If you have always loved the idea of having a roaring (or cozy) fire in your living room, then you have three basic options. They are: woodburning stoves, potbelly stoves, or fireplaces. Each has it's own benefits and drawbacks. To help you go ahead and make a better choice, here is a brief overview of what the different options are like.
Glass Fronted Woodburning Stove
A woodburning stove is hooked up to a long pipe chimney. They are popular for people who want to heat their homes and see flames, but don't want the open design of a fireplace. The box contains the smoke and ash, and the indoor pipe chimney carries heat like a radiator (throwing off extra warmth). The benefits include no smoke (unless you open the box without opening the flue) and a safe flame. You don't have to worry about sparks flying out of the box and catching fire on your carpet. The downside is that you will have to cut logs to a particular length and width. With a fireplace, for example, you can toss in really big logs. Woodburning stoves can also be tricky to light, and you have to be careful when placing logs inside. If the flame is too low, the fire will die out and you will have to start over.
Potbelly stoves were classics used in general stores and homes to keep them warm before oil burners became popular. You load them up with firewood (or nowadays you can use pellets). The upside is that they are very solid and strong. The downside is that you often won't get to see the flames. The classic potbelly stove doesn't have a glass front. There are some new models that have modifications that include small glass windows, but this is not common. One advantage to using them is that you can place them in small spaces. They don't require the same large footprint that a woodburning stove or fireplace needs, so they can even be placed in bedrooms or small parlors.
If you really want a visual statement, then you should get a fireplace. The firebox is the area that holds the logs. This firebox is made of a strong, durable material (either a metal firebox insert, or fireproof brick). The surrounding fireplace can be anything from classic red brick, fieldstone, or granite. The logs will burn right out in the open, which provides an amazing dramatic effect, and the smoke will funnel up through the chimney and out the house. You can place ill-shapen logs into the fireplace, so you don't have to be precise when ordering split wood like you do when you have a woodburning stove. You will have to be diligent about keeping the fireplace chimney clean. You won't see the inside of the chimney, but if you let it build up creosote, then you will be risking a fire. So you need to make sure that you have your fireplace chimney serviced.