Mixing fire and water to create a year-round focal point
Firefighters merge water and fire, so Simon Feizo-Gas’ combination of the two elements in a nifty new product seems only logical.
Feizo-Gas is a volunteer firefighter in Dunrobin and the inventive fellow who suspected that integrating a water feature — one that allows you to touch and hear the water — into residential fireplaces would catch the public eye. Oscar Cerna, his business partner in the startup company Aquarius Fire Fountains, is the practical man who found a way of taking Feizo-Gas’ idea to market.
Between them, they’ve created a unique, sense-pleasing product that not only drew good-sized crowds but won them the best new product award at the recent Ottawa Home & Garden Show.
The show, pretty much their public launch, led to half a dozen contracts and many more expressions of longer-term interest.
“We’re a little overwhelmed with the response,” says Feizo-Gas, whose natural marketing flair is well-balanced by Cerna’s quieter, will-this-actually-work approach to his own role of manufacturing and installing the products.
The units sell for $1,500 to $3,000 but can run higher depending on the installation. They are integrated into the stone or other material around a fireplace and feature an almost flat, waterfall-like wall of water that’s open in the front but splashes not a drop onto the floor or hearth. Behind the water is a Plexiglas shield down which the water flows and that protects studs and other structural elements of the home. Options include steady or pulsing lights.
The company offers custom and predesigned units. They include one in which framed photos are suspended in front of the water and another featuring a forest scene in the background and an antique window frame in front of the water, creating the illusion of looking out a window on a rainy day.
Yet another, suitable for a basement or even a kitchen fireplace, is a decorative and functional inset wine rack with the bottom row of pre-installed bottles spilling a steady stream of water into a collector.
There are also portable units with electric fireplaces for condo owners and other special applications.
The effect promises to be a de-stressor. “Why put on a CD of an ocean to relax when you can have the sound of real water?” asks Feizo-Gas.
The two men work full time for Dunrobin-based Maple Leaf Homes. Feizo-Gas had just started with the company as a labourer and Cerna was his supervisor when the idea of fire fountains was hatched.
“Oscar had me framing this huge fireplace, and I thought, ‘What a shame it’s going to be unused for most of the year,’ ” recalls Feizo-Gas, who grew up in an artistic family. “I’d always liked the idea of fountains in homes, so I said to Oscar that we should find a way of building water features into the fireplace. It would give the room a focus year-round.”
Cerna, an Ecuadorean native whose motto is “You can be anything you want,” says that “Simon put my head to work: water running inside a wall but not causing damage — oooookay, how can we make this work?”
The first attempts were, they cheerfully admit, a disaster, with water everywhere except where it was supposed to be. At one point, like the guy who builds a yacht in his basement and realizes too late what he’s done, they constructed a model in the third-storey apartment where Feizo-Gas was living at the time. When it came time to test it, they had to lower the thing off the balcony because it wouldn’t fit through the front door.
They’ve since worked out the bugs and can now design and install a unit within about three weeks. That includes installing the 20-gallon water tank and pump and having an electrician hardwire the CSA-approved lighting.
Feizo-Gas and Cerna continue to work at Maple Leaf Homes, which they say has been very supportive of their idea and has included a fire fountain in one of its rental properties. Metric Homes, another Ottawa builder, has a unit in a model at its Deer Run project in Stittsville.
Unable to resist the fire metaphors, Feizo-Gas concludes, “You can have an elegant wall but not burn your wallet up.”
For more information, visit aquariusff.com or call Simon Feizo-Gas at 613-808-9986.
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