My latest project is a good example of this principle. The above picture is of a project in Illinois after its first coat of stucco. While some people think a masonry heater is represented by a large box (see article from October 2011 below), projects like this one reveal that a masonry heater is not something so easily defined - or confined.
The owners of this heater formerly had a wall separating their kitchen (seen beyond the heater) from the living room (from whence this photo was taken). They wanted a masonry heater, but they wanted a relatively unobstructed view from one room to the next. My solution for them, depicted here, is a masonry heater that is never taller than about 4' - 6" anywhere in the line of site between these two rooms. It is true that there are "standard" masonry heaters (you know, the rectangular box style?) that are short - even as short as this. But this couple wanted a heater that has the potential to heat their whole home - about 2500 square feet.
This heater is designed primarily as a 7 kilowatt (approx. 22,000 BTU) heater, but has the potential to output more than 30,000 BTUs - which is the maximum heating demand of this house according to conventional HVAC principles. As I discuss in my book, heating with radiant heat actually requires less BTUs for the same comfort level.)
The far left, tall element acts as a wall defining a hallway separating the living room from a library and leading to the more distant bedrooms of the the house. This taller element has wood storage here on the living room side that is about 20" deep. The rest of that construction contains flues and will be a heating element of this stove. The middle section is all seating - roughly 5 feet of it - with heated seat backs. Next is the firebox followed by, at far right, a wood storage area.. The opposite side is completely different from this side but has additional heated seating, shelving, and a tall, narrow viewing window into the firebox. I'll post a photo that later.
I admit that the photo is of relatively poor quality, but I wanted to get this posted as an example of what is being done right now here in the United States. Masonry heaters: Get what you really want and be warm!