The <strong>fireplace</strong> is the focal architectural feature of a room. Fireplace mantels can be the focus of custom interior design. The mantel offers a unique opportunity for the designer to create a personal statement unique to the room, and potentially reflecting 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, and fine woods. The defining element of a great mantel and surround is the design and workmanship. Elements such as capitals, moldings brackets, animals, figurines, vegetation, and fruits are commonly used to decorate the mantel’s creation, and thus defining the style of architecture for the room, including; 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.
The design of fireplaces has changed over time from one of necessity, to one of visual interest, and, used for the relaxing ambiance they create as well as 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 story tied to your family and legacy, a story that expresses your holiday spirit, or a story that expresses your aesthetic appreciation for collectibles and artwork, the mantel becomes the defining element highlighting the magnificence of the room. And one such story relating back over the years, my children had their annual photos taken with Santa Claus. I saved and framed these photos and now have quite a collection of the history of the “Spirit of Christmas”, where 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.
When designing a fireplace, not only is there the consideration of mantel or no mantel, but also the fireplace screen, no screen, open or glassed are choices to consider. An open fireplace is a romantic solution for any room. Of course safety comes first and an open fireplace might not be the first choice for a family with small children. Choosing the right fireplace screen or enclosure depends on the needs of the family and, the style of the room. Fireplace screens come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Screens 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 of the fireplace to better focus and express the style and mood of the room.
The prominence of the fireplace creates an opportunity to reflect tone and style into the room. Seating arrangements around the fireplace is an invitation to gather, share conversation, and enjoy each other’s company, or, simply a place to curl up and read a great novel. Whether the fireplace is on, warming the room on a snowy or rainy day or evening, or, when the fire is not burning, the fireplace draws one into its intrinsic space of comfort.
There’s endless configurations of furniture arrangement around the fireplace. The intention of the room’s use for the family is the starting point in furnishing the space. If the room’s primary purpose is to be used for family time watching television, then seating that provides comfort and versatility is important. Placement of the television is also important. So often, homeowners first instinct is to place a television over the mantel, where it becomes “the elephant” in the room! This doesn’t have to be the case anymore. With new technologies, a television can be transformed into a work of art that enhances the style of your room when not in use. Built in cabinetry is another and more traditional way to discreetly take the focus off the television. There are endless design solutions to incorporate your entertainment center into the “bones” of the room depending on time and budget.