A Kachelofen Heater Comes to Holliston: Part 1 – Design

Energy conservation and environmental protection are the goals we all live by these days. We love our solar panels, 94% efficient heating systems and electric cars. But can you make a pizza with any of these?

Introducing the KACHELOFEN, 800-year-old super-efficient technology that heats your home, cooks your meals, and even makes brick oven pizza. A kachelofen is a type of thermal mass heater that features an outer layer made of decorative ceramic brick called kacheln (singular kachel). Thermal mass heaters have a huge efficiency advantage over traditional North American wood burning stoves. A kachelofen will generally store and gently radiate heat for 12 hours from a single fire.

Jessica Steinhauser came to Holliston recently to install a kachelofen in the home of Adam and Manu Schwarz, an 18th century farmhouse on Fiske Street. Adam and Manu worked with Jessica to create the perfect oven for their home.

Months were spent working out the details resulting in a model constructed by Manu to help visualize the final results. This kachelofen was designed to be a room divider with a kitchen side and a living room side. The kitchen side features stovetop cooking, a bake oven and a pizza oven. The heat from these components is not stored in the thermal mass. This means that using the kitchen components in the summertime will not create excessive heat inside the house. The living room side has a large fire chamber for generating and storing heat during the cooler seasons.

Manu also wanted the kachelofen to include something from her mother. She decided on a pattern from her mother’s favorite necklace (pictured above on the right). An early sketch of the pattern by Jessica can be seen on the left. The result is a relief pattern of a swallow that appears on several key bricks.

Jessica doesn’t just assemble kachelofens; she and her team design, build and fire all the kacheln by hand to complete the unit (over 270 in this case). She also designs the specialized hardware and maps out the rough internal workings of the unit. About 15 years ago she shifted the focus of a successful production pottery business to exclusively producing kachelofens. She has designed, built and installed kachelofens all over the world.

With help from her colleague Mario and son Felix, this stove was completed in about 9 days. The old chimney was removed, and a new foundation was constructed by PJ Kilkelley. Mark Dellicker completed the flue construction above the kachelofen through the roof.

Detail drawings are ready for the construction phase.

Part 2 of this project will be posted soon – stay tuned . . .


Paul Saulnier


  1. Beate Hait on June 6, 2022 at 11:28 am

    There is a Kachelofen in the homes of several of my relatives in Germany. Nice and toasty to sit near them or on built-in seats in the winter. I didn’t know they could be constructed here.

    • Paul Saulnier on June 9, 2022 at 6:42 pm

      It takes katchelofen designer and constructor that is willing to travel the world, which Jessica is willing to do.