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Roaring flames and resplendent radiators warm the hearth of the modern home.

Superbly sculptural and minimally marvelous, the latest fires and radiators show off a hot new look for the home.

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There's nothing more romantic than snuggling up with a loved one in front of a fire. As the focal point of the living room its warmth draws people closer, while the light from the licking flames mesmerizes. As we offer a warm welcome to the return of comfort, designers are once again celebrating the magic of an open hearth and a penchant for haute heating in innovative forms.

However, as architect and fireplace designer Henry Harrison of The Platonic Fireplace Company explains, the style savvy no longer crave a large imposing grate, but a minimal showstopper ensconced within the architecture. "The thing that really took off at the turn of this century was the hole in the wall fireplace. This took away all the paraphernalia of the traditional fireplace, leaving just a hole in the wall, which is very neat." Integrated within the architecture, the advantages of the sleek contemporary hole in the wall fire, or its recent successor the shelf, is that it doesn't take up space within smaller rooms, and it complements rather than clashes with hi-tech gadgetry, creating a central point in the contemporary living area.

Though more is less may be the mantra for UK home owners, their continental neighbors still harbor an ardor for the traditional chimneypiece; the bigger the fire the better. Artisans such as French fireplace designer Dominique Imbert do not create mere surrounds. These stunning sculptures created from bronze and steel take the idea of form and function to an impressive art form, even to the point that each unique fa├žade is signed and numbered. The dramatic Cosmofocus is an impressive showpiece. Sculpted from giant metal sheets, and measuring a vast 2.5m x 1.2m, this is no fire for the faint-hearted.

Sculptural or sleek, horizontal planes offer a low-level, architectural alternative with functional appeal, as guests lounge around an open fire, while open 'through' fires built within dividing walls serve two rooms at once. The Platonic Fireplace's Wings of Flame is a daring, complex piece of contemporary design. A suspended flame floats in mid-air, creating a captivating showpiece, although the designer admits that this avant-garde approach to fire art may be too forward-thinking for many customers.

Period homes are well-equipped for fully functional fireplaces, but modern new build homes and metropolitan loft spaces often lack the all important flue. This is when a fashionably formed radiator comes into its own, advancing out of the bedroom and bathroom, taking centre stage in the living room. Italian radiator manufacturer Antrax has taken the aesthetic radiator market by storm, both technically and artistically. The futuristic form of Blade, designed by Peter Rankin, takes inspiration from abstract artist Lucio Fontana. Its sleek, sinuous shape is beautifully organic, yet thoroughly modern, while Scudi, a sublime triptych of heated shields, can be placed in varying combinations for a customized feel.

While aesthetics are a major concern, the ecological efficiency of a gas-fueled flame is also an attraction, as Harrison explains: "The problem with real fires is that they are very inefficient and extremely non eco-friendly. Our gas flames are all under 7kw, so it's not too much energy, with a reasonable amount of output. They are around 25-30% effective, while traditional fires are only around 10%."

The humble heating source has finally come in from the cold, as the ultimate accessory to warm the heart.

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