In front of the Vapiano Restaurant at the Cologne Chocolate Museum, two outdoor fireplaces have been inviting visitors to enjoy pizza and pasta for several months now.
Red hot sizzling design
For more than 40 years, Blaze King Industries has been a visionary builder of high-quality, super efficient, eco-friendly wood stoves. Their products are among the cleanest on the market, and they exceed even the toughest clean air regulations. All of those superlatives, however, yield to two simple questions. “The primary question our customers ask when buying a fireplace is, ‘Does it heat?’” said Alan Murphy, president of Blaze King. “Once they’ve answered that question, they turn toward aesthetics. ‘Is it pretty?’” The answer to both is ‘yes.’ Now, the company is building on that legacy as it expands its line of gas-fired stoves and fireplaces. We spoke with Murphy to discuss how his firm, an icon in the hearth industry, is using SCHOTT ROBAX® to create sizzling designs and super cool heat.
Why are you expanding your gas-fired portfolio now?
There’s a lot of interest among builders and designers to install hearth products. Fire is a form of entertainment. A big fireplace enlivens a room, but homeowners want something functional as well.
Traditionally the gas fireplace market has been dominated by two types of products: Decorative and heater-rated. Decorative heaters are purely for entertainment value. But now there’s a blurring of the lines between the two, and our expertise in building heater-rated products opens new opportunities.
How is Blaze King setting itself apart from the competition?
If you have a big flame in a heater-rated product, it can easily overheat a room and make it uncomfortable. We’re using materials like SCHOTT ROBAX® glass-ceramic to give designers the big impact of flames without the downside of overheating a room.
Using a lot of black glass-ceramic inside the firebox allows us to create and amplify reflections from the fire. By adjusting the location of the glass – the back, bottom, or sides of the firebox – we’re able to get reflections upon reflections. It’s quite a difference compared to other fireplaces on the market. Nobody else is doing it at the same level we are.
Amplifying the reflection of the flames allows us to dial down the heat, but still preserve the entertainment factor. One of the products we’ll release soon is a large, linear fireplace. It’s 44 inches wide, with extensive use of black glass-ceramic. It has three burners, with a split-flow gas system so you can turn off the left and right burners. It has a top output of 40,000 BTUs, but it can be reduced to 10,000 or 12,000 BTUs. By doing this, you’re able to welcome guests into your home and put out your big ‘ta dah’ without cooking them out of the room.
What other techniques are you using?
Well, it’s not all about building big appliances. In some cases, people don’t have a lot of space. Our Clarity line uses curved burners to maximize the size of the flame in the firebox, while giving the illusion of depth. We can cut and shape the black glass-ceramic any way we want, so we have a lot of design options for smaller spaces.
Speaking of design options, where do you get new ideas from?
At the end of the day, we have to remember that we’re making a piece of furniture. Consumers want new materials. We need to have the year’s trending colors, right? I look at design coming out of the aerospace industry for clues about new materials, and at the clothing industry to give me clues about what’s coming down the line in fashion.
But there’s a catch with fireplace design. It’s over 1000 degrees inside the firebox, so anything we put in there has to be incredibly robust and tolerant of heat.
Companies like SCHOTT are dealing with the same set of challenges I am. How do you make a product that has the right design and the right material properties to fit the application? SCHOTT is taking some of the radical printed designs they’ve showcased for cooktops and is bringing that to the fireplace. ROBAX® Magic with Signature Impressions is opening the door to customize inside the firebox like never before.