Fireplace mantel designs have always been the interior decorator’s challenge, although their purpose has shifted slightly in the last fifty years. Earlier fireplaces were the main source of heat during cold winters. Large homes had a fireplace in each room, which was laborious to maintain, creating a mess alongside their cheerful warmth. The fireplace served as a natural focal point, drawing families to gather, and stood as an important decorative feature. Wealthier homeowners hired tradesmen to build elaborately carved mantels out of wood, stone or marble.
There are many ways to dress up a lonely fireplace, or even install one with a ventless insert and mantel. Besides using an existing fireplace for heat, you should never ignore its potential to breathe architectural character into a room.
Embellishing the Fireplace Mantel Design You Have
Many fireplace mantelpieces are just right the way they are, whether elaborately carved or sporting clean, classic lines. These details will help you take what you have and make yours even better.
Extend the Mantel
A half mantel includes the mantel shelf, framework, and surrounds of the fireplace. A full mantel (also called an overmantel) includes a panel that extends above the mantel shelf, sometimes to the ceiling. The full mantel can be achieved with wood paneling and encased in molding or mimicked by arranging thin strips of molding.
Add Built-in Features to Either Side
Open shelving on the sides of a fireplace mantel can effectively simulate a full mantel. Many moldings are available to enhance these shelves to fit the room.
Wall paneling on either side of the fireplace with chair rail molding adds class to a room and visually supports a fireplace in a large wall.
Redesigning the Fireplace Mantel and Surrounds
Do you have a boring, outdated fireplace or mantel? Here are a few ways to transform it.
It’s possible to buy a vintage salvaged fireplace, mantel and surrounds in nearly any period. This is a great option for those restoring older homes whose current “updated” fireplaces are completely out of step with the period of the home. It’s also an easy way to bring home the spectacular craftsmanship and millwork of yesteryear.
Reproductions or replacements
There are so many reasons to replace or add to what you have. Your mantel shelf may be too shallow, or non-existent. You may have only a lonely insert. You may hate the old style brick surrounds. A simple change of fireplace mantel shelves and surrounds can answer these problems and work wonders for the entire room. The choices are numerous: Hardwood mantelpieces can be simple or carved. The color of wood enriches the palette and offers the flexibility of painting or staining. Wood fireplace mantelpieces must meet fire safety codes, and sometimes need a fire-safe material for the surrounds, like tile, stone, or metal. Stone fireplace mantels can be elegant or rustic, using materials like limestone, travertine, slate, and marble.
Stone can also be used for the surrounds
Faux stone (also called cast stone) offers the realistic look of carved stone at a more reasonable price. Metal fireplace mantels come in vintage reproductions or sleek modern styles, with choices like copper, bronze, steel, pewter, and cast iron. With hand rubbed and verdigris finishes, metal can be a warm, enriching material choice.
With the above ideas, you may be rethinking fireplace mantel designs in your home, not only for your living room but for the dining room, master bedroom, home office, family room – once you see how a fireplace can bring life to a room it’s easy to get carried away… so go ahead, start planning!