By Tina Jepson
In older homes, fireplaces were everywhere. After all, they were essential in a world without heat pumps and furnaces. Today, we don’t need them quite like we did a century ago, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something magical about tending a warm, glowing fire in the middle of a chilly winter evening. That’s one of the reasons even new construction homes come with a nice, new fireplace.
My home, which was built in the 1850s, has a whopping seven fireplaces. All of them work, but they also take up a whole lot of space. Plus, with two children under the age of 5, there’s no way I’m ever going to have seven fires going on at once. I’m all for a cozy house, but seven is overkill when I can simply flip a switch and warm my home.
Instead of just leaving the fireplaces as they are, I decided to use them as the focal point in each of the rooms of our home. And, let me tell you, it’s really quite simple to make a statement out of your average, everyday fireplace. Here are some of the techniques I used to fancify my fireplaces. Try one or more of them yourself!
1. Before You Start, Clean It Up
There’s no burning around the bush: Fireplaces get funky. Years of soot and ashes don’t just damage the firebrick and firebox, it can also add a layer of gunk on your fascia, hearth, and mantel.
It’s going to get a bit messy, but your best bet is to clean it up right the first time. Begin by thoroughly vacuuming the area using a wet/dry vacuum cleaner (such as a Shop-Vac) to clean up all the visible ash and dust.
Then, create a cleaning solution using 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1 cup of water and a drop or two of an essential oil if you don’t care for the smell of vinegar. Spray on every surface and wipe down with a clean rag.
2. Add a Grate or Other Firebox Centerpiece
To add some ambiance, set your fireplace up so it at least looks like you’re getting ready to build a fire, such as by adding a strong steel grate filled with wood.
If you don’t plan on using the wood in the fireplace, then skip the traditional grate and find some candles or, better yet, a large fireplace-sized candle holder.
3. Give Thought to the Screen
Fireplace screens block all those fiery embers, but they are also works of art. There are so many beautiful designs available in almost any style of décor available online and in home décor stores.
For our Victorian home, I found screens with gold accents to highlight the age and era in which the home was built. However, you can find screens in virtually any color imaginable, such as painted white or copper-tinted. For a craftsman-style screen, look for straight, clean lines accented with a find iron mesh. Likewise, you can also go floral, art deco, or ultra-modern.
When the fireplace isn’t in use, use the screen to hold seasonal décor or family photos. Just don’t forget to remove them before you light a fire!
4. Tools Aren’t Just Functional
Tools such as a small shovel and a “poker” are essential to tend your fire, but the stand that holds them all up next to the hearth can also serve double-duty.
This is another spot where seasonal décor works well, so if you’re looking for the perfect spot to put a “witch” straw broom around Halloween or a giant candy cane around Christmas, try your tool holder first.
5. Dress Up Your Mantel
Hands down, the easiest place to fancy-up your fireplace is the mantel. This ledge is the ideal spot to hold everything from picture frames to plates, musical instruments and more. It’s where you can truly showcase who lives in your home and what you value most.
Each one of the mantels in my home has a different theme, including music, family, and childhood memories. Try any of these themes in your own home to tie together your fireplace.
Fireplaces add warmth to any home, not just from the fires they hold, but for the memories that are built around them. Show your fireplace a touch of love by making it the focal point of your home and it’ll become the main gathering spot in your house.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Tina Jepson, www.shutterstock.com, and www.dreamstime.com