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Dawn Matthews  |  Nov 29, 2023

Fireplace Mantel & Surround Ideas

15 Minute Read

Fireplace décor can look incredible when done right, and since the fireplace is the focal point of the room, it is natural to want to get it looking perfect. If you’re lost for inspiration and searching for living room fireplace décor ideas, take comfort in the fact that there isn’t a single correct way of styling a fireplace, because our taste in interior design, our existing furniture, and the look and feel we want to create all play their part.

That said, there are some tips and guidelines that we can offer to help you make your fireplace, and your mantel, look great. In this post, we’re sharing information about fireplaces, mantelpieces, and digging into how to make your fireplace look as stylish as possible.

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What Are The Different Parts Of The Fireplace?

There are several different parts of a fireplace and the surround - let’s quickly unpick which bit is which:

▪ Mantel, or mantelpiece - this is the shelf that sits above the fireplace
▪ Corbel - this is the section above the firebox that sits flush with the wall
▪ Surround - these are the areas to the side of where the fire is made
▪ Firebox - this is the area above the plinth, where the flames rise towards the chimney
▪ Plinth - this is where the grate sits, and where you make the fire
▪ Hearth - the area at floor level in front of the plinth

Don't worry too much about the name of each part – the main bits you will be concerned with when you’re decorating them are the mantel, the hearth, and the firebox.

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How To Decorate Your Mantel And Fireplace Based On Your Interior Design

While there isn’t a single correct way to decorate your mantel and fireplace, you want it to look good with the rest of the room. If you’ve been inspired by a certain style of interior design, then here’s a few tips for each type of style.

🏡  For minimalist rooms, keep décor items super simple. You might choose to leave the mantel and fireplace entirely bare, or choose a single item, such as a sculpture at the centre of the mantel.

🏡  For rustic décor styles such as “cottagecore” and Scandi styling, look for natural, and aged or vintage items incorporating glass, steel, and metals - items that are almost industrial in nature can work.

🏡  For rooms with japandi decor, look for items with clean lines, and that are made from natural materials. Don’t go overboard with too many items, as this style leans toward minimalism.

🏡  For industrial styling, whatever you choose for your mantelpiece should incorporate metals, glass, and wood – anything that looks as though it would be at home in a factory or a workplace.

Although these styles are quite different, don’t feel that you can’t add a houseplant, or an arrangement of flowers to soften the look and feel, and to add colour – just choose plants and flowers that look good, or that you love.

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Tips For Decorating A Mantel Piece

The mantelpiece might have traditionally been a functional element, to prevent smoke entering the room, but today they are mostly there to look good. Decorating a mantel piece is similar in a lot of ways to decorating a shelf - and you know how we love a #shelfie! We’ve written about how to style your shelves before, but here’s a quick round-up of how to organise your mantel piece:

⭐  Position larger items first
⭐  Use caution if you’re using a larger, heavier item – you don’t want your mantel, or your decoration to break!
⭐  Less is more - don’t try to fill the space too tightly, unless you’re aiming for a maximalist effect
⭐  Use items that are of similar heights to create balance
⭐  If you’re grouping items, use the rule of three, as this number looks balanced
⭐  Group several items to create the look of one larger piece
⭐  Discard the idea that perfection exists - it doesn’t, and imperfection can be better!

Finally, however you decide you’re going to decorate your mantel, and whatever ornaments and curios you use to decorate, remember that you’ll need to dust it - and so our advice would be to make it easy on yourself by not putting too many items on there.

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Fireplace Surround Design Ideas

As we’ve already suggested, it is easier to make your fireplace look great when you decorate it if it looks great with nothing on it. If you’re redecorating your living room (or any other room in the home where you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace) then consider redoing your fireplace and the surround too. You don’t have to stick with whatever colour is already there – you can go to town and really make it stand out, so your fireplace really does become the focal point of the room. You’ll find countless ideas on websites like Pinterest, but here are a few to get you started:

▪ Paint the whole thing to match your walls – yes, even if it is a strong colour
▪ Create contrast by painting the fireplace a different colour
▪ Add hand-painted tiles to create a unique look
▪ Whitewash brickwork – or, leave it bare for a rustic, industrial look
▪ Look for marble surrounds – you’ll likely need a professional if you want real marble!

Before you get started – especially if your fireplace makeover is a DIY job – then do your research first. While there are thousands of incredible DIY fireplace makeovers online, there are some disasters too. Make sure you know what is behind your fireplace, and if you’re unsure, consult a professional before you get to work.

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Fireplace Décor Ideas

The mantel piece might be the star of the show, but there’s a lot you can do in the firebox and the hearth, other than just having a fire. If you rarely, or never use your fireplace for a real fire, here are a few ideas for decorating the firebox and the hearth:

🔥  Add a grouping of candles in the fire bed - try placing a mirror behind them to reflect the light and double the effect
🔥  Place a house plant - or group of air purifying plants - on the hearth or in the firebox
🔥  If you don’t use your fireplace, use it to display a piece of artwork or a sculpture
🔥  Arrange logs to the side, or in the hearth, so that your fireplace looks ready to go
🔥  Consider an electric log burner – these allow you to get the effect of a real fire, without the associated effort
🔥  Find a vintage fireguard – there are some beautiful styles that act as décor themselves

Mantelpiece Styling Ideas

When you’ve gathered some pieces for your mantel piece, then you need the finishing touches. We’ve curated a gorgeous selection of accessories for the home that are ideal for use to style mantel pieces all year round, as well as for the holiday season. A few items from our catalogue that you might want to consider when styling your mantelpiece and your fireplace:

▪ Our rustic, natural baskets look gorgeous with kindling or fire supplies in, or to hold plants
▪ Our rustic candles are made with paraffin and cotton, and look stunning in groups
▪ Our range of Christmas decorations are designed to complement wooden items such as our mantels, but we’re definitely keeping some items out year-round, such as our hanging brass fern leaf.
▪ Our hanging pine needles would be right at home in Scandi décor too!

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Wooden Mantel Location & Care

When installing one of our fireplace mantels above a log burner or open fire, it is important that the mantel is installed a safe distance away. Our mantels are made from sustainable solid pine, which unfortunately means this is a combustible material.

So there are a few variables to consider when choosing the best place to install your wooden mantel:

1️⃣  Each make and model of log burner will have varying clearance guides, so we would first and foremost advise checking the manual or with the original supplier to see what safe distance they recommend.

2️⃣  UK's FPA (Fire Protection Agency) states that as a general rule, all combustible materials (wood mantels included) should be placed at least 12 inches above the fireplace opening.

3️⃣  They then suggest adding an inch to the distance for every inch of the mantel depth (as all of our mantels are 10cm deep, you would need to allow another 4 additional inches approximately).

We currently do not have any specific restrictions on how far away our mantels will need to be from a log burner or open fire to avoid warping or damage. As wood is a natural material and each mantel is totally unique, warping & damage can vary. Guidance can change at any point so it's important to double-check official sources before installing your mantel. If in doubt, it is a good idea to get in touch with a HETAS-registered installer for further guidance.

Unique Fireplace Mantels

If you’re looking to replace your fireplace mantel, then a rustic mantel is a timeless addition. When you’re choosing a wooden mantel, choose one that is the perfect size for your fireplace, and the right wood finish to complement your furniture. Our collection of mantels is available from light finishes of rustic pine, to darker shades such as Tudor oak and walnut, and the wood we use is from sustainable sources.

With various sizes available, and all the fixings required to attach your mantel to a solid wall, if you have the tools, you can install a mantel quickly and easily. Our range of rustic mantels are made to order, and so if you need a different size to one of our standard ones, you can get in touch - we’re happy to help and to make a bespoke size.

Our Final Thoughts

The great thing about styling your fireplace the mantelpiece is that it doesn’t have to be a one-time job, and you absolutely can restyle it each season (decorating your fireplace at Christmas is practically a given!) or as you purchase new items, or rediscover items in your home. The key to getting it right is to invest in making your fireplace look great without any décor items – so decorate it and add a great mantel - and then start adding items. Remember too, that just like in natural wood, there is beauty in imperfection, so don’t go for too many matching items and perfect symmetry.

Whether you’ve done a complete fireplace makeover, or you’ve simply redecorated it with items that you already have, don’t forget to tag us in your Instagram posts – we're @bensimpsonfurniture.

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