Small living room fireplace ideas - 11 ways to add a wow focal point

Make space for a stylish centrepiece fireplace in even the smallest of living rooms

All the best living room schemes have a focal point, something that draws you in and the place where your eyes land when you enter a room. While having a fireplace centre stage can create a fabulous focal point, when it comes to small living room fireplace ideas, it can sometimes be a challenge making it work.

Petite lounges can easily look crowded if there is too much going on and too many large items of furniture or bulky pieces dominating the space. So when it comes to fireplace solutions for small living room ideas, striking the right balance is key. While a central position may be the best spot for a fireplace - and often the only place available in a small living room - clever use of colour, materials and alternative fire surround ideas can all help a fireplace to blend in better when lack of space is against you.

Small living room fireplace ideas

Placement of furniture is another big consideration when it comes to small living room fireplace ideas. While a fireplace or focal point feature usually dictates where furniture goes, the seating arrangement doesn’t necessarily have to face the fireplace or the furniture be pushed back against the walls.

Designer and TV presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s advice is that furniture should ‘never’ be pushed against the wall. ‘It limits the sense of space and horizon, making the room look smaller,’ says Laurence. ‘If you possibly can - even if it's just a few inches - then make sure that furniture is away from the wall.’

1. Make your fireplace ‘pop’ with colour

grey living room with yellow painted fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Draw attention to shapely small living room fireplace ideas surrounds by painting in a bold standout colour. Adding a shot of sunny yellow will give a cool, neutral scheme some warmth. It also makes sure the fireplace is the focal point of the room, rather than small living room TV ideas.

Using a pale colour on walls, teamed with light-coloured furnishings and soft tones helps create a sense of space in a compact living room, where the background colours don’t fight for attention. Balance a yellow fireplace with just a few extra accents of yellow here and there.

2. Go ‘dark’ to add a sense of space

grey painted living room with fireplace green curtains and teal sofa and rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

It’s a myth that dark colours always make a space feel smaller. Used cleverly, darker colours can create the perception of depth so that walls appear to recede and make a small room actually feel much bigger. Especially if you perfect your small living lighting ideas.

Paint an overly-large fire surround to match your wall colour so that it doesn’t stand out and dominate the room too much. Painting fittings and trims the same colour as walls in dark, tonal shades will have the effect of softening the edges and blurring the boundaries. With no harsh line breaks to interrupt the sightline, the space will feel instantly bigger.

3. Swap the fireplace for a neat wood burner

panelled living room with dark blue wall and log burner

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

A chimney breast wall can eat into a room’s footprint and take up valuable space, as well as being restrictive in terms of layout. Consider when planning where furniture such as sofa ideas for small living rooms will be placed. You could replace a traditional fireplace for a neat, wood-burning stove that can be positioned in a more suitable spot. Stoves can be placed pretty much anywhere in a room as long as there’s a flue and all safety requirements are met.

Make your stove and flue a focal point by painting the wall behind in a bold, contrast colour. Consider a raised hearth area instead of a traditional fireplace, which can be styled-up with decorative bits and bobs and come in handy for log storage too. It will need to be topped with a heat-proof tile or slab, but can be painted to match the wall for a sleek look.

4. Go rustic with a timber mantel

small living room with leafy grey wallpaper stove and log mantel

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

Replace a bulky fire surround with a rustic-style timber mantel. Using reclaimed wood or an old timber beam will add bags of character to a living room and create a fabulous small living room fireplace ideas that will take up less space than a traditional option.

With space on top that can be styled with favourite ornaments or seasonal foliage, a timber mantel like this one is secured in place with hidden fittings, much like a floating shelf. While a reclaimed timber mantel sits perfectly in a country-style scheme, sleek polished wood mantels are also an option that would suit modern small living room ideas.

5. Stretch the space with a visual trick

white living room with yellow painted panelling and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Make a small living room fireplace ideas surround blend in with the backdrop by painting it the same colour as the wall. Wood wall panelling ideas covering an entire wall will give a living room a relaxed, country-style vibe. And adding a shelf that spans the width of the wall will add extra storage and display space that can be jollied up with pictures, ceramics and pretty floral displays.

Make a small space feel bigger by painting the wall in a half-and-half colour treatment. Having a darker paint colour on the bottom section of wall helps to ground the room and provides a contrast backdrop for furniture and colourful soft furnishings. A lighter colour on the top section of wall and ceiling helps to create a sense of height and make a small room feel more lofty.

6. Opt for floor-to-ceiling tiles

living room with green moroccan tiled chimney breast fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

While paint or wallpaper is often the covering of choice for a chimney breast wall, tiling the area instead offers the chance to create a stunning focal point living room feature wall idea. Floor-to-ceiling tiles will also draw the eye upwards and is a clever way of creating a sense of height in a small or poky living room.

Choose a standout colour to add the wow-factor to your tiling and opt for Moroccan-style Zellige tiles to create a rustic, rough-and-ready look around your small living room fireplace ideas. Their irregular shape and glaze imperfections gives more of a handcrafted flavour, rather than the uniform look created using standard ceramic tiles.

7. Add country charm with panelling

small living room with grey painted panelling and wallpaper with log burner

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Dispensing with a fireplace and slotting in a neat wood burner idea is a great way of freeing up some extra space in a small living room. But instead of leaving the surrounding wall space empty, try a rustic-look cover-up that will bring bags of country charm.

Cladding the chimney breast wall with timber panelling is a lovely way of giving a small space a decorative focal point and is a clever way of covering up less-than-perfect plaster or brickwork. 

Painting the panelling a dusky shade will help to frame a freestanding stove and adding a simple shelf will create an area for display. Consider contrast patterned wallpaper in adjoining alcoves to really pretty up the space.

8. Make the space shine

neutral living room with stone fireplace pink sofa and black mantel mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Increase the feeling of space in a small living room by hanging a large living room mirror idea above the fireplace. Mirrors help to bounce light around a room and teamed with pale wall colours and muted soft furnishings, can help to boost natural light levels and make a small room feel lighter, brighter and more spacious.

Avoid positioning a mirror too high above small living room fireplace ideas, so that it doesn’t end up reflecting the ceiling, a bare wall or doorway and losing its aesthetic appeal. Try hanging it just a few inches or so above the mantel, high enough so that you can see yourself in it properly, but low enough so that it will reflect back any decorative pieces displayed along the mantel.

9. Use the mantel for display

neutral living room with stone fireplace and cream armchair with pouffe

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Whether you have a fabulous fireplace that you want to celebrate, or one that’s less-than-lovely that you’d prefer to disguise, a mantel is a prime spot for a styled-up display area which can become a focal point in its own right.

Create a more considered display by taking the colour theme, room decor and style of your small living room fireplace ideas into account when choosing your display pieces. Then go for a mix of items in different shapes, sizes and colours to create variation. Look at living room shelving ideas for display inspiration.

Start with taller items at the back, working your way along the mantel and layering pieces, with smaller items at the front. Try propping pictures against the wall or placing short items on a stack of books to add height. Create mini vignettes here and there, placing similar items together in groups of three or five (odd numbers work better than even) and remembering to leave a little free space to give your display room to breathe.

10. Go for space-saving ‘built-ins’

white living room with alcove shelves and blue painted wall with green sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

Making use of alcove ideas either side of a fireplace can be a handy space-saver in a small living room. But while useful for media storage and bookshelves, fireside alcoves do tend to be non-standard widths and heights, so it can be tricky finding off-the-peg furniture to fit.

Having storage built to slot in is a way around the problem, with a carpenter able to build bespoke cabinets and open shelving to fit the space exactly. For a less-pricey option, try designing your own made-to-measure furniture via companies like Jali, who will create customised mdf furniture that is then assembled and DIY fitted at home.

11. Blend in an unused fireplace

white living room with painted fireplace stacked with coloured logs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

If you have a non-working fireplace idea or an empty hearth that looks bare and dark out of season, there are plenty of ways that you can jolly-up the space and make it feel more homely year round.

Try faking it, by filling an empty hearth with a stack of logs to add a rustic country vibe. Add a splash of colour by painting the cut ends of logs here and there - use tester pots of paint to use up any leftovers.

Alternatively, fill an empty hearth with a display of flowers or greenery. Use a selection of vases or planters in different shapes and heights, positioning taller foliage at the back to fill the space. Using a selection of pillar candles in assorted heights is another lovely way of filling an empty hearth and they can be lit at night time to create a cosy glow.

Where do you put a TV in a small living room with a fireplace?

‘One of the big problems is that most people tend to have two very different focal points in a living room – the fireplace and the TV,’ says Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. ‘And somehow we want to accommodate both within the same axis.’

Opinions are divided when it comes to whether a TV should take centre stage or you should hide a TV. One option that is popular with wide-screens is to position the TV centrally above a fireplace, for optimum viewing pleasure. Choosing a TV size that is in scale with the small living room fireplace ideas underneath is a way of creating a more balanced look. And although many are against having a TV in such a central spot, positioning it above the fireplace means that there aren’t two competing focal points.

Alternatively, if space is tight, positioning the TV in a corner spot is another option that works well and isn’t as ‘in your face’ as mounting it centrally above a fireplace. Consider placing the TV on a media unit slotted into a fireside alcove, or alternatively mounting it on the wall via a bracket.

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.