Staying warm in style
STORY & PHOTOS by JAIX CHAIX
Essentially, staying warm during cold winters with a wood stove requires little beyond a match and some wood.
But for many, a wood stove is more than just a larch-burning, ash-making, black box. They have a more personal connection with keeping a fire, much like keeping company with an old friend. And gathering around the fire is a special time and place – whether by the folly of stories, secrets or seduction.
Indeed, boxed or pot-bellied, refined or raw-welded, providing heat may be the principal labor of a wood stove. But there’s something about the aesthetic appeal of a stylish wood stove, its form and function, that transcends a glorified space heater, and makes memories come alive with crackling flames and aesthetic pleasures.
So, here’s a look at some of the more stylish types of wood stoves found around the Flathead Valley – including some unexpected surprises.
Even during their heyday, fancy parlor stoves pleased the eye and warmed the soul. A variety of antique wood stoves, some well over 100 years old, can still be found in places throughout the Flathead Valley.
Their ornate castings – which were once cutting-edge technology – remain as intriguing to the eye as the day they were forged. And whether meticulously well-kept or completely refurbished, antique parlor stoves make staying warm seem like a trip back in time, mellowing the soul, one log at a time.
Antique wood stoves can conjure memories and somehow make the last run down the slope seem more nostalgic.
And much like in bygone times, having “a blast” had more to do with firing up a Cole, Glenwood, Great Western, Riverside Aer Duct and other stoves, including many imported from furnace and foundry companies from the East Coast in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Whatever the brand or model, an antique parlor stove can make just about any interior seem more cozy – no matter the weather outside – and can seem rustic and romantic.
VINTAGE BASE BURNER STOVES
Likewise, larger, upright base burner stoves also grace the interiors of homes and shops throughout the Flathead Valley.
And much like parlor stoves, the beauty and warmth of these wood stoves are matched only by their intricate and sophisticated heating and warm air circulation systems, which remain innovations in engineering and casting.
These include brands like Peninsular, with enough flares and nickel “chrome” shrouding to make a 1950s hot-rod jealous. And the aura of flickering flames through a patchwork of mica windows, found on Peninsular and other stoves, is a sight to behold unto itself. It’s the stuff that can make a fire seem even more hypnotic and transcendental.
The grand, upright stature of these stoves is perhaps rivaled only by a comfy wool sweater, or goose-down comforter on more mild, winter days.
Here, wood stove models like Peninsular, Round Oak, Wherle, and Jewel could seem familiar. And some of the “upright” wood stoves that were once purveyed by the Missoula Mercantile can still be found here and there throughout the Flathead Valley.
While some parlor and upright wood stoves may seem ornate (even gaudy to some), there are many stylish and understated wood stoves out there as well.
Yet like the fancier parlor or upright wood stoves, with their fancy accoutrements, even some of the most understated wood stoves seem to have a purposeful trick up their sleeve.
For example, some wood stoves, including some models made by Norwegian stove-maker Jøtul, come in understated forms – with hidden capabilities appreciated by foodies and artisans alike.
While most Jøtul wood stoves burn with unequivocal European efficiency, some models also serve as a bread oven and can be outfitted with a “winter-grill” that fits inside the firebox for indoor grilling. While wearing the disguise of just a square, plain, black-box, these wood stoves are capable of bringing gourmet, flame-kissed flavor to grilled meats and vegetables – without even leaving the living room. Guests may wonder about the freshly baked, perfectly crusted bread with a complex, wood-fired taste – and no obvious means of production in sight.
Indeed, wood stoves such as the Jøtul and others with similar accessories may be a matter of taste. And much like the older wood stoves imported from the east, some of the most efficient and understated stoves are imported as well, albeit from places even farther east, like England, Norway, and the Ukraine – all to help keep folks in the Flathead warm in style.