Creating An Inviting Living Room Around A Fireplace
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Creating An Inviting Living Room Around A Fireplace

Cozy sofas, built-ins and art groupings encourage a warm, welcoming space.

By Tracy Kaler
Thu, Nov 4, 2021Grey Clock 3 min

Fireplaces have been adorning houses for centuries. While there’s the practical element of heating a home, a fireplace also sets the tone for a room, kindling atmosphere and interaction between people.

“It is human nature to be attracted to a fireplace—the experience is warm, inspiring and luxurious,” says Elliot March, co-founder of March and White Design in New York.

From a classic wood mantle to a sleek surround, a fireplace is likely the focal point in a room. Mr. March says no matter the style, this architectural element is a natural centrepiece and starting point for a room’s design and decor.

We asked several design pros for their thoughts on creating an inviting living room around a fireplace, and here’s what they suggested.

Anchor the Space with Seating

“We always say that great design is about people, not buildings. Know who will be using the room and how they’ll use it, then design a welcoming experience that connects with them emotionally. If a room features a fireplace, it will be the heart of that connection.

“The process starts with the idea of anchoring a space—or a sequence of spaces—around the fireplace. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, ‘The hearth is the psychological center of the home.’ Not only will the fireplace serve as a focal point, but it will also create a foundation for a seating grouping—and as a result, the way people will engage with the room.”

— Elliot March of March and White Design in New York

Strike a Balance with Built-ins and Shelves

“A fireplace wall is a strong way to make a visual impact in a room while keeping the space functional. My first rule of thumb is to always blend function with form. Scale matters; if you have high ceilings, play into them. If you have a particularly large wall to play with, then use it all. I always think about the mantel itself when designing, but the accessorizing of it happens after the bones of the room are complete.

“I love using natural stone for fireplaces; it is a great way to bring some dimension into a room. You want something with character and texture that will either completely stand out as a design statement of its own or blend into the room naturally.

“Furniture placement is critical. Depending on how large your space is, you’ll want two couches or a very large sectional. It really depends on the flow of the room, but ultimately your goal is to create a gathering area in front of the fireplace where people can enjoy the warmth and coziness it provides.

“Built-ins are a great opportunity to style and showcase gorgeous objects and add polish to a space, but many clients also want built-ins for extra storage, so I find that a mix of open shelving with closed cabinets and drawers strikes this perfect balance. Open shelving is also very functional and can work well in a variety of settings. Keep it personal: artwork, books, or collectibles picked up from your travels are good storytelling pieces.”

— Amy Leferink, Owner and Principal Designer at Interior Impressions in Woodbury, Minnesota

Try Asymmetry When Accessorising

“It is important to be sure that the fireplace surround respects the integrity of the architecture, so when designing a fireplace in a new construction home, we ensure that it ‘fits’ with the rest of the home. When working with an existing fireplace, much can be done to update the surround to ensure that the end look is cohesive.

“I like the appearance of a fireplace wall that isn’t wholly symmetrical. Whether that’s utilizing and playing up built-ins on one side of the fireplace or how the mantel is decorated, I like the visual heft of difference. A lacquered bookcase built-in next to a fireplace is a stand-out on its own, in the same way that a blank wall next to a fireplace is a wonderful space for groupings of smaller artwork.

“I find mantels more interesting with fewer accessories—and what accessories are there, I prefer to be asymmetrical. Often the artwork utilized above the mantel will dictate the smaller accessories: a small piece of art paired with a larger decorative accessory, or a large piece of art with a set of smaller accessories.”

— Interior Designer Meg Lonergan in Houston

 

Reprinted by permission of Mansion Global. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication:  November 3, 2021.

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