How To Decorate A Fireplace Hearth

A fireplace can make an average room into a thing of pure beauty. We think we can all agree that there's just something special about them; they're an indicator of homeliness and warmth that makes you want to put your feet up. "A fireplace is more than a piece of furniture or an architectural decision," Monique Tollgard, founder of UK-based luxury interior design firm Tollgard, tells Homes & Gardens. It serves as "a main focal point, so discovering the perfect addition to your space can elevate the room from one of function into one full of ambiance and conviviality."

But sometimes these additions, and how you decorate them, can be surprisingly complicated. And while the fireplace mantel can be generally easy to decorate, what do you do with the hearth? Although hearths are designed to hold a roaring fire, that doesn't mean that they should have no style considerations lent to them -– far from it. A well-decorated hearth can make your fireplace truly special, and we're here to show you how you can do it.

Use candles for a fiery effect

So let's say that you're a fan of a fire, but you want to keep things minimal. Or, you have a fireplace hearth that's no longer functional, and still want a hint of heat. If this is the case, decorating your fireplace with candles could be the way forward. From pillar candles to tealights, candles provide a warm light source for your room in a space designed to withstand heat and wear from open flames. It's the perfect place to get your flicker on.

And depending on the size of your hearth, you can experiment with the number of candles and the aesthetic that it creates. Go for a single candle for a minimal feel, or "go crazy with the amount of candles you use — really fill the space," for a sense of abundance and luxury, interior designer Casey DeBois suggests to MyDomaine. And if you really want to go for the gothic effect (and honestly, why wouldn't you), "light and let them burn a bit to melt the wax," says DeBois. "The way the melted wax drips down the candle creates this really cool textural element."

Missing a bookcase? Your hearth has got you covered

It's our firm belief that every house should have a bookcase. But if a non-functional fireplace is scuppering your dreams of creating a cozy reading nook by a fire, using your fireplace hearth as a bookcase is pretty much the next best thing. And it looks like the design genius from "Queer Eye," Bobby Berk himself, is also a fan of this stylistic choice for your hearth. 

When using it as a space to store your tomes, Berk advises on his website to get geometric with your book stacking, with stacks of books placed both vertically and horizontally to give your hearth visual appeal. Just make sure that, when you're stacking your books, your spines are all facing in to provide the space with a consistent look. This works particularly well if your fireplace is slightly darker, as the lightness of the pages will help brighten up your room.

Use tiles for a perfect style

Whether or not your fireplace is working, it's hard to go wrong with tiles for your hearth. Tiles work for pretty much any vibe in your house. From farmhouse rustic to minimalist, and from ornate to classic looks, there's a tile for each aesthetic. And when used right, it can give your fireplace a new lease on life. Using tiles to create patterns is a great way to brighten up a hearth, says The Spruce. Using trendy designs like herringbone helps to refresh an old-fashioned fireplace instantly.

Conversely, you can use tiles to add drama. Charcoal or black tiles in a hearth create an almost void-like space that contrasts stunningly with the glow of a fire. Patterned tiles can also create a pop of life and color in a hearth, whether white fireplacpairing them with an open fire, a stove, or ornamental decorations for a non-functioning space.

Plants are a great solution

Plants can sometimes be tricky next to a working fire since it can singe the leaves or stunt the plant's growth. But if your fire isn't in use, your green friends will be very happy tucked into, or next to, your hearth. Using plants in a hearth gives your living spaces a much-needed sense of life and abundance, and picking out individual plants that fit in with your home's style can help your fireplace become a focal point. For more minimal designs, ferns in a fireplace help add a simple touch of green, whereas vibrant houseplants like muehlenbeckias give excitement and dynamic texture, says FireplaceMall. Usefully, both of these plants work well with indirect light, meaning that if your fireplace is in a darker part of the room, they'll still grow.

However, if your room is particularly dark, you may want to consider LED grow lights in proximity to your plants. If your fireplace is particularly deep, light may be limited for flora. And remember, you don't have to go overboard. "Easing yourself into plant parenthood is always a good idea," advises "House Planted" author Lisa Muñoz to Glamour. "Plus, you only really need a splash of greenery to elevate a space — you don't want to overwhelm your existing decor. Buy a few plants and let the design unfold from there!"

Create a farmhouse effect with a log store

Don't have an operational fire, but still want that rustic feeling in your home? Well, using your fireplace hearth as a log store is a terrific way to hint towards the fire's traditional function while also making a strong stylistic statement. The farmhouse-y look that using a hearth as a log store provides makes a particularly cozy addition in the colder months, and by adding a touch of paint, you can make them stand out even more, says Houzz. Just give the ends of the logs a quick lick of color, especially if you're stacking them horizontally with the stumps poking out.

It's important, however, to think about practical considerations with keeping logs inside. Firewood can be a pest's best friend, harboring everything from ants to wood roaches. It can also be a magnet for mold and mildew, according to CottageLife. Make sure your wood is seasoned before it comes into your home to keep unwelcome intruders at bay. You can do this by leaving it to dry for a minimum of six months before bringing it inside. You'll also want to try and increase airflow around your logs as much as possible, which will be easy if your chimney is still open and active.

Not a fan of wood logs? Try a log alternative

Wooden logs can provide a classic charm to a home, but they're not for everyone. And if your tastes veer more towards the abstract and the unique, using log alternatives in a non-functional fireplace can hint towards a timeless hearth while offering a fresh slant on things. Using selenite logs to decorate your hearth is a way to conjure old-school log vibes while helping your fireplace stand out, interior designer Casey DeBois shares with MyDomaine. DeBois favors a selenite log set from Jayson Home, stating that "they are simple but really luxe-looking and will instantly elevate the overall look of your fireplace."

And, to suggest the feeling of logs in a totally fresh way, using obelisks in your non-functioning hearth makes a serious statement. Both crystal and metal obelisks deliver class to any space, as Decoist shows, and can give your hearth a fresh silhouette without things feeling intrusive. Try using multiple obelisks of differing heights to create visual interest in your fireplace.

Keep it interesting with a fireplace screen

It's hard to imagine watching a roaring fire getting boring, but now and again, you might want to spice things up. Give your hearth a touch of class with a fireplace screen. As a bonus, fireplace screens are incredible additions if your household has younger kids or animals, adding an extra safety barrier between your home and your fire.

And gone are the days of cheap fireplace screens that you'd hurriedly fold away when your guests arrive. Contemporary screens come in all shapes and sizes, from deco-inspired glass and brass pieces to minimalist stainless steel numbers that give your home a sleek edge, as per Maria Conti. And if you're in the habit of repurposing old items for new effects (which we 100% salute), fireplace screens can make a fun DIY project and can be made from everything from old stained-glass windows to wooden log ends, as shown via Homedit.

Use a lick of paint

Sometimes, all you need is a fresh coat. Don't discount the value of giving your fireplace hearth a new lease on life with paint. It can be tempting to veer towards fancier, more expensive alternatives to brighten up your hearth, but paint can often do what tiling would at a fraction of the cost. Paint your hearth in darker tones for an exciting contrast against the fire, or go for brighter blues or purples to add some valuable color to a room. Just make sure that you're using heat-resistant paint, so that your new coat doesn't deteriorate quickly, advises Direct Fireplaces.

Painting a brick hearth can be slightly trickier, but it's still an endeavor worth doing. The most important thing to do is to make sure that your bricks are prepped correctly before painting, to ensure an even coat. After scrubbing the bricks with a brick cleanser, make sure any loose mortar is removed and replaced, says SFGate. Prime your bricks, and use a paint that's specially designed for masonry and bricks so that it adheres properly. Finally, make sure that you give more than enough time for your paint to dry before turning on the fire — at least four hours, but ideally longer.

Install a stove

If you want to take your fireplace hearth to the next level, a stove is one of the best ways to do it. Installing a stove in your hearth is the best of both worlds, creating a visually exciting new feature for your fireplace without compromising any of its fiery, heat-giving goodness. And although we tend to associate stoves with a farmhouse style, nowadays there's a stove for pretty much any taste. For a seriously lustrous effect, try an inbuilt wood-burning stove, which minimizes the size of your hearth and elevates the wow factor, as seen via Ideal Home.

Installing a stove is a job that can take a little time and effort, and may best be left to a professional. After all, you're dealing with some hazardous elements like fire and gas here. If you're determined to give it a go yourself, though, ensuring proper ventilation in any room with a stove is of paramount importance, says Direct Stoves. Bear in mind that stove installation will likely come with certain regulations around it concerning the size and construction of your hearth, so make sure you're well-versed on what's allowed first.

Make it a haven for storage

A non-working fireplace can sometimes feel like wasted space, so it's time to turn it into a storage area if you feel like you can utilize it better. And we're not talking about shoving things into the hearth haphazardly. Fireplace storage can be useful, attractive, and used for various purposes. Are you missing a wine rack in your home? Elle Decor suggests using your hearth as a space for wine storage, utilizing a floating rack to showcase your most impressive bottles proudly.

Another fashionable solution is to group items that work well together aesthetically to create storage that also functions as a style moment. Objects with a vintage feel that might feel out of place elsewhere in a home may look great together in a hearth. Elle Decor recommends mixing old paperbacks, favorite prints, old souvenirs, and fun knick-knacks for a homey look. Before going whole-hog with using a hearth as a storage area, though, make sure you check its conditions. Unused fireplaces have a tendency to be poorly ventilated and can be a magnet for mold and mildew, Mold Advisor says.

Using flowers brings color to your space

A rolling fire isn't the only way to brighten up your hearth. Decorating the space with flowers can be an incredible way to make your fireplace sing, with the bonus of providing a continually-changing aesthetic with the seasons. "During the holidays, magnolia leaves heaped into mounds inside the fireplace are chic and distinctly Southern," designer Maggie Griffin tells MyDomaine. In-bloom dahlias or lilies can bring that summer touch and rich color to your home during the warmer months (via Country Living).

And adding flowers to a fireplace hearth doesn't just give you bouquets to look at, but the containers you keep them in too. Mixing up several different flower types in alternating vases can result in a cheerful ramshackle effect with various textures. "Make sure there is a mix of materials — metal, wood, ceramic — to add dimension," Frontgate's vice president of design, Keshi Akino, suggests to MyDomaine. She also recommends using vases of different heights and shapes.

String lights give you a light source

We present to you our defense of string lights. Portable, endlessly versatile, providing a warm glow, and adding a festive feel no matter what time of year it is, the string light is at home pretty much anywhere in your property. But especially in a non-working fireplace hearth. Arranging string lights in a hearth is a genius way of creating the effect of a fire without actually having one, as seen via House of Six Interiors' Instagram, where the string lights were arranged like licks of flames. Honestly, we can't get enough of this.

String lights needn't exist on their own in a hearth, either. Wrapping string lights around wooden logs in a fireplace, or using them to backlight log stacks, warms up an already-cozy vista (via DigsDigs). When choosing your string lights, though, make sure that they're a warm tone. The last thing you want is harsh white lights making your hearth seem too ghostly or washed-out.

Whitewash non-functioning hearths for block color

Your hearth is a brilliant opportunity to use natural depth in your space, but we're also fans of turning this on its head. Whitewashing a hearth and a mantel can help lift the feel of a room, making it feel brighter and more welcoming, as per House Beautiful. Crucially, whitewashing a hearth allows you to maintain that feeling of length that a hearth brings. It just treats it differently, giving a more playful sense of light and shadow.

And luckily, whitewashing a brick fireplace is pretty darn easy and cheap, says Lowe's. For unpainted brick fireplaces, it all begins with inspecting the mortar and making sure any repairs to damaged mortar are done first. Clean off your bricks using a specialized cleanser and a sturdy brush, and then create a solution of white paint and water in a 1:3 ratio. You can increase the volume of paint if you want less of your brick to come through. Then, start to paint it onto your brick, followed by dabbing it with a rag to add texture. Be advised that you'll need to use heat-resistant paint if your fireplace is used.