How to Decorate a Fireplace

Stockings at the Fireplace

The fireplace is an enduring symbol of comfort and warmth in your home. It offers a design focal point that deserves special consideration. Use these tips from us at Pottery Barn as inspiration to style your mantel and hearth with your favorite decor, new and old. No matter what your personal style is, you’ll create an eye-catching centerpiece for your home. 

Styling the Walls

As you consider how to decorate around a fireplace, it helps to take stock of the room. Think about how you tend to use that space. If you’re working in your living room, a large decorative mirror may be just what you need to anchor the area above the mantel. Mirrors reflect light back into the room, making it look brighter. They also create a dimensional effect that makes a space feel bigger. In a bedroom, however, you might want to keep things a bit darker and cozier. Choosing a romantic painting for the space above a bedroom fireplace works nicely.

The walls that flank your fireplace can support more artwork, but this is also an opportunity to bring more light into the room with symmetrical wall sconces. Scones come in a variety of different styles, so you can further set the tone for the room with your lighting choice. A metal and crystal sconce adds a sense of glamour. A more industrial design lends a rustic feel that’s a great choice for how to decorate a stone fireplace. Take stock of the space and the decor you tend to prefer in order to make the choice you’ll be happiest with. 

Arranging the Mantel

Mantelpieces are one of the primary decorative opportunities around a fireplace. If you don’t have a mantel, you can use simple wall shelves as an efficient solution. With a mantel in place, you can explore a variety of decorative possibilities ranging from the simple and traditional to the unusual. 

Sticking to a classic approach usually means arranging decorative objects, such as candleholders, vases and clocks, in a symmetrical arrangement. They often have a sculptural statement piece in the center to anchor everything. This is usually where a clock comes in. Feel free to opt for something a bit fresher, such as an abstract decorative art piece or a favorite family photo, and arrange matching or similar objects on either side of that central piece.

To go for an ultra-modern look, treat your mantelpiece like a cabinet of curiosities and display a variety of natural history artifacts and vintage decorative objects. Old film cameras, giant coral pieces, anatomical models and first-edition books sandwiched between geodes make for a colorful arrangement and offer a distinctive style statement about things you love. If your fireplace gets plenty of light, you might even want to put some live plants up on the mantel shelf to add a refreshing vibrancy to the space. Climbing or trailing plants, such as a philodendron, can make a particularly dramatic impact as they slowly expand across the mantel. 

Decorating the Hearth

Fire hazards are a concern for a functioning fireplace, but this isn’t the case for a non-functioning fireplace. This makes the question of how to decorate a fireplace hearth a bit easier to answer than it is when decorating a working fireplace. Screens are an ideal decorative tool for the hearth of a working fireplace. They can look quite nice for a non-functioning fireplace as well. However, you have more options available when your fireplace doesn’t hold fires.

In particular, this area’s status as a safe place for fire means that you can swap flaming logs with candles for your hearth decor. You may not get the full impact of a roaring fire, but the twinkling light of candle flames introduces a different kind of warmth into the room. It’s a beautiful option no matter how warm it is outside. Choose candle holders that group multiple candles together for a dramatic effect that produces maximum light and beauty. You can also choose to put a decorative screen, or even a plant, and flank that with beautiful lanterns. These decorative solutions work well for a wood-burning fireplace during the warmer months, too.