Cool isn’t how you’d usually describe a fireplace. However, advances in technology are allowing designers to do amazing things with this ancient source of warmth — without sweating people out of the building.

We’re now seeing fire — once confined to a hearth — extend (safely) throughout interior spaces. Whether they’re long and linear, round, or open concept, fireplaces and fire features are becoming more common at multifamily complexes, student housing, and hospitality and entertainment venues. It’s a trend that’s accelerated since COVID-19, says Casey Harvey, vice president of sales at Ray Murray, Inc., a wholesale distributor of propane equipment and appliances.

“People want a sense of calm and tranquility when they go out,” Harvey adds.

Here are five trends that are giving guests a warm welcome along with a bit of wow factor.

1. Heat management

Go ahead. Touch the glass. Fireplaces with heat-management technology allow designers to bring these features out into the open, not obscured behind a safety screen. For example, custom fireplaces from Langley, British Columbia–based Montigo come with the proprietary COOL-Pack system that creates a wash of air between the panes, making the glass cool to the touch.

Advanced heat-management solutions also allow fireplaces and flatscreen TVs to share the same wall. Methods vary by manufacturer, but the result effectively redirects heat around sensitive electronics, artwork, and décor.

“Your fire and TV are your focal points, especially in a commercial setting that needs some kind of entertainment,” says Jeff Bolze, president of Pennwood Home and Hearth, which serves Central Pennsylvania.

2. Grander designs

You’d think 16 feet of flames would make for a toasty environment, but an installation in the VIP lounge of Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia proves otherwise. Power venting and the ability to channel heat elsewhere is removing restrictions, giving designers the freedom to dream up bolder, more dramatic fire features without diminishing anyone’s comfort.

Ian Zankman, general manager at Dreifuss Fireplaces in Philadelphia, oversaw the Wells Fargo Center project. In this case, vents directed the heat to the story below. It’s one of several elaborate projects he’s completed as entertainment facilities compete in a game of one-upmanship.

“Every major job, especially if you’re in a well-to-do area, is competing against other tricked-out places,” Zankman says. “They’re going to have all the amenities. That means multiple fire features with real flame.”

3. Centrally located

Thanks to advanced venting and combustion technology, fireplaces aren’t limited to the wall. More and more, these features are taking center stage. Montigo offers a custom round commercial model with 360 degrees of glass, making the fire a literal centerpiece attraction. Long, linear fireplaces with see-through glass are bisecting large open spaces, such as lobbies. In restaurants, they’re creating intimate settings where guests can dine in privacy.

With power venting that transports heat elsewhere, fire features don’t need to compete with a building heating system, making them primarily decorative. The advancement in heat-management technology is firing up designers’ imaginations. Freed from the constraints of a wood-burning hearth, flames can take fantastical shapes, such as columns and spirals.

“Realism is not the main desire in a hospitality application,” Harvey notes.

As for fuel, some designers prefer propane because it produces taller, slower-moving flames for an even more relaxed atmosphere. Propane is also a good option for areas that lack access to natural gas or where extensions would be difficult or cost prohibitive.

This Montigo fireplace is open on three sides for a near fully exposed flame.

4. Open concept

The open-concept trend (spaces with few barriers) extends to fireplaces. That means a glassless, exposed flame.

A word of caution: “You have extreme considerations of where you’re putting it,” advises Sharon Murray, Montigo’s vice president of business development.

That rules out places where small children could be present or high-frequency public spaces. Consider reserving the open-concept fireplace for exclusive clubs or adults-only environments.

5. Mixed media

Logs don’t exactly scream contemporary. (Save the faux wood for rustic settings.) That’s why modern commercial fireplaces tend to feature a mix of media, including crushed glass and gentle mists underlit by LED lights to simulate flames. This way, a fireplace creates an ambient glow with or without the flame.

Top photo: A Montigo fireplace at the Dakota Dunes Resort in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.