One thing I always dreamed of having in any house I built was an open fire. There’s something quite appealing, (and dare I say romantic,) about the idea of being curled up in front of a roaring fire, while outside the Scottish weather dumps 3ft of snow on the doorstep.
But of course the downside of installing that lovely big open fire is that you have to build a chimney. In itself, the installation of a chimney in the barn wouldn’t have been a major trauma (by the standards of my build that is!) Given that at one point in time half the roof had been taken off and a large part of the outside wall had collapsed, constructing a chimney in the middle of the living room wouldn’t have created much additional disruption to the general state of ongoing chaos.
No – the real problem with installing a chimney in your house is that it is nothing more nor less than a bloody great hole through the roof – providing the perfect conduit to let in all that lovely (cold) Scottish weather. Not the most efficient thing to do in these days of airtight, super-insulated buildings….
But my inner pyromaniac was not entirely willing to give up on the idea of a fire in the house. So I came to the obvious compromise with my architect – let’s install a woodburning stove. And I left him to design the appropriate hearth…
I think I might have mentioned before that my architect’s ‘vision’ has occasionally been on the creative side. So it hardly came as any surprise that the design he came back with for the hearth wasn’t the usual bog-standard rectangular block on the floor, walled in for the purposes of fire-proofing.
Nope. My hearth is a weird fancy shape, raised above floor level, that comes complete with its own ‘peeking Tom’ window through to the corridor behind, and is topped out with my own private viewing platform – the glass-walled, glass-roofed snug up in my ME space.
Well who needs ordinary?
It all sounded great when the architect explained it to me.
And it looks perfectly innocent on paper.
Unfortunately, when construction actually commenced and it started to take shape, one of the brickies was moved to ask:
“Why are we building a coffin in the living room?”
And you have to admit, you can see where he’s coming from….
But the surrounding walls went up, and the ‘room over the fireplace’ was built, though not without a few issues along the way.
Bear in mind that this was all in the days when Mr Incompetent Builder was still on the scene. For some incomprehensible reason he decided there was no good reason why the wall on the ground floor should line up with the wall of the glass snug above. (I suspect it was built on one of the many days when his tape-measure had gone on strike.)
He grumbled quite a lot when I said it had to be taken down and rebuilt.
But even when it was corrected, even with the surrounding walls, the peek-a-boo window and the glass room above, it has to be said, the whole thing does still vaguely resemble a coffin.
So the name has stuck. The fireplace is now ‘the coffin’. Mind you, in one respect the name is appropriate; I over-ordered on the cement for slating the floor and had about 15 bags of the stuff to dispose of. But for some reason the council objects to bags of cement in the wheelie bin. So what better place to bury the evidence?
I dumped 12 bags into one end of the fireplace, poured a load of cement over the top and put a layer of slates down. Unfortunately I’d added a bit too much water to the cement, so some of my slates started to drown – resulting in a very uneven surface. But hey, since that part of the hearth is the log store and my cunning plan is to keep it well-stocked, who will ever know what lies beneath?
And the other end of the coffin was also used as a burial ground – but this time for a load of leftover concrete blocks and bricks. That part of the hearth has to take the weight of the stove, so I made sure it was one solid mass of block-work, topped with a solid layer of brick. (Trust me; I’m not Mr Incompetent builder!)
So a few coats of paint (thanks Mum!), and some well stacked logs (thanks Mum!), and we’re all set to go.
All I need now is the fire….