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Article posted: 12/8/2012 5:36 AM

Cozy up to the fireplace with accessories, gift items

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The holidays come at a good time of year for those who love fireplaces because there is a wide selection of fireplace-related gift items, ranging in price from $13.95 to more than $1,000, according to Neal Kaplan, owner of Fireplaces Plus stores in Vernon Hills and Chicago.

If you have a friend who loves to cozy up to the fire on blustery winter nights but you can't afford to spend a fortune, consider buying treated pine cones that produce beautiful colors when burned. There is also dust that produces a similar effect when sprinkled on logs and both are reasonably priced.

Packages of fat wood, the small pieces of wood that act as kindling and help get a fire started, are also available through fireplace shops like Fireplaces Plus.

Fireplace accessories that enhance the look and/or the function of someone's hearth also make great gifts.

"We carry everything from bellows for stoking the fire, to tool sets, grates, andirons and screens, to wood holders and hearth rugs, and even gas logs," said Kaplan.

Tool sets generally include a broom, shovel, tongs and poker and they ensure that a fire burns properly and continuously. These sets come in many different finishes, but Kaplan said the most popular ones are iron, bronze, satin nickel and black.

Grates, which are made of various metals and sit inside the fireplace to hold the wood while it is burning, allow oxygen to circulate around the logs, resulting in a bigger and more efficient flame. Some of today's grates even come with attached andirons.

Authentic andirons function similarly to a grate. They have horizontal bars extending back from each decorative post to hold up the firewood so that a draft of air can pass around it, allowing proper burning and minimizing smoke. Today they are usually just a decorative addition to a fireplace. But centuries ago they were used as a rest for a roasting spit or sometimes had a cup shaped top to hold porridge.

Both traditional and contemporary andirons, in a variety of designs and finishes, are available at Fireplaces Plus.

Screens and doors for fireplaces also make good gifts and they enhance both the look and the safety of a fireplace. Screens stand in front of a fireplace as a decorative addition, but they also prevent sparks from escaping from a fire and keep children and pets away from danger.

Screens come in many styles and finishes including etched and plain glass, tri-fold, mesh, arched and bowed. It all depends on a homeowner's personal style.

Doors, on the other hand, are actually attached to the fireplace and they give a good seal to contain heat, sparks and outside drafts. Fireplaces Plus offers doors at three different price levels and, depending on the grade of door, they come in between 20 and 50 different finishes.

A wide variety of wood holders and carriers are also available. There are traditional handled metal baskets for storing wood by the fire, as well as forged iron log hoops, fat wood holders, suede carriers that fit into a metal frame once the wood is transported inside and even wheeled carriers for hauling the wood further.

Hearth rugs to keep embers off the floor are popular gifts, according to Kaplan. They come in solids and prints, as well as in half-ovals and rectangles. Some even look like miniature Oriental rugs.

State-of-the-art ceramic fiber gas logs also make nice gifts. They look very authentic, operate with the chimney closed, provide maximum heat for the home, burn efficiently and even glow red when in use, Kaplan said.

Those shopping for people who continue to cook outside year-round may also consider purchasing a variety of barbecue and grilling items like the Big Green Egg smoker as gifts, Kaplan added.

Fireplaces Plus, with locations at 700 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills, and 200 W. Ohio, Chicago, has been in business since 1983 and has been family-owned since 1992. The business is Angie's List-approved, offers free in-home consultations, installs a wide variety of new fireplaces and sells gift certificates.

The store can be reached at either (847) 549-6700 or (312) 587-7587. For more information, visit fireplacecollection.com.

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