Fabulous Fireplaces

Is your fireplace just a big hole in the wall with ugly brick and no mantel? Does it look too traditional or too contemporary? Or is just not fitting in with your style and mood?

Consider these fixes for a guaranteed difference:

• Reface your old brick fireplace with tile, granite, stone, marble or wood for a rich updated look.
• Paint the brick to match the walls. Make sure you have an eye-catching mantle or surround as the paint will diminish and de-emphasize your fireplace.
• Stucco or texture over existing bricks or stone for a smoother more contemporary style. You’ll need a fireproof trim around the opening to meet most fire codes: a row of brick, stone, marble, or fire-rated material.
• If you like your fireplace face material but it has a boring flat look, consider either a wonderful mantle or a full surround to add dimension and define the opening.

The Mantle: A mantle not only holds the Christmas stockings but also becomes a wonderful display shelf that adds height and drama to your room. Place a few tall objects on it to draw the eye up. Assess whether your mantle is as good as it can be and think trims and moldings that are available today to transform your plain beam into a wonderful accent.

The Surround: A full surround “outlines” the opening for a rich finished detail. A surround usually attracts attention and reinforces a particular style. As an example, peeled logs or timbers add to a lodge or cabin feel, while gothic columns echo the Greek Revival style or other more Traditional periods.

The Face material: (extending right and left of the opening and above the opening – even to the ceiling) Pick your finish material to enhance your room. Brick is warm and homey, marble and granite are rich and stately, and wood can be warm and rich or cool and contemporary depending on the fireplace design. If you prefer a clean simple feel, then consider a very smooth stone, like limestone or granite, or a smooth wall finish with art niches and openings interspersed into the stonework or wall. Small shelves protruding also are a nice addition to display your contemporary art objects on.

The opening itself can loom dark and dirty with old screens that detract. Check out a fireplace store for a variety of custom-fit glass screens and decorative freestanding screens that fold or stand. Screens add design relief to an uninteresting fireplace opening. Accessories like andirons and tools are varied and are also interesting additions.

Start collecting ideas from magazines and talk to a mason or fireplace store to further outline your options. If you are adding a new fireplace, consult your city inspector regarding the type you might add. City codes play a part in your decision as they dictate suitable materials, dimensions of fireproofing needed, size of hearth and whether you can burn real fires or not. Zero-clearance, gas-log fireplaces are attractive, real looking and easy to install as they don’t require the footings and fireboxes.

Begin to create this wonderful focal point to be enjoyed for years to come!