Designing a Room Around Your Fireplace

Written by Joanie McGrath of FallingWater
Updated June 15, 2021
fireplace in living room opening up to a desert scene
Use the fireplace as the focal point of a room and design your personality around it. (Photo courtesy of Falling Water)

Your fireplace provides the starting point to design the surrounding room and reflect your personal style.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Your fireplace stands as the focal architectural feature of a room. So, your fireplace mantel can channel a custom interior design. With a fireplace mantel, an interior designer can create a personal statement unique to that room, and also reflect the style and personality of the homeowner.

The choice of material for the fireplace mantel and surround includes such rich materials as:

• marble• limestone• granite• reclaimed wood• dry stacked stone• brick• steel• copper• concrete• river rock• glass mosaics• fine woods

Design and workmanship encompass the defining elements of a great mantel and surround. You'll find elements such as capitals, moldings, brackets, animals, figurines, vegetation and fruits commonly decorating the mantel’s creation. They can thus define the style of architecture for the room whether it's traditional, transitional, rustic or contemporary. The decorative framework around the fireplace can include elaborate designs, utilizing the same materials as the mantel and even extending to the ceiling.

Tell a story with your mantel

The design of fireplaces has changed over time from one of necessity to one of visual interest. It's used for the relaxing ambiance they create as well as function of heating the room.

The creation of the mantel into the overall design of the fireplace serves as the platform to tell a story. Whether it’s a tale tied to your family and legacy, one that expresses your holiday spirit or a narrative that expresses your aesthetic appreciation for collectibles and artwork, the mantel becomes the defining element highlighting the magnificence of the room.

For example, my children had their annual photos taken with Santa Claus. I saved and framed these photos and now have quite a collection of our family's history of the Spirit of Christmas. These photographs hold a place of honor on the mantel, surrounded with the holiday greenery and sparkle during the holiday season. Other times, I’ve decorated the mantel with my collection of snow globes.

It’s fun to change out the mantel throughout the year and reflect nuances of the seasons.

Fireplace options

When designing you fireplace, you can consider it with our without a mantel, but also whether you want a fireplace screen, glass screen, no screen or open. An open fireplace provides a romantic solution for any room.

Of course, safety comes first and an open fireplace might not be your first choice if you have a family with small children. Choosing the right fireplace screen or enclosure depends on the needs of you family as well as the style of the room.

Fireplace screens come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. They can be elegant and detailed artistic creations, adding one more layer of design to your fireplace. Or they can be as simple as the traditional black or glass screens that blend into the firebox, leaving the surrounding materials and elements of the overall design to better focus and express the style and mood of the room.

Creating comfort

The prominence of the fireplace creates an opportunity to reflect the tone and style into the room. By placing your seating arrangements around the fireplace, you're inviting people to gather, share conversation and enjoy each other’s company, or simply providing a place to curl up and read a great novel.

Whether or not a fire is warming the room on a snowy or rainy day or evening, the fireplace draws you into its intrinsic space of comfort.

Configuring the room for family

You can arrange furniture around the fireplace in endless configurations. The intention of the room’s use for the family provides the starting point in furnishing the space. If your family primarily wants to watch television, you'll want seating that provides comfort and versatility.

Where you place the television is also important. So often, homeowners' first instinct is to place a television over the mantel, but this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. With new technologies, you can transform your TV into a work of art that enhances the style of your room when it's not in use. Built-in cabinetry furnishes another and more traditional way to discreetly take the focus off the television.

You have endless design solutions to incorporate your entertainment center into the bones of the room depending on your time and budget.  

About this Experts Contributor: Joanie McGrath is a LEED® accredited professional with FallingWater and a third-generation Colorado native. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Denver with a business administration degree in marketing and a master’s degree from the Kellogg Executive MBA program at Northwestern University. Today, she divides her time between Denver and Charlotte, North Carolina. 

As of March 22, 2016, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.