How To Decorate A Fireplace Like A Professional

Few things conjure a feeling of warmth and comfort like a fireplace. A roaring fire with a cozy armchair pulled up next to it, a good book in hand, your favorite four-legged friend snoozing gently beside it ... maybe a hot drink or glass of wine within reach ... excuse us while we go and lie down for a second. A fireplace doesn't just add a sense of serenity to your house. According to the National Association of Realtors in The Washington Times, a fireplace can significantly boost property value.

Despite their clear appeal, fireplaces can be surprisingly tricky to decorate. All too often, fireplaces are left neglected on the side of the room. Well, no more of that, we say. With a few simple touches, your hearth can be the envy of everybody. Just be sure to keep safety in mind and fireproof your decorations. Let's check out how to decorate a fireplace!

Go with Scandi chic

When it comes to injecting a little hygge into our lives, Scandinavian-inspired designs and fireplaces are a match made in heaven. Scandi chic offers the ultimate blend of comfort and cutting-edge style, and your fireplace will drink up any Scandinavian aesthetics you throw at it. According to MyDomaine, Scandi chic embraces minimal interiors. It's best to lean toward neutral tones as a base tone for your fireplace accentuated by pops of natural color. Try whitewashing your fireplace mantel and hearth, ideally matching your white walls, and then placing ornaments with wooden or grey shades or greenery on your mantel (via Hunker).

When decorating your fireplace with a Scandi vibe, don't go overboard. As Modern Castle's creative director Kayla Hein said to Apartment Therapy, "Marked by its simplicity, lack of visual clutter, and purposeful placement of featured items, the Scandinavian design relies on a few perfect pieces to tie a complete design together." Let your objects and your design speak for themselves, and opt for a few well-made ornaments to accentuate your fireplace's natural features.

Add a sense of depth by layering objects

Space tends to fill up quickly when you're decorating a fireplace. If your mantel is narrow, avoid simply lining up objects in a row. Instead, apply layering principles when decorating your fireplace. Layering creates depth and visual interest, even if you don't have a lot of space. 

According to Wall Sauce, decorating with a few framed pictures, vases, and ornaments along your mantel provides a feeling of abundance without things becoming too crowded. Be sure to strike a balance when designing your layers. Make sure you're not over-layering your items, but don't be too timid, as only layering with one or two things can look sparse. Varying your frame size and width for photos or artwork can keep things engaging and prevents repetition. Also, try not to get too symmetrical. Crucially, make sure that anything you layer doesn't drape over into your fireplace and avoid flammable materials like fabric or paper.

Use a letter board for a personal touch

A letter board is one of the best ways to personalize your home. Letter boards are well-suited for fireplace mantels since they add focus to an already eye-catching element. The best part is, you can write anything on a letter board. Whether it's the date of your anniversary, a favorite movie quote, or a shopping list, you can make your fireplace pop with words.

Since it's easy for letter boards to look drab, pay attention to your styling. According to Desperately Seeking Gina, you can arrange words in odd numbers or write an odd number of lines. If you want to make things more interesting, mix up the style of your letter board itself. Letter boards in hexagonal or round shapes or with chic wooden frames can help your mantel stand out from the pack. Alternatively, white or gold lettering will help your words land with an extra punch (per House Beautiful).

Go big or go home

Far too many people tuck their fireplaces away behind furniture or objects. But why? A fireplace is a thing of architectural beauty and deserves to take center stage. That's why we adore the idea of making your fireplace the focal point of a room and showing it off in all its glory with maximalist decorations. According to Better Homes and Gardens, using large art pieces on your mantel and smaller interesting objects around your fireplace creates visual interest. Unifying your decor choices around one specific color choice can help give order to the chaos.

If you're going maximalist with your fireplace, consider how the rest of your home will look. The last thing you want is one area to look crowded and the rest to be bare. You can achieve this by making unpredictable design choices elsewhere. As interior designer Amy Wilson said, "layering is so much more than adorning a mantelpiece full of treasures, it's about layering elements you may not traditionally think of. For instance, why not layer up rugs?" (via House Beautiful). Just bear in mind that while it's tempting to throw anything around your maximalist fireplace, this can create safety concerns. Make sure everything is clear from the flames.

Change it up with the seasons

We're as guilty of it as the next person. We decorate our homes during the holidays and leave the lights and knickknacks up forever. However, rooms demand constant change depending on our tastes and the time of year. Your fireplace is the natural space in a room to keep things moving.

When Christmas and the winter holidays come around, fireplaces come into their own. If you have any leftover decorations from your tree, pair them with your fireplace. "Fasten evergreen foliage to the mantel from which you can hang decorations and baubles," suggests Habitat's celebrations buying manager Abi Wilson to Ideal Home. "Stagger the hanging heights and mix matte and shiny finishes to craft a considered yet eclectic festive look." Using festive candles of varying heights on your mantel by alternating pillar candlesticks with tea lights is also a great way to add light. Keep your decorations a safe distance from open flames since Christmas decorations can be flammable. Whatever you do, don't forget to hang your stockings by the chimney with care, or your little ones may never forgive you!

Create a focal point with an oversized clock

With phones and watches allowing us to check the time at a moment's notice, clocks sometimes take a back seat. However, adding a clock to your home is a decorating move worth celebrating, and there's no better place to do so than near your fireplace. An oversized clock will make a bold statement above your fireplace. The curved round design pairs gorgeously with the straight lines of your mantel and hearth. 

According to Kylie M. Interiors, the best way to style oversized clocks is to think about color. Fireplaces and large clocks will naturally draw the eye, so strike the right balance of matching and contrast with your color palette. For fireplaces that balance darker, moody blacks with lighter creams or whites, an oversized clock with the same tone will create a cohesive feeling and make the room feel alive. There are plenty of clocks available online and in local stores. Whether your style is minimalist or rustic, you're sure to find one that will suit your home's unique aesthetic.

Liven up a non-functional fireplace with pillows

Styling non-functional fireplaces can be a headache. After all, how do you keep a fireplace interesting when it doesn't work? The good news is that there are many solutions out there. One of the best ways to create a more intimate and comfortable vibe in a nonfunctional fireplace is by decorating with soft accessories.

According to MasterClass, adding pillows around a fireplace can create a brand-new space for you and your loved ones to gather and relax. Piling multiple throws and floor pillows will create a cozy, floor-level seating nook. This tip doesn't just have to be for humans, either. You can place a pet bed or a couple of blankets in a non-functional fireplace to give your cat or dog a chill-out space (via Family Handyman). Non-functional fireplaces are a great spot to store softer items like pillows or blankets. When not in use, pile them up in a tasteful basket and pop them in the nook.

Expose the brickwork for a rustic look

Gone are the days when exposed brick meant unfinished or unconsidered. Nowadays, exposed brick can create a trendy yet traditional feel in a space. It's a classy way to pay homage to the bones of your home. According to Real Homes, adding an exposed brick effect to your fireplace can make it the talk of the town, especially when done on the wall around the fireplace itself. Pairing exposed brick with modern touches, like of-the-moment mirrors or lighting features, can prevent things from looking old-fashioned and bring your design into the 21st century.

Exposing brick around a fireplace is not a task for the fainthearted. However, if you decide to go for it, it's important to remember that you will be stuck with the exposed brick. If you're not willing to risk it, use a brick-effect wallpaper to get the look without renovation. If you're not a fan of the exposed brick color, you can always paint over it with heat-resistant paint.

Create an accent wall around your fireplace

A fireplace is a built-in feature that gives natural definition and style to a wall. To kick it up a notch, create an accent wall. An accent wall draws attention to a fireplace and makes the wall around it a natural focal point in the space. Accent walls around fireplaces needn't be complicated, either. According to Soul & Lane, you can create an accent wall by using a paint color that contrasts with your hearth's natural tones. For example, deep green hues will offset woody, earthy tones.

If you're in the mood to take your contrast up a notch, try using black tones on a fireplace-embedded wall. The dark colors will contrast against lighter neutrals in the room, creating a sense of coziness. Accent walls hold virtually limitless possibilities, and there's a world of textures, shapes, and materials you can employ to create a visual feast. Just make sure that anything you add to your wall is fire-proofed, especially if using fabric-based materials.

Incorporate classic and modern influences

We all want our decorating choices to be dynamic. However, it's easy to get stuck in one style and forget to mix it up. Your fireplace is the perfect place to keep things fresh by adding old and new pieces. You can embrace modern and classic influences to keep your room in dialogue with multiple aesthetics. This design tip will give your home an elegant, lived-in look perfect for relaxing and entertaining guests. 

According to Country Living, designer Ellen Allen's fireplace exemplifies this idea perfectly. In Allen's living space, salvaged antique windows frame the rustic fireplace and vintage hearth. Ornaments, lantern candle holders, and flowers adorn the classic white mantel. A Plexi-Craft coffee table, made of a single curved sheet of clear glass, adds striking contrast. The coffee table's subtle design allows new influences to remain unobtrusive, a tenet of mixing old with new (via Real Homes).

Paint with lacquer for a classic look

When decorating a fireplace hearth, leaning hard into an aesthetic (be it modern, classic, or minimalist) is a great way to make it stand out. If your tastes fall more on the antique end of the spectrum, give your fireplace a lacquer finish. Lacquer provides classic style, particularly on unpainted fireplaces with exposed natural wood. According to The Spruce Crafts, you can apply lacquer by spraying or painting surfaces. Both options dry quickly, making this a speedy job.

The most important thing about using lacquer on a fireplace is to make sure it's nonflammable. Lacquer can be highly flammable and dangerous around open flames, so opt for fire retardant products like EM6000 WB Production Lacquer from Target Coatings. Be sure to apply it when your fireplace is cold and turned off. Lacquers can also release dangerous fumes upon application, so make sure you're in a well-ventilated environment when working.

Design a reading nook

Few spaces are as relaxing as fireplaces. If you're a bookworm, creating a reading nook around your hearth is a match made in heaven. By and large, fireplaces in living spaces make the perfect reading spot. As Interior Design by S&S's Sharon Falcher and Sherica Maynard said to Food52, "Many fireplaces in a family room usually have empty space beside them or have built-ins. This type of space is great to convert into a reading nook by adding storage bench seating and a beautiful upholstered back."

Alternatively, place a comfortable armchair next to the fireplace and enjoy the warmth while diving head-first into the latest bestseller. Just keep in mind that although your fire gives off natural light, you'll need to add a light source once things get dark. "Natural light is wonderful, but you'll also want to add a really great task lamp for reading into the late hours," said interior designer Brandi Wilkins (via Food52). As reading nooks tend to be filled with flammable paper, make sure all of your books stay far away from the fireplace. The last thing you want is to have books fall into the hearth and have a potential disaster on your hands.

Make your own mantel

Although some contemporary and minimalist fireplaces do away with the mantel altogether, many folks prefer a fireplace with a classic mantel. If you find yourself without one or don't love the one you have at the moment, making your own mantel is a fun DIY project. According to The Spruce, homemade mantels can be as simple as sourcing some live edge wood and installing it above your fireplace.

More ambitious DIY-ers can build an entire mantel from moldings and stock lumber (via This Old House). When constructing a mantel, adhere to national safety regulations surrounding fireplaces. These stipulate that there must be a minimum of 6 inches around the firebox. More space is required if the mantel comes out from the wall. Things may vary from region to region, so make sure you do your research and plan your design with cardboard (with the fire off, naturally) before setting anything into place.

Mount your TV above the fireplace

Fireplaces are naturally an eye-catching aspect of any room, and sometimes it feels like the gaze wants to go toward them. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to pair your fireplace with the other thing in your living room that you spend a lot of time looking at: your TV. Mounting a TV above a fireplace means you won't have to use additional floor space for your set. It also provides an elegant solution for incorporating electronics into your home's interior design.

According to Better Homes & Gardens, it's vital to check the temperature of the space where you'll be hanging your TV above the fireplace. The temperature should not be above your television's technical specifications. To test the temperature, tape a thermometer in the space where you want to hang the TV. Bear in mind any hanging wires and cables, both from a design point of view (they can look a little ugly) and from a fire hazard perspective.

Distress your fireplace for a weathered look

For most people, rooms that look too clean or perfect can make their home feel less personal. If you're craving cozy farmhouse style, distressing your fireplace can make it feel weathered and full of character. The best part about distressing is that you don't have to worry about order and symmetry — just do what feels good.

As reported by Our Repurposed Home, distressing is a particularly effective technique for painted brick fireplaces. All you need is a few tools and a paint stripper. Make sure you time how long the paint stripping product stays on your paint. The longer you leave it on, the more exposed the brick underneath will become (via HomeSteady). Paint strippers can emit highly toxic fumes, so wear a face mask and work in a well-ventilated area. Your fire should always be cold, as paint strippers can be highly flammable (via U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission).