Extra Dark Roast

The record-breaking summer heat has finally faded away, and my favorite season has arrived. Fall weather means cool, crisp mornings and nights that are perfect for cozying up to the fire with a hot coffee, cider or cocktail.

Iconic Architecture


As seen in most Streng Bros. Homes, Carter Sparks designed many plans with his signature straight set masonry fireplace. Mine is prominently featured in the living room, and it's something I use often throughout the fall and winter season.

The aesthetic of the fireplace is bold and graphic as it grounds the room, and creates an architectural focal point, but I found a few elements of it somewhat distracting. Though the fireplace was constructed in a modern straight set pattern, the interior was set in a traditional running bond pattern. The yellow-tan color of the backdrop also clashed with the adjacent natural brick color. To remedy these challenges, I masked the straight set bricks and hearth, and painted the interior with high heat matte black spray paint. This little fix makes contrasting grout lines disappear, giving a beautiful, simplified backdrop for dancing flames that appear to float in space.

Painting the interior black also eliminates unsightly scorch marks and soot that collects on the bricks. So while the bricks may not always be clean, they will at least appear to be!


Clean Burn

Somewhere in my home's history, a gas connection was piped into the wood burning fireplace for use as a log lighter. By turning the key on the wall, gas would flow to the log lighter, eliminating the need for kindling or newspaper to get a fire started. While I love the look and sound of real logs, I'm not a fan of the cleanup and soot that is left behind from burning them. Here in California, we also have no-burn days November through February, which prohibit the burning of solid fuels. By using natural gas, I am free to have a fire without restrictions...just the way I like it.



Avant Garde Alternative 

I explored a few options for traditional gas log sets, but stumbled upon a beautiful contemporary option in my search. FireBalls by Rasmussen were the perfect solution to my home's modern aesthetic. I purchased their 29-piece set, and was able to choose from a variety of colors. Sizes range from about 2" diameter to 7" diameter. Installation and set-up were fairly straightforward, though I did have to elevate my burner pan due to the placement of the incoming gas valve. For this portion, I used several standard bricks painted with the same high heat paint to create an elevated platform for the burner pan.

The result of these two modifications is a functional and artful presentation of contemporary shapes that compliment the surrounding environment with a visual contrasting pop. With the holidays just around the corner, I'm looking forward to enjoying this iconic spot with family and friends, feeling cozy and warm in a space that feels a bit more stylish and elevated than before.