Oh, the fireplace… Long the focal point of cheesy love scenes or those uncomfortable Christmas photos from your co-worker, the fireplace has gotten quite a reputation over the years.
When my husband and I lived in Texas, he moved our couch into our house and put it directly in front of the fireplace. He said, “What? It’s Texas. We’re not going to use it.”
You can make a fireplace sing, whether it gets used or not, with a little planning, a little vision and some major decorating. What you’ll get is a fireplace that not only is a place that family and friends will want to gather, but a focal point and presence in your living room.
Photo courtesy Van Tullis
It’s not always the winter holidays, so what do you do with your fireplace in the “offseason” months? Ultimately, your “fireplace room” should be decorated with the gathering of friends and family in mind. When decorating a room around a fireplace, take the fireplace into consideration first. After all, the fireplace is the only permanent part of the room. Here are few things to think about when planning your decorating:
- Consider the size of the room and of the size of the fireplace. Will large, bulky furniture make it difficult for you and your guests to get around? Will using smaller furniture make the room seem empty?
- What is the function of the room? If you’re dealing with a reading room or study, coffee tables, chairs and bookshelves will probably work best. If it’s a family room or living room, an entertainment center, couches, and more comfortable furniture will work best.
- Is your house open, or does it have a lot of doors that need to be accounted for? Again, if you’ve got a house that has a lot of doorways, keep in mind the space of the room. With doorways or smaller spaces, you’ll need to (most likely) reduce the size of the furniture surrounding the fireplace and go for pieces that make the room seem larger, or possibly use tastefully placed decorations. This is where area rugs and oversized mirrors come in handy. As Jeff Bridges says in The Big Lebowski, “that rug really tied the room together.” Quick note: Many interior designers will tell you that mirrors look great over a mantle because they reflect and make a room seem larger, but in all honesty, I’d roll with a nice piece of art, some candles, flowers or pictures before putting a mirror above the mantle. This also depends on the room, though. Use your best judgment. If all else fails, know that a mirror is a great way to bring a lot of attention to your fireplace.
With all of that in mind, here are a few tips for decorating around a fireplace.
- Whenever possible, get chairs as close to the fireplace as possible and center the furniture around the fireplace. Safety should be a consideration here, as you don’t want to burn your house down, but placing furniture near the fireplace really accentuates the fireplace as a focal point of the room and draws people in. Plus, who doesn’t love cozying up next to a fire with a good book on their Kindle?
- If you have a large, extended hearth at the base of the fireplace, make use of it. Placing pillows or a few blankets really adds a familiar feel for those that want to get close to the fire.
Photo courtesy Olson Design and Construction
- If you’re working with a small room, try spreading the furniture out a bit (away from the fireplace), but leave the fireplace at the “center” of the room. We don’t want to crowd our guests or feel crowded ourselves, so moving the furniture to the outer edges of the room will leave people with enough space to still be comfortable, while still leaving plenty of room to enjoy the fireplace from any angle.
You’ll notice in the photo below that the color scheme is consistent from the fireplace to the furniture and accessories. The mantle and flue are brown, which is reflected in the couches. The smaller accessories (the candle holders on the table, the mini vase on the mantle) match the face of the fireplace. Creating symmetry in color creates a very comfortable feel for the room.
Photo courtesy of HGTV.com
- If it’s “cozy” you are going for, wooden furniture accentuates the rustic, “cozy” log-cabin feel a fireplace naturally claims. Add a few oversized pillows and you’ve got the perfect meeting spot.
Photo courtesy Fergus Garber Group LLC
- Not all fireplaces host fires, as my husband pointed out. Let’s say you live in south Texas where it is 100+ degrees with 98 percent humidity for much of the year – having a fire burning in your fireplace just isn’t practical, nor is it comfortable. This doesn’t mean it has to be completely useless. Try putting candles or artwork in the fireplace to maintain that “cozy” feel. Oversized vases stuffed with artificial (or natural) branches are also great for spicing up an inactive fireplace.
Photo courtesy of Vern Yip
Above all, I always stress the importance of having fun with any decorating project. Decorating around the fireplace in your home is no different. So go and create a room everyone wants to be in!
Diane Kuehl is a DiY/home improvement professional. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.