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An inglenook is a small corner formed next to an open fireplace, with some people treating an entire recessed space formed by a fireplace as an inglenook. Some people call inglenooks “chimney corners,” and they could also be considered rooms inside rooms, because they are small, sheltered, and very cozy. Many examples of inglenooks can be seen in historical homes with large open fireplaces, and the concept has also been incorporated into rooms which lack fireplaces, satisfying a desire for cozy corners within larger rooms.
There are all sorts of uses for an inglenook. It can make a comfortable place for people to lounge, especially in cold weather, as it often shares a wall with the side of the fireplace, creating a great deal of warmth. It is also possible to hang things to dry in an inglenook, ranging from produce to clothing. You may also see an inglenook used to store various kitchen goods such as pots and pans so that they are easy to reach. In the case of an inglenook which is created by recessing a fireplace, the space is most commonly used as a seating area.
In rooms where the inglenook is not a deliberately designed recess, one can be created by arranging benches and other furniture around the fireplace to create a sheltered and clearly demarcated space. This practice was common historically in inns and hotels, creating a space which could be used for multiple functions, with people cooking there during the day and moving the benches in at night to create a pleasant place for socialization.
In rooms without a fireplace, a recessed space is not really a true inglenook, although you may hear the term used in advertising copy. In this sense, an inglenook is simply a smaller, isolated space within a larger room which is often designed to be very intimate and comfortable. Some homes with a rustic design scheme include such inglenooks, and they may be attached to electric heaters or gas stoves to maintain the pretense of being true inglenooks.
With the open fireplace slowly disappearing from society, the inglenook is also growing a bit rare. There are a number of reasons not to use open fireplaces, ranging from their inefficient distribution of heat to their environmental impact, and homeowners who are considering them are encouraged to seek out alternate methods of heat, or to use a different architectural feature to create atmosphere in a room. A highly efficient gas heater, for example, can be designed to look similar to a fireplace, complete with an inglenook for people to enjoy the heat on cool days.