What comes to mind when you think of Europeans? Chances are high that you immediately thought of French baguettes, high British accents, and passionate Italians. If you’re more into the arts, you might have thought about classical music, renaissance poets, or English literature.
Modern-day Europe may not have much in common with its ancestry, but its heritage lives on. In most of the world, Europe is a symbol of good manners, inspiring culture, unbridled etiquette, and sophisticated language. It makes us think of colossal architecture, haute couture, and indubitable refinery.
While these attitudes may or may not be accurate, they’re quite deeply ingrained, simply because European culture has a longer history than other western entities. For this reason, we are psychologically engrained to think European style is design at its finest.
If you compare global attitudes towards Europe with preconceived ideas about other regions, the difference is clear. North America is seen as brash, extroverted, and rebellious. Australia is seen in much the same way, though it’s more laid back and less aggressively capitalist. The orient is still considered mysterious and exotic, even as they rule technology.
Africa is seen as rich in resources and needing guidance, while South America is considered disorganized, anarchist, and a little risky. Europe, by contrast, is seen as prim and elitist, so in a way, we still look up to their tastes and eccentricities. It might be a relic of colonial attitudes, but it does spill over into the ways we view world culture.
To get a clear perspective of these perception shifts, compare franchised programmings produced in these different regions, such as Top Gear, Biggest Loser, Apprentice, or even Queer As Folk. The different versions give interesting commentaries on culture, lifestyle, and language in these diverse parts of the world.
If we pursue this idea into other areas of life, we can contrast European music, architecture, or fashion with the trends in the rest of the world. Europe comes off as somewhat conservative. Even if you compare British rock bands like the Beatles or the Stones with their American and Australian counterparts, the Europeans seem a lot more … tame.
European fireplaces seem to prefer their design in neutral, muted tones. Deep browns, grand greys, and understated blacks. They are mature and unadorned, with less fuss and more function that suggests both nobility and practicality. They seem to focus on their role as a utility rather than their incidental ornamental service.
Coming back down to the micro level, it might be that the fine lines, solid simplicity, and refined execution of European fireplaces take us back to a simpler time. Modern design seems to focus on asymmetric patterns, unconventional structure, and discordant motifs that jar the senses. European designs seems to lean more towards calm, soothing, simple features that are almost nostalgic.
Europe generally has extreme climatic shifts. Scorching summers and wizened winters are their norm. Regions like the UK are drowned in constant showers while Scandinavian countries seem steeped in ice. It’s possible that these weather conditions added an element of warmth and comfort to fireplace design. The very shape and appearance of the hearth was intended to wage a war on the dreariness outside, and maybe this intrinsic quality has extended into the fireplace designs of today.
Fireplaces remind you of warm cozy nights, family camping, grandparents, Christmas movies, summer lake houses, and crackling logs. This sentiment blends into nostalgia, so it’s likely that traditional design approaches would be quite appealing in this respect.
Another defining factor may be that modern stoves have a focus on technology, with their electronic panels, their luminous artificial flames, and their digital crackle. European stoves seem to rely more on organic simulation, and perhaps this speaks to the cavemen and cavewomen deep within, the part of us that just wants to huddle in a dark cave and stare into hot, mesmerizing flames.