Home is Where the Hearth Is

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From House & Garden’s Complete Guide to Interior Decoration,
From House & Garden’s Complete Guide to Interior Decoration,

In deference to the time of year, this week's column celebrates the cosiest corner of the home in its chicest, most 70s iterations

A hearth refers to the floor of a fireplace or to the area immediately adjacent – usually made of stone or brick and often extending out into the room. Historically the hearth provided the main source of heat for the home, as well as being the place where most of the cooking was done. Naturally, the fireplace evolved into the central gathering place for the family and the hearth became synonymous with home – especially during the long winter months.

The advent of the modern kitchen and advances in heating technology significantly diminished the importance of the hearth. Electric and gas appliances meant you no longer needed fire to cook. Central heating allowed you to heat your entire house – or at least any room you chose to occupy. The role of the hearth as polestar of the house faded and fireplaces fell from absolute necessity to mere novelty.

However, the 1970s witnessed a resurgence of the grand centralised fireplace. As the hippie generation settled down and started to build homes, they incorporated their ideals of love, family and togetherness into their home designs. Kitchens were opened up to incorporate the dining area. Separated living and family rooms were replaced with great rooms and conversation pits. The fireplace was pulled off the wall and placed back into the center of the room, once again making the mantel a point of convergence. Sprawling hearths have since become ubiquitous with design from the 70s and 80s and the photos here represent the greatest nostalgia-worthy fireplaces from that era.

Words by Steven Holt