SIOUX CITY | It's beginning to feel a lot like fall inside Kalins Indoor Comfort.
Despite the fact that the mercury was in the mid-80s on this early September afternoon, owner Bruce Kalin had many of the elegant fireplaces in his Sioux City showroom running at full blast.
"The great thing about Midwestern weather is that things can turn on a dime," he said, inside his 1715 Fourth St., showroom. "It's never too early to start thinking about updating one's fireplace."
Once relegated to being merely a functional heat source, high-end fireplaces are becoming real showpieces for living rooms, bedrooms and, even, outdoor patios.
"Fireplaces are a focal point," Kalin explained. "They can easily turn your home into a peaceful retreat."
Passing through a wide selection of gas, electric and wood-burning models, he said a fireplace can create a space for gathering as well as an atmosphere of comfort.
"Depending on the model, a fireplace can turn a space into a sleek, sophisticated space or a rustic and cozy area for families," Kalin said. "It all depends on the mood you want to set."
For instance, a contemporary electric fireplace adds drama as the flames change colors from orange to red to blue while a gas fireplace burns peacefully behind a cool-to-the-touch glass enclosure.
According to Kalins' comfort consultant Scott Cleveland, glass will keep curious kids and frisky pets from getting too close to the flames.
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"As pretty as they are to look at, fireplaces are also energy-efficient heat sources," he said. "We want to keep everyone safe and sound."
Cleveland's fellow comfort consultant Scott Schultz said fireplace inserts are becoming increasingly popular.
"Many older homes have fireplaces that people never use," he said. "A gas, pellet-burning or electric insert can be an economical way for people wanting to utilize their existing fireplace."
Then again, you can also build a fireplace outdoors.
In the middle of Kalins Indoor Comfort's showroom is an outdoor fire pit that burns on top of shimmering fireglass gems.
"Now, this is a show-stopping piece," Kalin said, waving a remote control in the direction of an outdoor fireplace. "It's spectacular when you see it at night."
Reflecting on the changing nature of fireplaces, he said they still provide heat and coziness on a wintry night.
"For years, fireplaces were cozy," Kalin said. "Now, they provide a striking design element to your home."
Well, they can certainly warm things up in a hurry, especially on an already warm afternoon in September.
"Don't you worry," Kalin said, wiping a bead of perspiration from his brow. "It will be fall before we know it."