I am impressed with the direction several very talented masons have taken fireplace designs to over the past 25 years. I think of the work of Lew French particularly. His rustic funky off-the-wall creations seem refreshing and spontaneous.The fits are stunningly tight. The joints usually have little or no mortar showing. The mix of driftwood, huge rocks, old boards and beams is convincing and often unpredictably pleasing.
And there are others who have introduced intriguing swirls and a sense of motion into their fireplaces, literally spiralling away from the drab, sterile, static, stone and concrete fireplaces that have permeated living rooms from even before the post modern era .
I myself have taken a bit of a side step from all this, though it is very positive exploration. While I like to see stone fitting exquisitely tight in other's work and appreciate the introduction of motion and mixed media into the mix, the patterns I seem to gravitate to in my own work result from a fascination with the structural look of old dry laid walls.
I like to imagine my fireplaces could have actually been built without grinders and saws (and sometimes they are ) and that they appear to have been made without mortar - which of course they haven't. (The joints have just all been raked back so you can't see the 'devils cream'.)
This dry stone look gives it a kind of appealing primitive feel, as the familiar bonds and predictable random coursing augments the semi traditional 'log cabin' fireplace look.
That being said, the traditional feel is subtly tweaked with occasional triangles, carefully spotted feature stones and other stylized design features to create a subtle symmetry (or asymmetry ) which all hopefully works together to prove, at least to me, that while 'form' and 'function' may not agree on who is following who, stonework is best appreciated when all the elements combine to give a convincing sense of structure.