What is more cosy and inviting than a warming living room fireplace idea; the flickering flames of an open fire? Whether it’s real or artificial, an ambient glow will give your room a warming and appealing atmosphere. But even if you don’t have a working fireplace, you can make a focal point of a fireplace that’s purely decorative.
Our fireplace ideas can be incorporated into both contemporary and more traditional room scheme. And though most apply to living room ideas, there’s no reason they can’t inspire other spaces like bedrooms, hallways or open-plan dining areas.
Looking to add a fireplace in a house that’s lost its originals? Owen Pacey of fireplace restoration specialist Renaissance London has some top tips on how to choose one.
“I’d always recommend sticking to the period of the house when looking to purchase a fireplace,’ says Owen. ‘This ensures that the styles align, and the fireplace will look like it’s always been there.’
‘The ground floor of Victorian properties always used to have a marble or slate fireplace and later on in the Edwardian era, slate became much more popular. My go-to material would always be marble, however, as it is generally very durable.’
‘If you’re thinking of inserting something functional or decorative inside your fireplace, I generally like to stick to original cast iron inserts or a freestanding basket.’
1. Style a mantel like a pro
We ask a leading interiors stylist for tips on styling a mantel piece like a pro. ‘Style it up with your favourite vases, family memories and seasonal foliage, and arrange your furniture so it embraces the fireplace rather than avoiding it,’ says Sally Denning, Interiors stylist, @Blackshorestyle on instagram.
‘Flowers and foliage, a huge mirror and your favourite ceramics always work,’ says Sally. ‘But don’t be tempted to overfill. Be considered and paired back. Groupings of three always work well, as do different heights and textures. Saying that, work in plenty of candles and even a string of fairy lights for cosy nights.’ Ambient light is essential for cosy living room idea.
2. Make a feature of a chimney breast wall
Ruth Mottershead, Creative director, Little Greene loves to see contrast, ‘Try painting the fireplace in a contrasting colour to walls, wallpapering all walls or alcoves except the chimney breast.’
‘Or opting for floor-to-ceiling colour, enveloping the fire surround and chimney breast just leaving the dark fireplace or decorative tiles to become a room’s feature highlight.’
3. Keep it simple for a contemporary design
‘An inset stove gives the illusion of a “window of fire”,’ says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, Managing Director Morsø UK. ‘So keep things minimal to let the fire remain centre stage.’
‘Try either a single or grouping of larger vases positioned on the floor.’ Sally would bring in a few statement pieces of foliage to create a focal point above – or even a few branches, leant against the wall on one side.
4. Make a modern fireplace the focal point
In a contemporary layout embrace the freedom to upsize. Make a big impact, quite literally, with an oversized fireplace design. ‘Glass panels on stoves are now bigger and wider, so you can really enjoy the beauty of a log fire, compared to more trad designs,’ says Declan.
‘Stoves can be placed almost anywhere as long as the requirements of the stove are met and there’s a flue, which means focal points are moving away from the traditional fireplace.’
5. Welcome wallpaper to frame a fireplace
Draw attention to the fire within the fireplace by framing the surround with a decorative paper. Ruth loves a wallpaper idea; ‘Adding wallpaper to the chimney breast in an otherwise muted scheme highlights it and create an element of surprise.’
6. Give an original fireplace a makeover
With the right materials you can upcycle anything. ‘Most fireplaces are made from varnished wood, cast iron, tiles or stone, so if you are looking to paint it – and a contrasting colour always helps highlight this architectural feature – then use a coat of an all-surface primer’ advises Ruth Mottershead, Creative director, Little Greene.
‘If you have a highly sculptural or cast-iron fireplace, then paint the walls and the fireplace itself the same colour – this reduces the powerful nature of the ironwork or shape but allows the detail to show through by the highlights and shadows that are displayed as light falls on it.’
7. Style a fireplace seasonally
‘Style with the season,’ says Sally. ‘For spring and summer, pop candles into the grate or add seasonal foliage. As you head into autumn, stack with logs – they are great for adding texture and can be moved to a log basket to one side come winter.’
8. Don’t overpower the wood-burner
‘For a contemporary stove, try to keep the area around minimal with a neutral palette. This allows the stove’s warm, dancing flames to be the focal point. For more traditional stoves, expose the original brick or go for decorative tiles to create a warm, homely look,’ says Declan.
9. Make your mantel pop
Not sure what to do with that tired old wooden fireplace surround? If you are feeling brave, painting it a bright colour will make it sing. Try to pick out your chosen colour in accents such as cushions and rugs, and smaller pieces of upcycled furniture for a more cohesive look.
Think carefully about your colour choice. If you have a cool neutral like grey on the walls, pick a strong sunshine yellow, teal blue or fuchsia pink. If you are working with a warmer neutral, try an on-trend brick or terracotta red, a sage or olive green or even plum.
10. Go grey all over
One way to make a fireplace feel less old fashioned or obtrusive is to paint it in an on-trend, colour, and to also us that colour on the wall behind. This cocooning grey living room idea is on trend, and makes this mantel feel smart. It’s also light enough that you don’t lose the fine details of any carved details.
11. Make sure it’s to scale
This is important if you are choosing a replacement mantelpiece, or installing a new fireplace where one didn’t previously exist. ‘If you have lots of space and high ceilings, you may wish to opt for a tall fireplace with an overhanging mantel, an ornate overmantel and a wide hearth extension,’ advises Owen Pacey.
‘If your space is smaller, such as in a bathroom or guest bedroom, you may wish to opt for something more flush to the wall. Focus the detail on ornate jambs or tiles around the grate.’
12. Turn a chimney breast into a home office
Here’s a very smart solution for a defunct upstairs fireplace – turn it into a desk or dressing table. Deeper wardrobes sit in the alcoves created by the flue, while attaching a shelf to the chimney breast makes an instant workspace or beauty bar. And the hearth becomes a place to tuck in a stool – it’s the home office you’ve always wanted, but takes up barely any space.
13. Pare back a disused fireplace
Turn a simple hole in the wall into a stunning feature that reflects the style of your property. This house is located by the sea, so rustic materials – a raw concrete cavity and a stone base are complemented by the mix of textured ceramics and woven rattan inside.
A small jar of coral is another nod to the surroundings.
14. Use reclaimed wood for authenticity
A big open hearth and flue might look authentic, but they are also rather impractical. In this cosy cottage, the flue is sealed off so there are no draughts, and an efficient wood burner does a far better job of emitting heat directly into the room that an open fire wood.
A simple reclaimed beam is a rustic alternative to a traditional mantelpiece, while still nodding to the age of the house. See more of this stunning home: Have a wander through this 400-year-old thatched cottage in the Cornwall countryside
15. Create a dramatic bathroom feature
Ok, so chances are you won’t naturally have a chimney breast in your bathroom, unless you have repurposed a bedroom or done some serious reconfiguring downstairs. But if you do, it can be a very useful feature and the focal point of your space. Use it as a home for laundry baskets and fill it with plants for a fresh look. It’s also the natural home for a mirror.
If you don’t have a chimney breast in the bathroom, you could fake one. It might be a handy addition, particularly if you are trying to box around and hide pipework. Just add a wooden mantel and no one will know it’s not authentic.
16. Fake it in a new build with this instant fix
Though it’s not true of all new builds, some can feel a little bereft of features. So if you are looking for a focal point to replace the TV, a fireplace surround like this one from Next could be the retro-fit solution you’ve been looking for. It will fit against a flat wall for an instant feature, and you you can add your choice of electric stove or hearth to complete the look.
17. Keep things elegant with marble
Marble is the perfect choice for a fireplace. It is resistant to heat and fire, meaning you can light the fire all winter long without worrying about any damage. Marble is perfect for creating a sleek modern look. It can be expensive, but the versatility and longevity of marble makes it is a great investment.
18. Add character with exposed brick
If you have inherited a fireplace already fitted with a heating element, rather than tearing it out immediately check to see if it is still safe to use and work with it.
This old heating element and exposed brick fireplace add character to this otherwise modern living room. It is a lovely focal point that offers a nod to the history of the house.
19. Create a modern, industrial look
Has your original fireplace been ripped out? It’s relatively affordable to commission your own in cast concrete, for a surround that has all the character or marble or stone without the expense.
Pops of orange fire up the neutral living room background when the stove itself isn’t flickering.
20. Match your fireplace to your walls
Fireplaces can sometimes stand out for all the wrong reasons. So if you want yours to blend in, paint it to match the walls around it. This is particularly effective if you go for a deep colour rather than a pale neutral. Pick out the tone in soft furnishings but make sure there’s enough ‘light’ to contrast with the shad to avoid overkill.
Here, a grey stove and grey sofa with metallic furniture do the job brilliantly in a blue living room idea.
21. Work in a wood-burning stove
Fireplace alcove not in use? Install a log burning stove. It will create wonderfully cosy centrepiece and will heat the whole area. Be sure to enlist the help of a trained contractor who will make sure the structure is safe and built to the latest regulations.
The results as seen here in this quaint country living room are stunning and can be enjoyed from all angles of the room. ‘Whether your living room is big or small, a wood-burning stove always makes it cosy’ says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, Managing Director Morsø UK.
22. Dress an inglenook
Large open fireplaces or Inglenooks as they are often known are the ultimate indulgence for cottage, country living room ideas. They were originally used in houses to cook, and for people to gather in for extra warmth but these days they are purely decorative and atmospheric.
Their grand appearance is the epitome of rustic cosiness and looks the part amongst beamed ceilings and comfortable sofas. You need to have sufficient permanent ventilation into the room to ensure that the fire can work safely with a good draught up the flue.
Be sure to clean and maintain your chimney and heating stove in time for winter.
23. Decorate the mantel
Ever wondered where the living room furniture pointed before the days of the TV? Although many have been neglected or ripped out completely, the fireplace is gaining gravitas once more thanks to our current love of all things heritage.
Whether offering a place for your wine glass at a party to perching a family portrait, the mantel itself has long reflected each era of design. Use a bare mantel to display your favourite objects – a sure fire (get it?!) way to cheer you up on a dull, dreary day.
Select specific items to make more of a statement – oversized letters to spell out kid’s names looks great, or use the wall above to position a large scale print and leave the mantle free.
24. Fill your fireplace with shelving
If you have a small fireplace that no longer houses a fire or has been blocked up and plastered over, why not use it as an alcove for shelving to fill an unwelcome gap? This works particularly well in bedrooms for storing books, and also in kitchens by creating extra space for pretty displays.
25. Pop storage into the niche
If you’re lucky enough to have a big fireplace that is no longer in use, take advantage of the tailor-made niche in which to house a freestanding cupboard.
Rather than have a built-in design, which can be an expensive project, ready- made furniture is a great alternative. Especially effective if you paint it the same colour as the alcove and the surrounding walls, blending the whole look together.
26. Fill in the gaps with logs
Fill an unused fireplace with logs for an eye-catching display. Fire wood is making a rustic style statement this season. Stacked and styled with an interior designer’s eye, the storage of this humble heat source is also the ‘hot’ new way to bring a textural element into the winter home.
We’ve got plenty more log storage ideas where that came from, to make a display of firewood.
27. Light up your fire
An exposed brick chimney breast is a popular decorative fireplace style right now. It demands attention, adds texture and lends itself well to not only rustic but modern schemes as it gives a nod to the industrial trend.
It particularly looks the part in this relaxed living room as creates a focal point and balances the eclectic scheme. If your fireplace is not in use, light up the hearth with a quirky novelty LED letter light as an extra highlight.
28. Adorn your fireplace with foraged foliage
Give those Sunday afternoon walks extra purpose by taking the opportunity to forage in the hedgerows for pretty foliage to adorn your fireplace. Slip your secateurs in your pocket and be on the look-out for ivy, rose hips, eucalyptus, yew and box cuttings. As well as looking pretty, they’ll double as kindling.
The time honoured and traditional fireplace was once a necessity to heat a room, but in today’s world they can be seen as more of a comforting indulgence and delight. From artificial gas and electric fires to rustic wood burners and roaring open inglenooks, there is certainly a style and type to suit every style of living room, bedroom, kitchen or even bathroom.
Should I buy a restored fireplace or reproduction fireplace?
A beautiful fireplace might be a must-have now, but it’s a sad fact that in the 1970s and 1980s, homeowners couldn’t rip them out fast enough. That’s left many older homes lacking their original fireplaces. So if you want to reinstate them, is it best to seek out an old fireplace, salvaged from a property of a similar age, or to buy new?
‘Restoration can be a hugely gratifying and challenging process, from sourcing to installation, but the result is a true piece of history amongst the fabric of your home,’ says Owen Pacey of Renaissance London. ‘Alternatively, specifying a reproduction fireplace gives you the freedom to create something entirely new. It can be made to look old while incorporating all the detail and personalisation you could wish for.’
How do I make my fireplace a year-round feature?
Declan says to acknowledge rather than disguise; ‘During the summer, a stove or fire remains a functional design element that boosts the aesthetics of any space, even though it’s not in regular use. Keep logs and fireside tools close by – whatever the season – they add interest and make the stove feel homely all year round.’
Do fireplaces cause pollution?
While we love the cosy element that a wood-burning stove brings to a room, we also acknowledge the Clean Air Strategy 2019, which sets about the reduction of emissions at home. Burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves makes up 38% of the UK’s primary emissions of fine particulate matter2.
The Clean Air Strategy 2019 set out plans to legislate to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels, with only the cleanest stoves available for sale by 2022.
You don’t need to wait until 2022 to make a difference, even small changes can help, such as only using fully seasoned wood; avoiding burning waste wood; sweeping your chimney at least once a year, and only burning when you need to. Find out more at gov.uk.
Additional words by Jennifer Morgan.