As the depths of winter close in around us, thoughts naturally turn to hearth and home. For many of us the fireplace – whether it crackles with burning logs or serves as a place to display objects, ornaments and flowers – is central to our main living space and provides a focal point for a cosy front room. As the warm heart of a house it has not only great visual prominence but also an emotional importance too. Whether you are looking for quick ideas to refresh your fireplace for Christmas, or want to enhance this feature with longer-lasting decorating inspiration, we’ve gathered together ten great fireplace decorating ideas for you to mull over with some mulled wine in hand.
Insulate with books
Books don’t just dress a house – they make a space feel cosy and insulated too. Book shelves in your fireplace alcoves are a standard feature, but by taking them up to the very top of the ceiling they can also create their own sense of drama and take some of the chill out of a high-ceilinged room.
Stand out in the dark
A stone or pale-painted fireplace will look wonderful in contrast to a really dark background – and all the more so as that glow from the fire itself will enhance the depth of colour while preventing the space from feeling like a black hole. Be bold with a deep blue, black or green painted across the whole of the surrounding wall.
With a central chimney breast its natural to want to create a symmetrical display above. However breaking the rules in this one spot can have a huge impact and add a quirky, contemporary touch. Round mirrors like this are a chimney breast staple, but setting three in an asymmetric pattern gives this room a refreshing edge.
Add weight with panelling
Adding panelling to a space lets you play with colour and proportion, and adds a grand, historic feel to a space. Here the panelling cleverly incorporates storage space at either side of the fireplace, pulling the whole wall together while adding acres of clever storage. If you’re not lucky enough to have original panelling you can construct the effect quite easily with wood moulding painted in the same colour as the walls behind.
Make a feature of the chimney breast
This dramatic scheme is by designer Olga Stupenko and involves a glossy installation across the whole chimney breast creating a warm and visually arresting focal point for the room. You can achieve a similar effect by wallpapering the chimney breast itself, but not the surrounding alcoves. Using wood beading to frame the pattern on the chimney breast also turns the pattern from mere wallpaper into something closer to a work of art.
Surround it with paintings
A painting tastefully hung above the fire, with another one in each alcove is a simple decorating staple. However for a warmer, more bohemian look why not use this space as a gallery wall, hanging images from skirting board to cornice in a look that screams ‘classic country house chaos’. The key to making this decorating idea a success is to really pack your pictures in, creating a tight jigsaw with only inches around each image. Pick matching frames for a sophisticated take, or a mix-and-match free-for-all for a more laid-back style.
Light the alcoves
In a dark room you can create a wonderfully intimate, cosy feel by focusing lighting in the corners of the space. This wonderful scheme at Broadstairs’ Belvidere Place, designed by owner Jilly Sharpe, uses standing lamps in the chimney alcoves to gently pool warm light in the room’s forgotten spaces, creating a room that is softly inviting.
Paint your mantlepiece
We are used to seeing mantelpieces and fire surrounds in wood, stone or cast iron – meaning a narrow range of whites, browns and blacks. Painting your mantlepiece a more unusual colour – in this example Farrow & Ball’s Arsenic Estate Eggshell – especially if set against another striking colour or wallpaper pattern, will give your scheme a fresh tone and make the fireplace zing in the centre of the design.
Add classic lighting touches
As discussed above, symmetry in decorating a fireplace can add weight and gravitas to a scheme, giving it a more grown-up, classic feel. Lighting is a wonderful way to add symmetrical elements around a fireplace. Think of wall-mounted sconces on either side of the mantle, or if you have a deep mantlepiece, two lamps at either end. A central mirror will tie the elements together too – great big chandelier reflected in it, optional.
Paint on a modern mood
The rules on painting walls have been ripped up in the last few years. No longer do you have to stick to just one colour per wall. Instead give your chimney breast a modern twist by using paint to make it a work of art in itself. Simple geometric shapes, unusual crops of colour at chest height, a huge circle cutting across the surface… a few colour pots, a pencil and some masking tape are all this look needs. And a slight sense of decorating adventure too.