putting away the fans/air conditioning units and now bringing out the heaters. If you're fortunate enough to have a fireplace in your home or apartment, the traditional open flame is probably the most inviting way to stay warm. But renters like ourselves could only dream of enjoying a fire indoors…until we realized there are now products available that safely bring the fire to the tabletop without the need of an actual fireplace.
Brasa rep Ben Steinberg dropped by recently to demo their latest portable fireplace, the Avani. Inside the svelte glossy white ceramic shell, a stainless steel burner and fuel receptacle sits snugly, offering an insulated chamber for near-anywhere use in the home. Assembly took a couple minutes, only requiring unpacking and adding the burner into the ceramic exterior shell (which stays cool to the touch, even when lit), and adding the bio-ethanol fuel. The combination of the ceramic exterior with the stainless steel give the Avani a significant heft to it, and the low center of gravity makes the Avani feel safe ontop of a table or console. But of course, you are playing with fire, so households with pets and small children should only use under supervision. The benefits of using bio-ethanol fuel as explained by Ben include: extremely clean burning (no soot marks), does not add toxins to interior air and bio-ethanol is derived from renewable sources. Just don't take too close of a whiff! We accidentally inhaled a little too closely while inspecting the unit and was quickly reminded bioethanol is still a hazardous liquid.
Once set up, users only need to slide open the stainless steel vent and to ignite the fuel using an included slim wand lighter (note: we'd like to recommend this wand lighter be reengineered or replaced with an easier to ignite switch; it can be difficult to light on a first try).
Upon being ignited, you'll be greeted with a bright blue flame which slowly transitions to a warm orange colour that gently dances and creates the glow and shadows we all like. The intensity and height of the flame can be controlled simply by adjusting the steel burner opening, which makes the Avani usable even with overhead lighting (we just kept it on the low height range and monitored the temperature above). The effect is quite relaxing and sets an intimate mood for entertaining, though we're still getting used to having an open fire in the home (even the small Avani can put out thousands of BTUs of heat), so we're not yet completely relaxed being the worry-warts we are. A small indent receptacle allows for fragrances to be added (think scented oils) for an additional sensory element, but we preferred use without, since we're not big fans of artificial scents. The Avani is just one of several models available from Brasa. A larger Mercer offers a wider and longer flame, while the Hudson is for those looking for a larger unit closer resembling the traditional fireplace, but in modern form (the Hudson can also be used outdoors). If the svelte Avani (14.75 x 5.75 x 3.5 in) is too large for your space, shelf-friendly fire lamps could be used in multiples to create a romantic mood (you sly, suave devil, you). Prices range from $165 to $625, depending on size. It may not be a real fireplace, but for small space dwellers, these might be the next best thing.