The dancing flames, crackling wood and mesmerizing glow of a fireplace are inviting and can be the focal point of a room. The hearth is "a place where you can gather with family and friends or just sit back, relax and de-stress," says Diane Duffy of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, who is marketing the Smithtown house featured on these pages.
Jackie Hession, homeowner of the Southampton house featured on this spread, says she and her husband, Tom, enjoy entertaining in the great room, where their fireplace is. But they don't need the excuse of company. "As soon as there is a snap in the air, we have a fire, often with the door open," Jackie says, laughing.
While a fireplace doesn't necessarily add value to a house, it sure can add character to a room any time of year, Duffy says.
Though many fireplaces -- wood-burning or gas, or one with a Heatilator insert -- are traditional in style, others come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Here's a quick sample of some that are a bit unusual.
50 Hemlock Dr.
The dual gas fireplace in this 3,974-square-foot Contemporary opens onto the living room on one side and the dining room on the other, and each side has a distinct look. White marble and a mantel grace the dining room, while a darker designed marble faces the living room. The house has an open floor plan and cathedral ceiling, and the fireplace is visible from the second-floor balcony. The open plan is also enhanced by a wall dominated by glass. Other features include wood floors, recessed lighting and built-in stereo speakers. The designer kitchen is outfitted with granite countertops and a center island. The house has four bedrooms, two of which are master suites. The half-acre property has a granite patio. Amenities include a finished lower level and a three-car garage. Joyce Styne and Susan Cherney, Laffey Fine Homes, 516-625-0944
1121 Rte. 106
Imported from France, the antique mantel on this gas fireplace is hand carved wood, says the listing agent, noting the hearth is granite. Right above the fireplace is a separate antique mirror. Since the floor plan is open, the fireplace in the great room can be seen from the dining room as well. About 4,500 square feet, the 12-room ranch also features wood floors and high ceilings. Recently renovated, the updated eat-in kitchen boasts new stainless-steel appliances and marble countertops. The house has six bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms as well as a finished basement. The house is set back on 2.2 acres. There is a large deck off the great room. Mark Von Zwehl, Laffey Fine Homes, 516-426-8435
249 Sebonac Rd.
Once summer is over and the pool is covered, Tom and Jackie Hession are eager to move into the next season -- fireplace season. "We have raging fires almost every night," says Jackie. Set in the great room of this post-and-beam house, the 22-foot fireplace has a stone raised hearth. Other features include pine floors in the living room, dining room and first-floor bedroom. The eat-in kitchen is designed with cherry cabinets and marble root-patterned countertops. Since the property is wooded, the design of the marble blends with the environment, Jackie says. The second floor is divided. The section above the fireplace has a loft area, bedroom and office while the other side -- a private guest wing -- has two large bedrooms and a bathroom. (There are a total of four bathrooms.) On almost 1 1/2 acres with an in-ground pool, the house is set at the end of a long and winding driveway. Richard Doyle Jr., Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-283-4343
107 Shirley Ct.
Designed by the homeowner, architect Charles R. Schwartzapfel, this 4,200-square-foot Colonial combines an Adirondack-style exterior with an Arts and Crafts interior. The indoor and outdoor natural stone fireplace contains mill work. Visible from all three stories, the fireplace, which is in the living room, is flanked by French doors. The outdoor fireplace complements the granite patio, where there is an outdoor kitchen. The stone chimney doubles as a rock wall for scaling. The indoor kitchen has Viking Appliances, custom Shaker-style rough-cut white oak cabinets and honed Brazilian Verde Marinaci granite countertops. Among some of the other materials found throughout the house are walnut travertine stone floors with radiant heat and Venetian plaster walls with rough-cut white oak millwork and trim. The white oak spiral staircase lends to the chalet-style ambience. There are four bedrooms and four bathrooms in the house. Diane Duffy, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 631-584-6600
9 Haide Place
Pick a room to enjoy a warm toasty fire in this six-room wide-line ranch, which has two wood-burning fireplaces, including one that is dual. The dual fireplace is between the updated eat-in kitchen and the dining room, while the other is in the living room. Here, the fireplace is set in a brick wall, which also has an alcove for wood storage. Other features include wood floors, an enclosed three-season patio and a finished basement, as well as three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Outside, the 110-by-106-foot property is landscaped with a new heated in-ground pool surrounded by Nicolock pavers. Debbie Carpluk, Century 21 Selmar Realty, 631-277-0900, ext. 114