“The hearth should be the concentration of every rational scheme of arrangement,” Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. wrote in their 1897 style and design classic, “The Decoration of Properties.”
Not a lot has changed because then. Fireplaces are normally the dominant aspect in rooms blessed enough to have them, and the anchor about which furnishings are structured. In point, most fireplaces refuse to be disregarded, no matter whether they’re gorgeous or unappealing. And therein lies the trouble: What if your fire is clad in dated tile or discolored brick, or your mantel seems to be out of proportion or out of place?
Giving a fireplace a new seem may possibly feel complicated, but it is not as challenging as it sounds.
“It’s an architectural ornament that is changeable,” explained Thomas Jayne, an inside designer in New York and the creator of “Classical Rules for Contemporary Design and style,” a guide on applying Wharton and Codman’s suggestions to present-day interiors.
Reworking the visual appeal of a hearth is normally well truly worth the time and expense, he explained, simply because “if you like your fire, you will like your entire home a great deal superior.”
We asked Mr. Jayne and other designers for information on how to deal with a problematic fire.
Think about What You Have
It’s simple to publish off aged mantels and surrounds as unappealing when they are weakened from many years of abuse or lined in levels of soot, grime or caked paint.
But don’t automatically presume that you will need to rip out or include up what you have obtained. Rather, try out to picture what your fire would glimpse like if it had been restored.
“In a ton of assignments, we begin with unappealing-searching fireplaces” that are in fact gorgeous underneath, reported Andrea Fisk, who founded the Brooklyn-based architecture organization Shapeless Studio with Jess Thomas Hinshaw.
“A great deal of them have just been painted over and above and above,” Ms. Thomas Hinshaw reported, “so that they’ve shed a ton of the detailing and character.”
When Ms. Fisk and her everyday living partner purchased a rundown townhouse of their have in the Bushwick community of Brooklyn, it experienced a dreary-searching residing area fireplace lined in dirty product-coloured paint. But rather than right away taking away the mantel, Ms. Fisk carried out a watchful investigation.
“We truly had no strategy what was less than there,” she stated. They couldn’t even inform whether or not the mantel was stone or wooden. With a chemical paint remover, she stripped absent layers of paint and was astonished by what she identified: a beautiful mantel of green and gray slate with hints of pink and carved floral facts.
“That was a excellent surprise,” she stated.
Not only did she keep it — immediately after eliminating each and every trace of the outdated paint, of course — she also based the color palette of the place on it.
There is a reason aged mantels are normally thick with layers of paint: It’s one particular of the easiest and least costly ways to transform the seem of a fire. When finished very well, with an suitable volume of paint — not gobs, which can clump, drip and search unattractive — painting can be astonishingly helpful.
Susana Simonpietri, operator and imaginative director of the Brooklyn-primarily based style and design business Chango & Co., often paints brick fireplaces white for a crisp, fresh look. Not long ago, she did so though renovating a 1970s house in East Hampton, N.Y., which had a two-sided hearth between the residing and dining rooms produced from orangy brick that neither she nor her purchasers liked.
“We painted the outside the house white and the inside of of the fireplace black, for a large amount of contrast,” she reported.
It was as simple as covering the brick with a sealing primer, she said, and then applying numerous coats of Decorator’s White paint from Benjamin Moore. “The priming is pretty crucial,” she mentioned. “If you really don’t prime, the coloration from the bricks will bleed by.”
Pretty much any type of paint can be made use of on the exterior of a fireplace, Ms. Simonpietri claimed, though she prefers an exterior-quality paint for sturdiness. But inside of the firebox, it is important to use a specific superior-temperature paint that can stand up to the warmth.
A painted brick fireplace is effortless to preserve, she said, even when it is white: “All you have to do is hit it with another coat of paint when it receives soiled, over time, from the smoke.”
Improve the Mantel
Replacing an current mantel or chimney piece, or including a person exactly where there was previously none, can right away alter the character of a hearth.
A standard fireplace can be produced to seem modern-day with the addition of a mantel composed of basic marble slabs, and a present-day fireplace can be provided a perception of age with a conventional wood mantel that has classical specifics.
“Changing the mantel alone is not that major a offer,” Ms. Simonpietri said, noting that they can ordinarily be pried off the wall like trim. “Essentially, you are remaining with partitions that need to have to be healed. If you are a helpful individual, it’s a do-it-by yourself venture.”
Substitution mantels are greatly out there at a array of prices, from property enhancement stores like the Property Depot to specialty makers like Chesneys. And reclaimed mantels can be uncovered at architectural salvage outlets like Significant Reuse, Olde Good Factors and Demolition Depot and Irreplaceable Artifacts.
You can also construct a personalized mantel, like Vincent DiSalvo, a principal of DiSalvo Contracting in New York, frequently does for his shoppers.
Setting up a new mantel is fairly uncomplicated, Mr. DiSalvo mentioned, “as prolonged as you operate inside of the parameters of code needs,” and sizing it adequately to match the present opening. Flamable products — like a wood mantel — need to be at least six inches again from the sides of a wooden-burning firebox, he said, and “the horizontal piece that runs across the top of the firebox should be all-around 12 inches” higher than the opening, based on how significantly the mantel assignments off the wall.
The resulting gap involving the firebox and mantel creates an additional style possibility, he famous, and can be concluded with distinctive ceramic tile or stone.
Install a Resourceful Encompass
Of system, not each and every fire needs to be concluded with a common mantel. There are a great number of inventive alternate options.
When Mr. Jayne renovated a house for consumers in Oyster Bay, N.Y., he developed a tall box clad in Delft tiles to encompass the hearth.
“Rather than just possessing a fire with a row of Delft tiles and a quite 19th-century wood molding all over it, we tried out to modernize it and make it more present-day,” he explained.
Sometimes, Mr. Jayne eliminates a ledge or shelf earlier mentioned the hearth completely, as he did in the library of an condominium on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There, he removed the current “pseudo Georgian Revival” mantel and clad the wall close to the fireplace in colourful mosaic tile — a style loosely impressed by a hearth in a eating room intended by Stanford White at Kingscote, a 19th-century house in Newport, R.I.
For a extra monolithic physical appearance, a fire can be resurfaced in concrete or all-natural stone in the exact way. If you use organic stone, though, decide on a dim one particular, like slate, relatively than a mild one, like white marble, Mr. DiSalvo advised: “You want to pick a stone that isn’t simply stained by soot. A darker-coloured stone holds up far better about time.”
Or Remodel the Whole Wall
Attacking the mantel or the region instantly all-around the fire sometimes isn’t more than enough. In that scenario, the complete wall that residences the fireplace may well will need notice.
When Shapeless Studio renovated a Brooklyn condominium that had an specifically unappealing brick wall with a fire, they designed a new wall with drywall in front of it, flooring to ceiling, to conceal the total expanse.
That slightly reduced the footprint of the residing room, but it made a cleaner glimpse and the option to increase a beefy customized limestone mantel. The architects also used the thickness of the new wall to generate recessed storage nooks on possibly side of the fireplace.
“We had to reframe it,” he mentioned, because there was no other realistic way to get rid of or conceal the stone. Following including cement board to the framing for a clean surface, he installed a linear arrangement of buff-colored produced stone veneer from Eldorado Stone on leading.
“I desired something that was nominal, but also warm and fashionable,” he claimed.
Building a second wall may perhaps appear to be somewhat severe, but transforming the visual appeal of an unloved hearth can shell out huge dividends. “The hearth can aid tie the total household jointly,” Mr. Thelen mentioned. “And it can say a whole lot about the personality of the man or woman.”
There are also family traditions to take into consideration, he extra: “You can have Santa Claus coming down a classy chimney.”