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10 Ideas For Improving A Period Fireplace

10 Ideas For Improving A Period Fireplace

Give your period fireplace a fresh new relevance in your home with these smart ideas for tweaking and styling this classic centrepiece.

Match the Hearth with your WallsWhether functioning or not, a period fireplace is a celebrated original feature – the kind of thing we look out for when buying a home – but not all fireplaces were created equal. Some, while rich with history, are a little heavy in style or overly ornate. Some work as a beautiful focal point, while others threaten to dominate a room. They can give a bland space a huge amount of period character, but they can also eat into valuable square footage.

So how to get the best from a period fireplace? These 10 inspiring examples reveal the many ways you can improve and adapt yours.

Match the Hearth with your Walls
An ornate fireplace, tiling and surround can create quite a busy focal point in a room, but by matching the wall colour to the grate and hearth you can help tone the look down. In this living space in a Victorian villa, the surround is a crisp white but, to avoid taxing the eye, the walls and hearth share a similarly deep, rich tone. Shown to the top left, the walls are painted in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball to match with the hearth.

Lose the SurroundLose the Surround
The fireplace in this Edwardian house did not have its matching surround, but rather than lose the entire fireplace, the grate was left in place, beautifully framed by a dark paint shade.

Replace an Original
Not all period fireplaces appeal today, so consider taking out any that look unattractive. Rather than lose the fireplace altogether, though, replace it. Either find another original you like from the same era, or go for a contemporary replica of a period piece that perhaps combines traditional details with modern lines. In a 1930s house like this one, a crisp, clean design would fit in particularly well, since even the most classic houses of this era carried a hint of Modernism in their design.

Replace an Original     antique-piece

Install an Antique
The attractive antique fireplace shown above was installed by the owners of a London flat. The original cast-iron grate was boarded up, so they exposed it and added the decorative surround which they had picked up from a friend. Its slightly battered, distressed appearance is part of its charm, while the tiles bring a splash of colour. The bottles and ornaments on the mantelpiece are vintage, too. We have a huge range of antique pieces available to buy with or without restoration services.

Fake itFake it
A purely decorative fireplace makes a great focal point. To increase the space in this room, the chimney breast was removed and a slimline protrusion was built in its place. The surround and grate were built in to create the look of a working fireplace and the finished effect brings great character to the space, even though this design is not usable.

Keep it simpleKeep it Simple
The original patterned tiles, cast-iron grate and heavy marble surround create a strong focal point here, so the entire fireplace has been left clear and unadorned to avoid visual overload. Instead, an on-trend shade of grey on the wall helps the beautiful fireplace stand out and, rather than displaying items on the mantelpiece, a striking painting is hung above to add interest without cluttering the look.

Use as displayUse as a Display
Even if the original fireplace has gone, you are not obliged to remove the chimney breast, too. It is a big structural job, which can be costly. Instead, use the area for display. In this Victorian home, treated decorative logs are stacked up inside the fireplace as a fitting reference to the fire that would have originally burned there.

strip-itStrip it
The kind of elaborate wooden surround that was favoured in the early 20th century can be given a more pared-back, rustic look by stripping the paint off.

Blend inBlend it in
If you prefer your fireplace to be more discreet detail than focal point, try painting the surround in the same shade as the wall. This will help ornate touches to blend in and will make the surround seem to ‘disappear’ into the wall.

Expose the Brick
Many fireplaces consist simply of a fire basket sitting within an exposed brick surround. If you like this look, consider removing tiling and any built-in firestones to expose the brick wall beneath. Ask a builder or fire safety professional for help with this, especially if the fireplace is functioning.

Expose the brick

Tell us your ideas!

Share your tips for updating or improving a period fireplace in the comments below.


Browse Our Fireplaces

We offer a huge range of Fireplaces which will work well with many of the ideas suggested above. From new fires to antique, we’ve got something to suit you and your property.

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