JOHANNA LEGGATT, The Weekly Times
May 13, 2016 12:00am
A COUPLE of years ago, Neil McCarthy and Chloe Allan began looking for fireplace ideas to complete their Byron Bay home.
Chloe, a high school teacher by day and an enthusiastic researcher of appliances by night, pored over many a home heating brochure, but struggled to find a fireplace to match the home.
“The standard box fireplace was not doing it for me,”Chloe said.
“Neil and I both grew up with fireplaces so we definitely wanted one that was a bit special.”
The pair came across a range of fireplace ideas, including gorgeous suspended fireplaces they could import from France, but they were $20,000 each and out of their budget. So Neil, who has an engineering background, decided to try to make his own.
“We called the prototype The Robot because it was this giant cardboard structure in our living room,” Chloe said. “It took Neil a while to get that curve right.”
But he prevailed and the couple’s experimental suspended steel fireplace was so successful they decided to start manufacturing them commercially under their Aurora Suspended Fireplaces brand out of their northern NSW warehouse.
“There was a real gap in the market as we are the only company manufacturing suspended fireplaces in Australia and New Zealand,” Chloe said. “We started trading about a year ago and the business has really taken off.”
There are two suspended models on offer, the first of which, The Aether, is designed for both the deck and outdoors. It rotates full circle, offers an 8.2kW heat rating and is a popular choice for corner installations because more flame is visible from the side.
The second model, The Hearth, also offers a 360-degree rotation, with a 7.2kW heat rating. It has a rounder design than the clamshell shape of The Aether, allowing more of the flame to be visible from directly in front of the fire.
Both models are approved to meet Australian and New Zealand building standards, and come as either wood- or bioethanol-fuelled fireplaces.
“Wood is consistently rated as the most sustainable heat source, but a lot of customers these days are opting for bioethanol,” Chloe said.
“So we like to offer both, and soon we plan to add gas fireplaces to the range.”
By making some of the design components smaller than their overseas competitors and foregoing retail space to sell directly to architects, customers and designers, they have been able to keep the fireplaces at $10,000 each, including installation.
About 70 per cent of their clients are private homeowners, architects and interior designers, while the remaining 30 per cent are commercial premises, such as hotels and wineries.
Their biggest markets are NSW and Victoria, but they are starting to receive orders from overseas, too.
“I was a high school teacher and Neil was a marine engineer, but the business has grown to such a point that we have given up our day jobs,” Chloe said. “It has taken over our lives.”
Chloe adds that while the fireplaces have not been designed as cooking implements, “they make a wicked woodfired pizza”.
“There is a grate that you can put a pizza stone on and you can cook them outside,” she added.