The hearth of the home, a fireplace draws people in with its cosy crackle and warmth. What’s often overlooked is how it also draws the eye. It is frequently centred on a wall and is the object around which a room is oriented. This ready-made focal point is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to put your personality and style on view, via family photos, treasured objects or seasonal blooms.
That’s why Michelle Miller, an interior designer, likes to keep permanent accents simple — the better to showcase rotating displays. She recommends building a look around a refined mirror, a great piece of art or even a sculptural log holder. “Find one great piece as opposed to 20 great pieces,” she says. Then, when you add decorations, she says to keep them asymmetrically displayed, because the fireplace is already the symmetrical focus of the room.
Lauren Shields, a prop stylist and crafter out of New York, likes to use the mantel to tell a story. “It’s an opportunity to inspire curiosity and conversation for guests, but it also functions as a personal tribute to your own sentimental history and narrative,” she says. Shields likes to display vintage jewellery, naturally found objects, a collection of small vases and travel photos.
Miller recommends adding a simple rectangular mirror over the mantel “for a refined statement.” Shields likes an antiqued finish on her mirrors, for a sense of history. One way to add an element of visually stimulating asymmetry, Miller says, is to install one sconce above a mantel, such as the Circa 1920 Spanish Torch Sconce, with artwork to the side.
The fireplace is a central gathering place for family and guests, after all, so if you want to splurge, go for the Glen Screen, made of fine mesh and gold-leaf covered metal. “I think you should make investments in things you really love,” Miller says.
If you make fires often, Elliot recommends a fireplace screen with doors, “You don’t want to have to move that screen every time you light the fire, throw wood on it or use your bellows,” he says. “I love the simplicity of letting the fireplace be the only focal point,” Miller says. An unobtrusive, clear glass log holder, helps keep the fire the center of attention.
Hold everything you need for an active fireplace with a Log Rack. Great for small spaces, it holds kindling, logs, a broom, a poker and a shovel in a little more than one square foot. For the ultimate in carpet and hardwood protection from stray embers, Elliot recommends a fiberglass hearth rug. For a softer touch, though, he says that wool rugs, such a Hand Tufted Hearth Rug, “You can find any style imaginable in wool,” he adds.
Elliot says that people are often intimidated by the idea of cutting their own firewood. The Swedish-made Stikkan Cast Iron Wall-Mounted Kindling Splitter will produce smaller pieces for kindling, no hatchet needed. “It allows anyone with any level of strength to split pieces of wood,” he says.
Elliot also recommends ash buckets with a double bottom, so that if the ashes are still warm when you scoop them up, they won’t make the metal hot and burn you or the floor. “It’s nice to have a wood carrier, particularly if your wood pile is in your back yard,” Elliot says. Carry your logs and store them too.
Don’t bother looking for a fireplace tool set with tongs, Elliot says, because anyone serious about fires will want something sturdier that can actually hold and move logs around. “You want to find a nice balance between what’s practical and what’s going to be good-looking, too,” Elliot says.