Places That Work: Hearths

Even in our high tech age, hearths continue to enhance our experience of the rooms where they appear. The psychological power of a glowing, cracking fire safely tucked into a generous niche endures even though we no longer depend on its heat and light.

When the fire is out, fireplaces can still provide a psychological boost. Their very presence in a room evokes positive associations. Even in the tropics or in rooms with central heating, nothing seems to communicate “security” and “comfort” as quickly or as reliably as a hearth. This is why they’re found in hotel lobbies, sidewalk cafés, and other public spaces that are trying to communicate feelings of “welcome” and “hospitality”.

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When the fireplaces we encounter glow with fire, watching the gyrating flames can help us restock our mental energies. This is why we find time spent by a fire after a long day of working so restorative.

You think a fireplace in a lobby or great room is a cliché? I think not. I think design formulas persevere because they support how people like to use interior spaces–and hearths do just that in an enduring fashion.

Sally Augustin, PhD, is a principal at Design with Science . She is also the editor of Research Design Connectionsand the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009). She can be reached at sallyaugustin@designwithscience.com

Series Posts: Places that Work

Categories: Design

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