A wood stove, yes. But modern, or traditional?

Brand new, but the styling certainly takes one back a few years. Is this what we want for the Manse kitchen?

I’ve been mulling the question that’s in the headline of this post for a while, and meaning to throw it out to readers to see what they think. The sudden arrival of hot weather, however, made discussion of wood-burning stoves seem kind of unappealing. But this evening it’s turned quite cool and rainy again, the kind of raw evening that makes you appreciate a wood stove. So I am going to ask.

A while back I posted a little paean to beautiful European-made ceramic wood-burning stoves, like this one, a Sideros made in Italy. I think it is quite gorgeous, though haven’t yet had the nerve to find out how much it might cost here in Canada – or risk the disappointment of finding out that it’s not even available in Canada. Still, even if it isn’t, presumably we could find some sort of European-made (or European-style) ceramic stove if we look hard enough. With clean, modern lines, a compact footprint – something beautiful and out of the ordinary. That was my little dream about the wood stove for the Manse kitchen.

I am determined to have a wood stove of some sort – partly because they are eminently useful if the power goes out; partly because they make a house cozy; and partly in tribute to the old wood stove that my father tended so faithfully, and that kept the Manse completely warm (thanks to an old-fashioned stovepipe system, now long gone) when our young family lived there in the 1960s and 1970s.

But then Raymond and I walked into the Tweed Home Hardware one day a couple of months ago and were stopped in our tracks by a display model of a gleaming new, though very old-fashioned in style, wood stove. It’s made by Heartland Appliances, and the model on display is called the Sweet Heart. It comes in black, ivory and white. The photo at the top is a model with a reservoir (on the right side of the stove) for hot water, useful once again if the power goes off (and you’re wanting a hot bath), but also for introducing humidity into the air; wood-fire heat is quite dry. The actual model we saw in Tweed was the more compact version of the Sweet Heart, without the reservoir; here’s a photo of it:

I like the clean design of the reservoir-free model better, but I also like the idea of using hot water to keep the air from being cracklingly dry. As for colour, I think it would be white, or possibly ivory.

An Aga cooker in turquoise. What more could anyone want?

(Side note: what is highly amusing to me is that the Heartland folks have joined forces, in Canada anyway, with none other than Aga, the British outfit that makes my dream cooking stove. Here are the cast-iron Agas [which they don’t actually call Agas] that Heartland sells. Early on I posted about my hope that the Manse would be the place for my first [and doubtless last] Aga. So you see? It’s all coming together!)

Anyway, people what do you think? Should we go sleek and modern and colourful and European in our choice of wood stove? Or retro rural?

27 thoughts on “A wood stove, yes. But modern, or traditional?

  1. Could you have both? Is it possible to get a retro gas-fired or electric stove for the kitchen, perhaps, and install a wood burning stove in another part of the Manse? That way you could do more shopping? (Sorry, Raymond)

    • More shopping, yes! Good call, Nicole! Actually, I can’t see cooking on the wood stove, so I am sure we will have an electric stove (natural gas is unfortunately not available – yet, at least – in Queensborough) in the kitchen for cooking; of course my dream is that it will be an Aga. That would be in the cooking/pantry area. The wood stove would be against the back wall in the area that would more probably be used for sitting. (It’s a big kitchen!) But another stove or fireplace elsewhere in the house – the living room or the upstairs study/library perhaps – is not a bad idea at all. Even if it’s a “fake” electric fireplace, it still makes a room cozy!

  2. We heat with wood all winter; keeping a kettle of water on the stove helps keep the air moist as well as the water always being ready for a cup of tea. Be sure to fill the kettle frequently, however, as the water evaporates quickly. Heating with wood proves to be cost-effective as well as very comfortable. It keeps the open area in our home (living room, dining room and kitchen) very warm and cozy (although Eloise and Jeannie will tell you it is downright HOT) while keeping the bedrooms at a cooler temperature as they are on either side of the house (we live in a ranch home). You do get quite accustomed to having a very warm home! If you like sleeping in a cooler room, you may find that the bedrooms being upstairs will be quite warm because heat rises and you might need to keep a window open about 1″ to keep the room more comfortable for sleeping. Good luck with your choice. Personally, I would have to opt for a very nice “parlor” stove for heating and a good old fashioned cooking stove in the kitchen as I’m pretty sure I would have trouble adjusting the heat for cooking purposes and would find cooking with wood all summer to be a bit too hot!

    • I’m with you in finding wood heat warm and cozy, Lu. I also love the smell! I hadn’t thought about keeping a kettle of water on the stovetop, although now that you mention it I remember my grandmother (my dad’s mother) always kept a big kettle going atop hers. As you say, it provided hot water for a cup of tea whenever needed, but doubtless was also there to keep some moisture in the air.

  3. Seriously get the one with the biggest firebox you can find. Fewer hours spent cutting, splitting, stacking and loading if you can use bigger hunks of wood.
    Oh and you should probably decide whether you are restoring the house to something approximating it’s heritage condition or whether you’re creating something more eclectic.

    • Indeed – the issue of what look we’re going for with the renovation is an ongoing one. I personally am not much for trying to make it look like an interior from the 1880s, when the house was built. My inclination (as regular readers might have guessed) is more mid-19th century – the era when we moved into the Manse. It doesn’t hurt that the late-50s/early 60s look is very popular right now, thanks to Mad Men and whatnot. And that was a pretty good era for design. Leaving aside the Avocado Green.

  4. Do you really want a wood burning appliance where you can’t even see any flame? Personally, I would factor that in. What is the point of that retro monster other than hanging wet mitts and socks on?

    • Well, there’s that. But we need somewhere to park the wet mitts and socks, don’t we? Besides, I think if you saw that shiny new Sweet Heart you’d think it was pretty – well, sweet.

    • That is a very good point, Mel. I guess when you think of it that way, the old-style model would have to be the one. But can we picture Raymond minding the boiling-down process? Can we picture me out tapping the trees and collecting the sap? Hmmmm. Maybe …

  5. Hi – found your blog while looking up Aga Montreal, funnily enough! Anyway, I was enjoying your writing, and noticed that you were looking for a wood-burning stove that would accomplish everything that your family Findlay stove enjoyed, but would meet modern codes. If I read correctly, you’re in or near Tweed, ON? In which case, you’re not far from your local dealer for the Esse Ironheart, which is an English-made 36″ wide traditional-looking cast-iron wood-burning stove, with a very efficient glass-doored firebox on the left, and a super good oven on the right, and one large bone-shaped hob with two lids similar to an Aga’s on top. You have a dealer in Marmora, and according to Google they’re called “Authorized Wood Stove and Repairs.” I’ve talked to them on the phone (they are very enthusiastic, which is great), but never visited.
    Just a thought – I know what it’s like, trying to find the perfect appliance!!! We LOVE our Ironheart – just spreading the word. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Fenella! (Do you actually live in Fenella? Makes me think back to my days driving between Cobourg and Hastings, Ont., on what was then Highway [now County Road] 45.) I had a very busy day today but did manage to sneak a couple of minutes to look at Esse stoves online. Very interesting indeed. The cookers are so much like Agas, though – I wonder what the story is on that. I can certainly see why you love your Ironheart!

      • Esse is a solid Victorian company, thus actually pre-dating Aga, which were late to the party, not developed until the early 1900s. Florence Nightingale took Esse ranges to the Crimea!
        Unlike an Aga, the Ironheart doesn’t need constant profe$$ional tlc to keep it happy; they’re brilliantly simple wood-burning stoves, so nothing much to go wrong, just the occasional cleaning, really.
        There are some good blogs out there written by people who use them; google is your friend. Also, the luvvies at River Cottage in England cook with one, this video is very toothsome indeed:

        Didn’t know there was a place called Fenella!

      • This is getting more interesting all the time, and we shall certainly do some more investigating. Florence Nightingale, gracious! That’s a rather large object to he travelling with. And thank you for the video, which I totally should not have watched when I was hungry and many hours away from dinner!

        Here is a tiny bit about tiny Fenella, Ont.:


        Sent from my iPhone

  6. Did you ever find a source in Canada for the lovely ceramic wood stove (the blue one you pictured here?) I am in the US (Oklahoma) and looking for something smallish but unique and that one you showed is very nice!

    • Hi Susan! Ah yes, that beautiful blue Sideros ceramic stove. I poked around online for a fair bit trying to find a North American supplier, to no avail, but since we are a long way from being ready to purchase a wood stove for the Manse I kind of dropped it before I had exhausted all possibilities. When the time comes I expect I will go looking again, because it really is gorgeous, isn’t it? This past weekend in Queensborough I visited a lovely home that has a beautifully restored Elmira traditional wood stove, and it is very appealing. But I think Raymond and I are leaning to a European model, because of the lovely style and also because it’s a little bit different for our little corner of the world. Please promise me you’ll let me know if you find a source for Sideros stoves in Canada or the U.S.!

  7. Katherine, I absolutely love the remembrances that come with reading this thread of your blog having had wood cook stoves so many places I lived in my youth… a ways back now. Ballinger Texas, USAF base in Tachikawa Japan, Greenham Common 45 miles west of London England, Pittsfield New Hampshire, Dennysville Maine. And more recently wood stoves or fireplaces in Chelmsford Massachusetts, Kenai Alaska, and Brattleboro Vermont. The keys for me not already covered in your thinking are two.
    One practical… especially since young Raymond is creeping up on becoming not quite as young Raymond… that being, how long does actually continuing to rassle with wood stay appealing. I love the flame and warmth of our present stove, a pellet stove here in Vermont. Most of the wood stove companies you mentioned have pellet offerings, even Sideros.
    The second is more about the story you want your life to tell, the tales that can happen around your stoves, the tales you can share around your stove, the tales you can invent around your stove. Which stove or combination of stoves could you picture best drawing folks together not only during the depths of winter but throughout the year, draw them and evoke in them the absolute love of story.
    I think I’ll let my pellet stove slowly die down and I’ll fall asleep here on the couch with Kid, our cat going on 18 years, so that I don’t wake Ingrid when I wake at 4:30 to go play basketball.

    • What a lovely, lovely comment! And food for thought. I had not considered pellet stoves (and, truth be told, am not even entirely sure what they are; are the pellets made of wood?), but this is most definitely something to investigate. And your guidance about imagining what kind of stove loved ones and friends and visitors would be most likely to sit around and tell and share and create stories – well, that will be my (our) guiding principle in choosing one. What a gift your comment is! Hugs to Ingrid and Kid.

      • Yes the pellet are made of wood. I will pass the hugs on Ingrid and Kid. Sure hope the 4 of us, and perhaps Kid, will get a chance to meet in the not too distant future. Night.

    • This stove is absolutely gorgeous, cinnamon gurl – thank you for the tip! We haven’t yet got a wood stove for the Manse, so are still interested in all the options out there. I love the bright-red colour!

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