Fireplace Function: Where Beauty Meets Utility

Written by Rhoda Vickers
Updated April 12, 2016
Black fireplace mantel with white surround
This black fireplace mantel with a white surround serves as a great way to display a favorite piece of art. (Source: Shutterstock)

An expert blogger offers creative tips for creating a functional fireplace and source of beauty.

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A fireplace embodies the ultimate example of form meets function. It serves as a feature focal point, a source of warmth and a creator of ambiance. We want to show them off and enjoy them, but also ensure they’re useful and practical.

I personally use gas logs in my fireplace and enjoy the ambience of an instant fire when those winter months bring gloomy days and a chill in the air. How do you make your fireplace equal parts utility and beauty? If you need some ideas, I can help.

Fireplace as a focal point

Shape and Color

Paint your mantel an unexpected color. And opt for contrast — a navy mantel against white brick — for example.

Consider the iconic Malm fireplace, an ultra-modern style that’s been replicated for decades. It makes a statement in a room mostly because of its odd shape and bright color. Even if this mid-century masterpiece isn’t your style (or within your budget), use it as a lesson in the importance of shape and color when choosing your fireplace.

white fireplace with blue-painted interior and candles sitting inside
Paint the interior of an used fireplace to match the decor in your room and then add candles to create a warm ambience. (Source: Shutterstock)

Candles

A wood-burning fireplace in the winter might just look like a big black hole come summertime. Spruce up the space with a candelabra and decorative candles.

Metal candleholders of varying heights add glow and glimmer to an otherwise drab space. If you want to make this look kid-friendly, spring for battery-operated flames instead.

Bold Art

Hang a mirror. Frame artwork. Decorate with a seasonal wreath. Whatever you decide, go bold or go home.

If you’re more excited about your mantel than your fireplace (or if your fireplace doesn’t work), don’t shy away from using the fire box for a different purpose altogether. Fill your fireplace with books, a large piece of coral, or a framed, easel-propped print from your favorite artist. Don’t get stuck in the mold.

Large piece of artwork above glass fireplace in living room
Make your fireplace the focal point of the room with a bold art display. (Source: Shutterstock)

Fireplace as source of warmth

Decorative Screen

Fulfilling three jobs, a fireplace screen protects small children and pets from the roaring flames, it dampens the heat from scorching any nearby furniture, and also acts as a decorative accent. The fire peeks through the screen adding a mood element to the room. Go as simple or as ornate as you like.

Fireplace Tools

Fireplace tools get a bad rap for the role they played in our grandparents’ living rooms. Their design has changed but their function has remained the same. Now available in every style, from modern to traditional, finding the right set of fireplace tools for your living room doesn’t need to be all function and no form.

Matches

A long-neck lighter from the supermarket is certainly practical but does little for your living room design. Opt for a tall jar filled with extra long matches. Display them on your mantel or beside your fireplace tools for a clean design, which also adds height to your display.

Fireplace as a creator of ambiance

Lamps or Sconces

A fire naturally adds light to a room, but amplify that ambient light! Since the fire lights up the lower half the room, consider adding lamps to brighten up the upper portion. Flank your mantel with sconces to keep cords off the floor and light up toward the ceiling.

Firewood Box

A wood-burning fireplace entails keeping ample firewood on hand. Give the wood’s natural textures and grains the center stage by displaying the logs in a decorative basket alongside the fireplace. Or stack the logs on-end in a vintage box or milk crate.

ultra-modern concrete fireplace with large overhead lamp
This ultra-modern concrete fireplace with large overhead lamp offers great form and function. (Source: Shutterstock)

Practical Accessories

Make your fireplace warm and welcoming; after all, it’s where your family and guests congregate. Comfy up the place with throw blankets in colors that accent your existing furniture. Also consider a few large floor pillows for those late Friday nights reading by the crackling fire.

Getting ready to entertain? Place jars with s’more-making ingredients — chocolate bars, marshmallows and graham crackers — and small metal skewers on the mantel. Kids and adults alike will love the creativity and the gooey desserts.

The versatility of your fireplace goes beyond form and beauty. Its responsibilities reach further than function and utility, too. As the heart of your home, consider all of the ways your fireplace contributes to the body of your house.

Read more home decorating tips from Rhoda Vickers.

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