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  • Writer's pictureStjohn Axbey

My love for Hestia

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Who is this Hestia?

Well, if you're into Greek Mythology you’ll know that she is one of the Greek gods; the daughter and firstborn child of Kronos and Rhea, the virgin goddess of the hearth, the right ordering of domesticity, the family, the home, and the state. The name Hestia means “hearth, fireplace, altar” and the early form of the temple is known as the hearth house; the early temples at Dreros and Prinias on the island of Crete are of this type as indeed is the temple of Apollo at Delphi, which always had its inner hestia”. I digress.

Meet Hestia, goddess of the hearth, home and domesticity. I'm not sure what she is pointing at!

It is clear that Hestia had - and still has - a significant role to play in building interiors and should you wish to learn more about her and the other Greek gods, I recommend that you read “Mythos” by Stephen Fry.

So why am I in love with her?

Whilst I’m not actually in love with the goddess herself - sorry Hestia - I do have an affection for what she stands for, which is the hearth and the fireplace; I believe that every home should have at least one or more. But Hestia means so much more to me than just a look or a folly in a home: Hestia represents family and domesticity, a place of gathering for people, a place to hold conversation, a place of comfort and security, a place of peace and relaxation – all necessary ingredients for the quintessential interior.

I could prattle on about the origins of the hearth - retracing back to early caveman - when it was necessary to gather around the fire of a night time for warmth, cooking, and security from predatory animals. But since we are no longer at risk from Sabre Toothed Tigers or indeed Woolly Mammoths - and in an attempt to keep this blog short - I will move on swiftly.

Everything begins in childhood, doesn't it?

You may well ask when did this fascination and love for the fireplace start and where did it all begin? Every psychologist will jump for joy when I say that it all stems from my earliest memories as a child; the lounge-room of my parents’ house had an open fire that would be occasionally lit on particularly cold winter mornings, but it would always be lit at Christmas time.

The fireplace - as we all know - plays a pivotal role during the festive season: not only is it the most iconic image on a Christmas card, but more importantly it is the conduit via which Father Christmas (who incidentally was never referred to as Santa Claus in our household) enters the house on Christmas Eve to drop off a sack load of presents - but only if you've been good of course.

One of the most iconic images of Christmas: the decorated fireplace with obligatory tree.... and presents

Even at a very young age I was puzzled by the size of the flue aperture and always wondered how such a fat old man was able to get down it - with presents - without getting stuck.

Errrr... yep.... how did he ever get down that flue?

I was a very peculiar 7 year old!

My fascination for fireplaces just seemed to grow more peculiar: every time I would visit a house – any house - with my parents, I needed to know if there was a fireplace (although I would often know the answer because I would have already glanced at the roof and noticed the chimneys) and I needed to be taken to it. I would want to know if it worked and I’d want to know why it wasn’t lit – even in summer. I even took to peering up people's chimney's to see if I could see daylight!

This could well have been me, except I wasn't looking for inspiration, or indeed Father Christmas

My adult passion

What started as a strange childhood obsession has become my adult passion: not only to restore a sense of family and security to the home, but to also add charm and character back into lifeless televisual focused rooms. Rest assured that if I can, I will put a fireplace into a room - any room - whether it’s in the hallway, the kitchen, the lounge room, the dining room, the bedroom, or even the bathroom.

And to prove that I mean business, here are just a few examples of where I’ve managed to incorporate or enhance my love of Hestia in a design concept.

In this studio conversion the fireplace and chimney breast take center stage in the room. The television is placed over to the side and is removed as the main focus of the space. The entire chimney was built using Hebel block and is clad in Mica Quartz stone panels.

Mica and Quartz stone clad chimney breast and combined entertainment unit

A change in colour to the Seddon Study In Blue allows the original Federation fireplace to pop from the wall and become the stunning center piece of the room.

The federation fireplace takes pride of place in this study

The original fireplace in this kitchen that housed a cast iron range providing the heating, cooking facilities and hot water for the house had unfortunately been removed. I decided to add a fake breast above the new gas cooker to house the extractor hood. So many people thought that this piece of fakery was an original part of the room.

The fake chimney breast fooled quite a lot of people in this restored kitchen

A bathroom renovation in Bowral already included a large freestanding bath, large sliding doors that opened onto a private courtyard and a large walk in shower; not content with all of that I added a fireplace too with a beautiful cast iron surround sourced from a British supplier.

The additon of a small cast iron surround adds so much charm to this already fabulous space

No Parisian apartment is complete without a genuine marble fire surround, and that is exactly what this bedroom and parents retreat in Mosman received. French designer furniture in the style of Jean Royere, wall mouldings and oak parquetry flooring complete the look.

Nero Marquina surround and armchairs in style of Jean Royere

Fireplaces do not have to be traditional in style, on no; an awkward, and boring living room in Canberra becomes an amazing space for relaxation and entertaining. A new entertainment wall incorporates a modern log gas flame fire; large ceramic panels clad the imposing chimney breast.

A continuous cast concrete shelf forms the hearth and the chimney breast is clad in ceramic panels

A word on televisions

You will notice that part of my design ethos is to place the television to the side of the fire and not above it. This is totally on purpose and for two main reasons:

· Your neck will thank me for the television being positioned at eye level when you are sitting in a sofa, or in an armchair

· Aesthetically I think it looks wrong to mount a television above a fire. The fireplace should be the central feature in a room and not the television: it is secondary - of lesser importance - and should not dominate

Place the television at the side of the fireplace, lower down, at proper viewing height – better still put it in a cupboard and hide it from view.

In conclusion

Just like pets, a fireplace is for life and not just for Christmas, so please consider adding one to your next renovations – just ask me - I’m sure I’ll be able to fit one in for you! Bear in mind how important the fire was for our ancestors and how important it is for our interiors today: it is a place for gathering together, a place to exchange conversation and a place to enjoy the company of your family, or friends, or the dog, or the cat, or by yourself with a good book and your favourite tipple.

Have a fabulous Christmas everyone!

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