Fireplaces are really nice, but I converted the last one I owned to gas because I could not stand the mess. When burning wood there were ashes and possibly sparks everywhere. When the fireplace was cold, the ashes had to be carefully cleaned out, and I guess I was just never careful enough. Besides, no matter what kind of wood you burn, there is a build-up of stuff in the chimney you could start a fire with.
When I started this house, I wanted something to keep from freezing. I had to do all the work before final approval with whatever I could use on an extension cord from the neighbor's house. That was not very efficient, and really expensive. So I looked around for a stove or firebox. I don't know what it's like in your area, but in California the regulations are killer, and the available "safe" and "energy efficient" stoves and fireplaces are terribly expensive.
On a good hint, I looked online and found the Vogelzang wood stove. It was really inexpensive and well known (there have been over a million of this model sold) if I bought the Model BX26E. It was also compact and really nicely made, besides being, well, CUTE. The local ACE hardware even brought it almost to me for nothing.
This little stove takes about three pieces of split oak twice a day and heats my whole 1, 200 square foot house with them. The controls and surfaces are really easy to use and maintain (they did turn ash grey when I got it too hot, but stove black fixed that right up). In short, I got really inexpensive heat in a good looking package for not much initial investment. Now when the local power company loses a line or a transformer in the winter, I'm assured I'll stay nice and toasty all night long.