I’ve always been extremely partial to a fireplace. I can get lost in the mesmerising dance of flames for hours. I believe there’s nothing better when it comes to ambience, but there are downsides to traditional fireplaces.

For starters, firewood is expensive. You burn through it fast, it’s certainly not a sustainable solution. Firepits are smoky. We have one in our front yard and it’s a major commitment, as it will always involve washing my hair and all of our clothes after a single session.

Very few houses these days are built with chimneys and even if you have a fireplace, if you’re renting chances are you won’t be allowed to use it. Standard tenancy agreements rule out their use. Nothing frustrated me more in our old house than staring at a fireplace we weren’t allowed to use. In fact, it was exactly that situation, several years ago in our house that had fireplaces we weren’t allowed to use, that got me researching other options.

It was then that I first stumbled across ethanol fireplaces. I had seen them in high end hotels and heard that they didn’t need a chimney. I thought I may have solved my renters dilemma as you can get the burner kits to go into existing fireplaces. BUT they were crazy expensive back then. I filed it away in the “One day when I make my millions” folder.

Image from EcoSmart
Image from EcoSmart

It wasn’t until we went to our neighbour Nicky and Michael’s house for drinks recently that I spied one again. Over a glass of wine, we marvelled at this gorgeous round coffee table with its generous flame (and lack of stinky smoke). I had a serious case of wanting to Keep Up With The Jones.

The table in question was an EcoSmart Fire Table by an Aussie company called Mad Design Australia. A bit of research revealed that they are world leaders in ethanol fireplaces and they have a huge range of indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Apparently, since lockdown, they’ve struggled to keep up with demand – and not just in Australia.

“There’s a global upswing in people wanting to make their homes a haven and a place they enjoy being with close friends and family,” explains Stephane Thomas, Director of MAD Design Australia, who own Eco Smart Fires along with several other brands (including the gorgeous oversized Stitch Pot featured in the pictures below).

“An open fire adds a lot of value to lifestyle and with ethanol as a fuel source it’s so easy to incorporate an EcoSmart Fire because you don’t need any installation or connection – we’ve been able to offer no contact delivery and set up can be done without the need for anyone to come to your home in under an hour.”

And it was easy. We selected the gorgeous Cosmo 50 Fire Table in Bone and when we received it a few weeks later, it was simple to set up. Yes, it was an investment but I reasoned that it will be with us for life – no matter where we move. We can take it with us, and we can even use it inside. When it arrived, it was even better than the pictures suggested. It fit the space perfectly and we couldn’t wait to light it up.

Lighting it is simple – you just fill up the trough with the bioethanol fuel (which comes in easy-to-pour containers) then you use the supplied lighter to safely ignite it. Sure enough, it was instant ambience. The flames flicker satisfyingly, there’s no smell or smoke and it gives off the perfect amount of heat. It offsets the evening chill yet it won’t be too hot to light in summer.

Not only do we enjoy a fire together most nights over a glass of wine, it’s been an absolute game changer when we entertain. There’s nothing better than gathering around an open fire. Our friends have even taken to asking us to light it as soon as the meal is finished. You can even also use it indoors, which I’m looking forward to doing in winter – snuggling up by the fire with Netflix couldn’t be more tempting.

I believe the rise of the fire pit and fire table is in part primal and in part situational. In troubled times we crave togetherness and belonging. Assembling around a flame fuels that desire.

Since lockdown, our homes have also become the hero. Not only is there a huge upswing in people renovating, entertaining and dining at home have become so de rigueur – more so than ever before.

“In our experience when people can’t travel they turn their focus to home improvement,” agrees Stephane. “Adding value to your home is incredibly satisfying and rewarding. If you’re not spending your money on going to the ski slopes, or heading overseas on a family holiday, then home improvements become a focus.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s completely transformed our outdoor space and single-handedly satisfied my endless search for a commitment-free fireplace.

For your nearest EcoSmart stockist head to https://mad-australia.com/ecosmart-fire/.

Words by Sigourney Cantelo, select imagery by Alice Mahran

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