Kachelofen! Gesundheit. Glamorous Ceramic Stoves

This past Saturday night, my friend Michael suggested we go see a double feature at the Jersey City Lowes – Notorious (1946) and The Third Man (1949). The Jersey City Lowes is an elaborate movie palace built in 1929, but more about that in another post. The films were wonderful, as usual, of course, but one thing has stuck with me since Saturday. The ceramic stove in Anna Schmidt’s apartment.The Kachelofen in The Third Man

The Romance of Ceramic Stoves

The seeds of a mini obsession were planted. I spent some time on Sunday exploring the Internet for them. Thanks to the design/lifestyle blog An Aesthete’s Lament, I learned a little more about them. They originated (not surprisingly) in northern Europe and are called a kachelofen in German, a kakkelovin in Swedish and a poêle en faïence in French.

Yule Ulu’s Dramatic Centerpiece

The seeds of my obsession were planted when I was quite young. One of these glamorous stoves was used in a film that was a big influence during my formative years: Auntie Mame.

Auntie Mame's Kachelofen

It’s heavily featured in one of the raciest incarnations of Mame’s Beekman Place apartment – part of the “only collection of its kind in the Universe” assembled by the fictional designer Yule Ulu – the Burnside Fireside, as Mame describes it. It’s especially interesting to see them used in such different films – the bleak, crumbling post war Austrian setting is so completely foreign to the frothy Technicolor interior of Mame’s apartment.

Another screen shot of Auntie Mame's Kachelofen

Tchotchkas on Steroids

I think what fascinates me about them is their quality of whimsy. They’re like tchotchkas on steroids. It’s as if someone super sized a salt shaker. It appeals to my desire for design touches on a grand scale – something I think every room should have.

Now these delightful little accessories (which I’ve heard are extremely efficient heaters) will set you back quite a pretty penny. Similar, though less grandiose examples ceramic stoves are available on sites like 1stdibs for between $9K and $34K. The ones that approach the glamour of the ones above are available, but you must request a price. They’re wonderful inspiration for an eclectic room. Create their effect with French provincial furniture accented with gay colored paint touches or upholstery. Then contrast it with sleek modern glass and steel and you’ll have a room to remember!

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