Company sweeps in to build new fireplace for Rolling Meadows family
When Amelia and Stephan Polus moved into their Rolling Meadows home three and a half years ago, they weren't crazy about the 1970s-era stone fireplace in the living room, but the rest of the house met their needs, so they lived with it.
They couldn't even use the fireplace because the stones and tiles were unstable and falling apart. It was clearly unsafe and the Poluses worried about their two young children, ages 7 and 4.
So when Amelia's mother noticed an announcement of Hearth & Home Inc.'s Ugly Fireplace contest in the Daily Herald, she sent it to her daughter and suggested she enter. It was worth a try, they thought.
"We are the second owners of our home," Polus wrote in her entry. "Our fireplace is the center of our living room and is an eyesore. It was added in the '70s and never updated. The doors are gold. The seat tiles move when you sit on them and chunks of grout are always falling off."
The Mount Prospect fireplace and patio furniture store received more than 125 entries for its contest, said Anne O'Donnell, co-owner. While many of the fireplaces were very ugly, most were not so much ugly as just outdated with glass doors that were bright brass and facades of red brick or old, heavy, dark stone.
"We had a pizza party after the store closed one night and all Hearth & Home employees viewed, discussed and finally voted on the top three ugliest fireplaces," O'Donnell said. "The Poluses' were one of those three."
Pat O'Donnell, president of the company, and his son, Ryan, visited the three residences and discussed with the homeowners their ideas/wishes for new fireplaces.
The Poluses were ultimately chosen to win a new fireplace because theirs was not only ugly, but it was also dangerous. Stones and mortar were coming loose.
"We decided that we needed to remove the entire fireplace. It was a factory-built, wood-burning fireplace, finished off with California driftwood, which was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. It was also oversized for the room and had an "unusual" design with a center wood mantel piece and smaller ledgestone shelves on the front and sides. There were also two side openings, possibly designed for wood storage," Anne said.
"The Poluses were very easy to work with. The contest was for a $5,000 makeover, and to be quite honest, this cost us more than $5,000," she said. "They made it clear at the beginning of the project that they did not want to pay anything additional. They said they would be happy with whatever we could provide and they were even willing to do some of the finish work themselves. They were such a nice couple and their fireplace was so ugly and unsafe, that we decided to absorb the additional cost."
When Pat and Ryan O'Donnell visited the family, the Poluses showed them a photo of a simpler, stone fireplace that would fit the design of their décor and would not take up so much space. They wanted to keep a wood-burning fireplace, Anne said.
"We never thought we would win the contest, but we wanted to try because our kids really wanted to be able to have a fire in the fireplace and we knew that we couldn't because it wasn't safe," said Polus, a veterinary technician.
Demolition and installation took four days to complete.
"We were able to provide them with a beautiful fireplace that looks very similar to their dream one," Anne said. "We installed a Majestic Woodburning Fireplace by the Vermont Castings Group that has a gas line run into the firebox with a log lighter. This allows them the ease of starting wood fires but it also gives them the option of installing gas logs, if they wish, in the future.
"We framed and installed the firebox and glass doors with a raised hearth that sits approximately 14 inches off the ground. We installed Platinum Ledgestone and finished off the design with a simple cherry wood mantel in an espresso finish," Anne said.
"We are very pleased with our new fireplace," Polus said. "It is much smaller with no stone above the mantel -- just wallboard. The new stone below the mantel is gray with speckles of orange and the mantel is cherry, stained dark. It just makes the whole room look larger and warmer.
"We haven't had a fire in it yet because the weather has been too warm, but we can't wait to try it out when the weather turns cool."
Three other homeowners were named Ugly Fireplace Contest runners up. Deborah and Steve Holish of Palatine, Scott and Amy Bell of Mount Prospect and Linda Nitch of Arlington Heights each received a $500 gift certificate that can be used toward fireplace improvements.
Hearth & Home also offered all contest entrants "15 percent off any fireplace improvement" that was ordered by July 31.
Hearth & Home is a family-owned and operated business that has operated in Mount Prospect for 44 years. It has a 5,000-square-foot showroom that is continually updating and upgrading. In fact, the company just finished an update of the exterior of the building, using stone it uses on many fireplaces. Fireplace displays are continually updated so they always show the most current designs and safety standards for customers to view.
"We have more National Fireplace Institute certifications than any other fireplace store in the state. The National Fireplace Institute is an independent, nonprofit certification agency that has created the standard for certification in the hearth industry. Only those who pass a rigorous examination covering proper fireplace installation receive the NFI certification," Anne said.
Hearth & Home was also one of only four fireplace retailers from across the country nominated for the prestigious VESTA Award for Hearth Retailer of the Year earlier this year in Nashville.
"We are proud of being in our 44th year of business and equally proud that we have the third generation now involved to take us to the next level of excellence and integrity. We have a wonderful group of people that work hard every day to help us be the best fireplace store in Chicago," Anne said.
Hearth & Home is located at 530 W. Northwest Hwy. in Mount Prospect. For more information, call (847) 259-7550 or visit www.hearthandhomeusa.com.