Can you came in and warm your hands by the solar collector? Or hang great-grandpa's flintlock over the radiator? Be it ever so direty, inefficient and sometimes dangerous, there's still no place like the fireplace.
Even well into the energy-conscious era, most folks are willing to waste -- a little -- for the sake of a crackling fire. Ninety per cent of a fireplace's heat goes up in smoke, taking some of the house's other heat with it; still, more than half the homes in the United States have one, according to the National Home Builders Association.
In fact, fireplaces rank right up with dishwashers and air-conditioning as a wanted extra in a home. Here in the District one realtor claims she can get $75 to $100 more a month for a unit with a fireplace; others have discovered that a condominium with a tennis court is still a condominium, but a condo with a fireplace is a home.
Face it. Feeding your fireplace won't help your Pepco, Vepco, gas or oil bill any, but as you snuggle up on a cold winter's eve and watch the flames dance in a warm orange glow, who's counting? Here are some fireplace necessities and niceties:
"Why, I can remember when we used to have to haul wood into Washington by wagon. We had to use axes... didn't have no chain saws then. Didn't have Washington Gas Light then, either. We had to put the wood on wagons and deliver it to bakeries so they could bake their bread," reminisces Wilbur Clark of W. B. Clark and Sons. "The bakers used to tell me I was a good woodman. You see, I packed the wood good and tight, so they'd always give me a bag of rolls or hot cross buns. Boy, they were good, too." Clark doesn't deliver wood by wagon anymore, but he still delivers wood.
So do many nurseries, lumberyards and enterprising chainsaw owners -- just glance under "Firewood" in the classifieds or Yellow Pages. The wood is commonly sold by the cord, a neatly stacked pile 8 feet long X 4 feet wide X 4 feet high. Since wood can't be stacked without air space, that 128 cubic feet is not all solid wood. Firewood is more expensive if it's split, seasoned (green wood smokes and makes creosote build up in the chimney), slower-burning hardwood. Average price this year for a cord of seasoned split oak delivered is about $85; delivery and stacking are extras to check before you buy.
If you've neither space nor spirit to deal with a full or even half-cord, here are some places where you can buy small quantities:
G&D TREE SERVICE -- 801 Briggs-Chaney Road, Silver Spring. 587-8994. Four 24 inch split logs for $1, a dozen for $3. A bundle includes hard woods like oak, maple, locust and hickory and some soft woods like poplar, pine and cedar. A cord delivered is $85, $50 for a half-cord. Picking the wood up yourself brings the price to $70 and $42.
ALLIED TREE SERVICE - Box 82 A, Owings, Maryland. 345-7777. Although Gale Simmons won't sell wood in lots smaller than a half-cord, he will cut it down to size. That means logs you can handle or that will fit your 12 inch fireplace. Cost depends on how much and how big. A delivered cord of 80 per cent oak is $85, a half-cord $55.
TALBERT'S ICE & BEVERAGE SERVICE -- 5234 River Road, Bethesda. 652-3000. A convenience bundle of six to eight split "mostly" oak logs costs $2.49. For a $3 service charge you can have one delivered along with your tonic water.
W. B. CLARK AND SONS -- 6337 Columbia Pike, Bailey's Crossroads. 256-0010. Here you can buy wood by the rack, a measure about 12 cubic feet or roughly 1/11 of a cord, for $7. It's 80 per cent hardwood, 20 inch to 22 inch long, split or in small rounds. And pick up a burlap bag filled with two bushels of seasoned kindling for $3.50.
VIRGINIA WOOD SERVICE -- 4701 West Ox Road, Fairfax. 631-0541. Fill the average car trunk with seasoned, split 80 per cent oak in 20 inch to 24 inch lengths for $12 to $15. Caddy-size trunkloads $20 to $25. Cords here are $65, and $35 for a half-cord. Add $10 for Virginia delivery, $20 elsewhere.
Once upon a time, when cosmetics had a paraffin base, a roaring fire could make a lady melt -- literally. Hence the screen. No woman today is going to make like a fireside Wicked Witch of the West, and modern equipment is designed to convey heat, not block it off. But you can still find lovely old stand-up screens as well as antique andirons, fenders and tools. It's worth the search, because most newly made counterparts -- save quality reproductions -- are graceless and pretentiously baroque. Here are some shops that have some special fireplace things.
BROMWELL'S -- 414 South Washington Street, Falls Church, 2410800; 5733 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, 960-1215; 7215 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, 654-6515; 5340 Baltimore Avenue, Hyattsville, 699-9033; 771 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, 424-0800. Now headed by a fourth Bromwell, this 107-year-old business is brimming with fireplace accessories, old and new, functional and fanciful. For frills there are bright fireplace fans ($9.50), wicker log holders ($9.95), a rustic European hearth broom ($12.95), copper kettles and antique andirons and fenders collected by 75-year-old Burton Bromwell Sr. Functionally speaking, there's the biggest selection of folding glass screens to be found in town. Bromwell's also has an ample array of tubular heat-exchange grates with optional blowers and prefab free-standing fireplaces.
THE EARLY AMERICAN SHOP -- 1319 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 333-5843. A great source of primitive Americana, this shop features hand-wrought Revolutionary War-era fireplace tools. Beautifully simple and sturdy, they're useful, too. Like the long-handled toaster ( $95), the triangular three--legged trivest ( $95) and copper bed-warmer ( $150). Stock moves quickly, but you can usually count on finding several pairs of old brass andirons, hand-drawn wire screens and a fender with its original dust bin.
THE FIREPLACE CENTER -- 7810 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda. 657-2027. Owner Stan Bazer finds that too many people forget about their fireplace's arch or raised hearth until they get home with something that doesn't fit. To avoid mistakes, he's got a chart showing 16 fireplace styles. Brazer'zs also got a dandy polypropylene (indoor/outdoor rug stuff) log carrier ($17.95), railroad-tie andirons guaranteed to outlast you ( $100) and a grate with attachable crane for fireplace cookery ($49.95). Also tool sets, andirons, belows, log holders, glass screens and decorative screens (including a few antiques).
FIREPLACE CHARLIE'S -- 11748 Parklawn Drive, Rockville. 8810808. "The demand this year is such that every fireplace screen is sold before its made," says Zack James, manager for this wholesale/retail business. The selection, small but tasteful, includes top brands like Portland Willamette and Puritan. A Puritan folding glass screen with a brass finish runs $150 to $175 depending on size. Portland Willamette prices start at $200.
THE FIREPLACE MANTEL SHOP -- 4217 Howard Avenue, Kensington. 942-7946. Nineteen wood-workers turn out elegant unfinished wooden mantelpieces from scratch. Choose from fluted, curved, angled or raised-panel standard styles or design your own. A stock mantel in kiln-dried sugar pine costs from $250 ton $1,400; oak or walnut doubles or triples the price. Less formal and less expensive are the mantel shelves and brackets. A six-foot shelf of surfaced Douglas fir, 4 inch thick with brackets, is $65.65; $326 in solid kiln-dried steamed walnut.
MENDELSOHN GALLERIES -- 62826 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase. 656-2766. If your heart desires a genuine hand-cut rose-pink Louis XVI marble mantelpiece ($2,250), seek no more. Other Louis XVI fireplace accutrements include chenets, tool sets and screens in ormolu (bronze fired with gold), all positively dripping with cherubs, plumes and grapes.Seventeenth-century screens decorated with tapestries and oil portraits include tabletop models for aforementioned waxen-faced women.
OLD ANTIQUE HOUSE -- 817 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. 628-5699, 628-5640. According to the Krupsaw family, Antique House proprietors since 1884, Virginia Metalcrafters Inc. makes the best fireplace reproductions in the country and possibly the world; their solid-brass andirons here bear urn, ball and acorn finials and names like "Raleigh Tavern" and "Paul Revere." Among other treasures in this five-story building is a collection of antique fenders ( $150 to $785), ranging from Georgian to Victorian with one rare Art Nouveau model ( $180).