the touch. "You can have a robust flame without worrying about anyone burning their hand," says Sloan.
Inside the firebox, glass rocks and faux driftwood are edging out the traditional stack of thick logs. "Driftwood like you would see on the shoreline is a very popular look, " Sloan says.
Those who want bells and whistles along with their fire can choose LED lighting features that allow changing the color of the fire display. "You can customize it — red and green for Christmas or blue and red for the Fourth of July," Sloan says. "The colors can fade in and out or post to music, or match the color of your wall — all smart-device controlled."