There’s something about having a fireplace in a home – everyone loves it. Most of our clients have a fireplace and those that don’t, want to get one. There’s all kinds of research that says why we’re attracted to fire and why gathering and gazing into a fire makes us feel so good. It’s an evolutionary thing, dating back to prehistoric times. There’s even research out from the University of Alabama that details how watching a fire will lower blood pressure.
For those sensitive decorating types, like myself, gazing into fire won’t have a calming, blood pressure lowering effect, if the fireplace is unattractive. Seriously – for us decor sensitive types, our whole body reacts to colour and texture and form. If there’s something off in a room or if the room isn’t in harmony, a pressure starts building in my chest and my body can physically feel the unbalance. Those that have this same reaction know exactly what I’m talking about. Other people think I’m a little out to lunch, but funny thing is, after the changes are made, they can see and feel the difference too.
Take the fireplace above, some people would say the wall colour is too strong, others might say the surround tile is wrong. What bothered me was the hole above the fireplace. My eye didn’t know where to rest, top or bottom, in the hole or at the fire. Where do you focus? Once the primary problem of balance was addressed, then tile selection and colour could be chosen. If these colour and tile changes were made without addressing the balance issue, the fireplace still would have looked off and felt not quite right.
We’re all about making life easy and stress free. Many of our clients never know what to put on a mantel. Sure, styled mantels can look fantastic, but are they really necessary? Is it just another place to clutter up. We say if you don’t have a mantel, then the problem is solved. Very often a clean run of stone or tile creates a sleek and simple look.
In the fireplace below, the balance was off. It’s not that the stone couldn’t be pretty, or that built-ins can’t surround a fireplace, it’s that the scale and balance were incorrect. The before fireplace is way too heavy, and the built-ins stick out past the fireplace. Not a good feel. The homeowner wanted to calm down the area, and since she had a chance to redo the fireplace, she chose to go with a traditional fireplace that she always liked. The insert is a 36 inch Town and Country design based on the Rumford style fireplace.
Look at this fireplace below. What do you think the main problem is? Did you say wall colour, or green tile, or dated lighting? Mantle decor doesn’t count as we put all the little tchotchkes up there to get packed up. Well, the primary issue is the scale of the fireplace. The green marble is too wide for the scale of the surround. We also felt that the fireplace looked as if it didn’t quite belong, so we added some detailing to the wall, as shown below. Since code calls for 6inches of noncombustible material from opening, we were able to cover over some of the marble.
Here is another fireplace we did. The homeowner said that for years she struggled to style the mantle, and she was thrilled with not having to worry about it any longer. Note the brass and black insert in the before picture. It’s the same insert in the after, just sprayed out with black high heat spray paint.
This fireplace was unique as it was positioned in an architecturally busy area. We toned it down and brought in some calm by adding a heavier stone and mantle. This way your eye has a resting point and attention stays focused on the firebox.
Sometimes budget doesn’t allow for a complete redo. There are always a few decorating tricks that can help. In the photo below we used white accessories on the mantle to bring some fresh and clean to the area. Notice how the curvy urn offsets the square of the fireplace and mantle.
This fireplace was bright white with black marble. We asked the homeowner to paint it dark and she did. At this point, before the furniture and styling, it looks dark and heavy.
Notice how the room all comes together and the black is repeated in the wall sconces and the coffee table. The tufted sofa adds softness as does the Bergere chair just peaking out a little in the right corner.
Below, the homeowner didn’t like her fireplace at all, feeling it was too dark and heavy. Budget was a consideration, so we worked with what we had. We moved the sofa and love seat on either side of the fireplace to open it up and let it breath. We placed an airy rectangular bench to act as a coffee table. Notice how it doesn’t compete with the heaviness of the fireplace. Bright art was added on each side, as well as white accents on the mantle. The fireplace stone is grey and the wood has a red undertone. We suggested that she paint out the wood on the top of the fireplace to match the grey stone. This way the eye will read it as one, making the fireplace appear calmer and more soothing.
Corner fireplaces always present a problem for furniture placement. There are only two ways to handle this. If the room allows, you can make it a secondary focal point. Set up the main living area away from the fireplace and have a strong focal point within the furniture arrangement. Then to tie in the fireplace, create a separate little area, perhaps with a chair and a basket of books. This only works if there is enough room and windows away from the fireplace.
The other way to handle the corner fireplaces is to set up the furniture so it relates to the fireplace. The before photo shows how we took the homeowners existing furniture and accessories and laid them out to sit in front of the fireplace.
The after photo shows how fantastic it looked when completed. Notice how we used three round tables instead of one huge coffee table. Using round offsets the square lines of the fireplace. A hide was added so the area was not defined with a square shaped rug. Sitting directly across from the fireplace is a lounge chair. Again we kept this light and airy so it would play off the solidness of the fireplace.
As you can see, there are so many different types of fireplaces. The before and afters show that anything is possible. But if budget is a consideration, then mindful furniture placement, paint and decor accents will do a lot too.
Since the weather is getting nicer and we’ll want to be spending more time outside, check out our blog showcasing this outdoor fireplace and cooking oven.
Enjoy the week and check back next Sunday for our new blog. Sign up below if you want to our weekly blog emailed directly.
Karen Fron Design is a full-service Interior Design Firm located in Calgary, Alberta. We specialize in bespoke residential & commercial interiors, custom furniture & draperies, and whole home renovations.
“A well functioning and beautiful home makes life better.”