Over the years, new owners modernized their homes, sometimes going so far as to tear out old fireplace surrounds and mantels to give their houses a more streamlined, modern look. If you’re the proud owner of a period house who is attempting to restore it, getting familiar with the types of fireplace surrounds, mantels and accessories that were in fashion during the era that your home was built can help you polish your restoration to perfection.
Antique Fireplace Surrounds
A fireplace without accessories is little more than a brick and stone lined hole in your wall. One of the most important pieces in establishing the character of an antique fireplace is the ‘surround’, which many people confuse with the mantelpiece. The mantel is actually part of the surround, which usually consists of two sides joined by the mantel piece. The surround was often built and installed in pieces, and installing a surround is a good DIY project if you’re handy with tools and measurement.
Antique fireplace surrounds may be made of metal (usually cast iron, but sometimes brass), wood or stone. Less expensive surrounds may be made of wood that has been enameled or painted to resemble marble. Some of the more elaborate include fitted frames for mirrors above the mantelpiece, carved scones and built-in shelves for displaying family treasures.
Antique Fireplace Firebacks
The back wall of the fireplace in older homes was often covered by a cast iron fireback. These firebacks were often ornately detailed with piercing, moldings or casting in fanciful designs ranging from flower motifs to cherubs and everything in between. A fireback usually was flat and fit only the rear wall of the fireplace, but some were full inserts fitted to the sides and back.
Antique Fireplace Accessories
Grates are the metal rack designed to hold the wood, coal or other fuel to be burned. Andirons fit on the outer corners of the grate and are meant to keep wood and fuel from falling off the grate – though many are purely decorative.
Fireplace tools include bellows, pokers, tongs and fireplace brushes and pans to sweep up the ashes after a fire.
Hobs are shelves or projections in the back or side of the fireplace that’s meant to hold utensils or food to be kept warm. They’re most often built into the fireplace itself.
A restored antique fireplace can create a stunning focal point for your room. Take the time to study the styles that were popular during your home’s era and you can be sure to build or restore a fireplace that fits your home’s style perfectly.