Decorating a Fireplace Mantel

The fireplace is a natural focal point in any room and is an ideal place to decoratively enhance in order to really liven up the room’s atmosphere. In any room where there is a fireplace, people automatically tend to arrange furniture to focus on the fireplace. The natural beauty and deep seeded connection between humans and fire make the fireplace mantel a place to display a home’s most treasured, symbolic items. If you’re on a time or monetary budget, the fireplace mantle is a great way to make an incredible impact in a room quickly and inexpensively.

Keep items proportionate to the scale of the fireplace mantel

Choose items that compliment the proportions of the mantel. If your fireplace is small, add decorative tiles, stone, or bricks to increase the overall size and install a fireplace mantel to fit the new dimensions. Most stately and decorative fireplaces are between 8 and 10 feet in width and about 5 feet high. Installing the mantel, bricks, and tile is a simple project that most people can do themselves after just a small amount of research.

Choose items the define the unique qualities of your family

Because of the significance of a fireplace mantel in a room, choose treasured items in your home that represent your family history, goals, and ideals. This may mean an antique item passed down through the family, artifacts gathered from family travels, or something symbolic like a decorative compass to signify your family’s unwavering pursuit toward an ultimate goal.

Sowcase your pictures

Pictures are a natural choice for decorating fireplace mantels for both their visual appeal and significance. Don’t worry about size or dimensions when choosing pictures; instead choose those that represent your most cherished memories. You can bring importance and stature to the pictures on your fireplace mantle by matting your photos in large frames that compliment the room. Adding matting to your framed photos creates more of an artistic look and feel, suited for a fireplace mantel.

Vary sizes and heights

One of the most important overall concepts to consider when decorating a fireplace mantel is to choose items of varying heights, shapes and sizes. Try to keep somewhat of a balance in terms of height. Candles and candlesticks that accent the color of the room are a great way to add height to your fireplace mantel design. Plants can also be an excellent way to add depth, dimension, and natural lines. An oversized vase with a full arrangement of real or silk flowers and foliage can quickly add color, natural beauty, and height to your mantel.

Decorating a fireplace mantel or adding fullness around a bare fireplace with a mantel is a cost effective way to make an incredible impact in a room’s appearance. The natural stately significance of a fireplace mantle makes it an idea place to showcase your most important memories, traditions, beliefs, and the goals of your family.

Contemporary Style Corner Gas Fireplace

Corner gas fireplace

Corner fireplaces can be styled to fit exactly into the corner of your room and can occupy as much or as little space as you would want them to. If the fuel that will be used is gas instead of traditional fuels like wood, then the corner gas fireplace is the contemporary fireplace any modern home can think of in terms of décor and style as well as convenience and efficiency.

Contemporary style

Corner gas fireplaces are more contemporary in style. These fireplaces make use of gas fuels that do not require a conventional heath or foundation. They can be readily installed in any corner of the room. Direct vents that can be wall-mounted or let out through the roof are also used in this style. This means you do not need to have a chimney on the house as well. While a corner gas fireplace creates a warm ambience in the room, it also provides convenience in terms of cleaning and maintenance.

Things to keep in mind

While installing a corner gas fireplace, try and find easy solutions to the direct vents intallation. Also, corner gas fireplaces look very modern and stylish if they have a glass fireplace screen. You can style the fireplace to either fit into the corner wall or you could have a mantel over the fireplace depending upon the design and décor of your room. Since natural gas or propane, which are used in gas fireplaces, has an advantage over wood as a fuel that requires regular feeding, it is advisable to install a thermostat or a switch that can control the supply of gas to the fireplace.

Custom-built corner gas fireplace designs

Gas fireplace designs in a variety of models and styles are available with most fireplace and woodstoves stores. A corner gas fireplace that has a glass screen will give you a two-way view. This combined with a direct vent that takes the hot combustion gases out of the fireplace will make the room cozy and warm. Many fireplace-building companies have their designs on display at their stores or even on their websites. You can easily find one that fits your idea of a cozy corner at home.

Choosing Victorian Fireplaces for Your Home

If you also intend for your fireplace to be functional, then there are certain considerations of which you must be aware. Below are some tips and bits of advice for those considering adding or restoring a fireplace in their homes.

1. Do you have a chimney?

Without a chimney or vent, your fireplace is useless. When considering putting in a fireplace, be sure to have any existing chimney carefully checked for safety and fitness.

Not having a chimney is not the end of the world, though. There are many modern alternatives to a traditional chimney and flue, and most professional fireplace installers can find ways to work those solutions into an antique restoration.

2. What sort of fuel will you burn?

Wood burning fireplaces (often called ‘solid fuel fires’) are what most people envision when they think of a fireplace – but as early as the late 1800s, the landed gentry had begun to convert their fireplaces to natural gas fires. If your intent is to use your fireplace for more than just focal interest, a gas or electric fire may be a better choice than a solid fuel fire. Restoration experts can easily fit gas and electric fires into period fireplace surrounds.

3. What is the style of your room?

Antique fireplaces run the gamut in design from the rustic simplicity of Arts and Crafts design to the ornate carvings and castings of Victorian era surrounds and firebacks. If you’re striving for a true-to-history restoration, then research is your best chum. Your second best is the owner of the local salvage yard who, you’ll find, is a surprising font of knowledge about architectural details and differences.

On the other hand, thee is nothing that says you can only put an antique fireplace into a period home. The delightful drama and whimsy of an Art Deco mantelpiece can be the focal point of an otherwise sterile, ultramodern room, and the fussy detailing of a Victorian fireplace can provide a surprisingly warm and feminine touch to a rustic design. Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles.

4. Keep scale in mind.

More important than style is scale. Pay attention to the proportions of your room. An enormous wall-to-wall surround can easily overpower a small, close room and make it feel overcrowded, while a small, stately Edwardian hearth can be lost in a huge drawing room. Take into account the size of the room, the size of the wall on which the fireplace will be placed, and where other openings in the room are located. All of those things will have a bearing on whether your fireplace looks as if it was grown with the house or tacked on as an afterthought.

5. Follow your heart.

All the advice above notwithstanding, if you fall in love with a fireplace, you can find a way to make it fit. Follow your heart, buy the delicious thing, and then build your room around it.

6. If a full antique fireplace is outside your budget, consider bits and pieces.

One of the most effective ways to give a room a whole new look is to replace the surround on the fireplace. Remember that fireplaces are made of many pieces. The most obvious of these are the surround and the mantelpiece. A professional fireplace fitter can remove your existing fireplace surround and replace it with a style that is more appealing.

Choosing Fireplace Tools

Nothing makes a home feel more warm and cozy than a beautiful fireplace. In the past fireplaces were more of a necessity than an added form of comfort. Most homes relied upon the fireplace as their main source of heat. Although our needs have greatly changed since then, many people enjoy the beauty and warmth that a fireplace can add to their home. Whether you live in a warm or cold climate, a properly decorated fireplace can add to your home’s value. Choosing the right fireplace accessories to decorate with are almost as important as deciding upon the right size fireplace for your home.

Today there are many different types and styles of fireplace accessories on the market to choose from. Two main factors to consider before making a purchase are style and convenience. You will want to buy products that both compliment the design and look of you fireplace but that are also not too difficult to use. It makes little sense to spend hundreds of dollars on items that are for decorative purposes only. To get the most value for your money you will want to only purchase items that both compliment your decor and that are easy to use.

The following list contains a description of some commonly used fireplace tools:

1) Fireplace match holders can be made from a variety of materials including wrought iron, brass, oak, and copper. They come in a wide range of styles and prices. Whether you desire a very simple look or something more ornamental, there are many different types of match holders to choose from. No matter what style you prefer, match holders are both practical and convenient. It can be very frustrating to have to search for your starter matches every time you wish to build a fire. With a match holder, everything you need is ready at hand.

2) Damper pulls are one of the oldest and most commonly used of all fireplace tools. Most often compsed of brass, damper pulls are used to open and close a fireplace damper. A damper pull is usually about a foot in length and contains a hook on the end. The hook is what is used to easily open and close the damper. When your fireplace is not in use, the damper pull can be hung from the wall, mantle, or a fireplace stand.

3) Fireplace grates are probably the most important of all fireplace tools. A properly installed grate offers many advantages such as better protection for the floor of your fireplace. Often times without a grate the floor can become very hot and eventually become damaged. A grate helps to lessen the amount of heat that actually reaches the floor. A fireplace grate also permits the wood to burn better. Since the wood is not touching the floor, the air beneath the burning wood will be a higher temperature allowing the wood to burn more effectively. They can make clean up easier since the grate holds the wood in place and cuts down on the amount of embers that are scattered about the fireplace floor.

4) Fireplace screens add a great deal of charm and beauty to your fireplace. Available in brass, pewter, copper, glass, iron, and chrome, fireplace screens offer both style and added security to your fireplace. A fireplace screen can help to prevent pets from becoming injured and keep hot sparks from damaging the floor area outside of your fireplace.

The right fireplace accessories can make your fireplace look more appealing and make building a fire a more pleasant experience. Good fireplace tools make starting a fire simple and require very little effort. The easier it is to start a fire and maintain your fireplace, the more likely you are to enjoy the warmth and beauty a fireplace has to offer your home.

Fireplace FAQs – 4 Key Areas


What is the difference between direct vent, b vent, totally vented and ventless?

A wood-burning fireplace is totally vented. For a complete explanation of these terms see next.

Can I put a cabinet around direct vent, ventless or b-vent?

Cabinets are boxes that extend about 18″ from the wall. Mantels are wood frames that only extend about 4″ – 6″ from the wall.

* B-vent cannot have a cabinet. A b-vent fireplaces must be installed in the wall, allowing all the piping to be hidden. You may then use a mantel.

* Direct vents can have a cabinet if you vent piping out the back.

* Vent-free can have a cabinet.

Can I use vented gas logs in a stove? …In a fireplace? …In a coal burning fireplace?

Vented gas logs can only be used in a wood-burning fireplace. A coal-burning fireplace is too shallow. Vented gas logs are not recommended for a stove due to safety concerns.

I am remodeling my basement. Should I go with direct vent or vent-free?

Direct vent will give you great looks and a good amount of heat with little moisture. Vent-free will give you lots of heat and good looks but the number one complaint about vent-free is it works too well, or puts off too much heat. If the vent-free is sized correctly to the room, you will not have a problem with heat or moisture.

What is a chase?

A wooden structure built around the vent pipe to protect it from the weather and to keep the flue gases venting properly.

How energy efficient is direct vent compared to b-vent?

A b-vent fireplace is the least efficient venting option and can be vented horizontally or vertically. Direct venting is the most efficient; some are even “heater rated” and can be vented horizontally, vertically or both.

Remote Controls

What does remote ready mean? Does it come with a remote?

Remote ready means that via the remote (wired or wireless) you can turn the unit on and off which requires a millivolt valve that creates millionths of volts of electricity to control the valve. Remote ready units do not come with a remote because there are up to 20 different kinds of remotes.

Can I use my wired wall switch or thermostat with variable high-lo logs or fireplace?

No. You have to use the remote that is designed for the high-lo variable logs or fireplaces.

What is a high-lo valve?

Via the remote, you will be able to raise and lower the height of the flame. The remotes are adjustable as either on off or thermostatically controlled.

Should I buy a remote ready vented logs set?

No. Because you would have to always leave the damper completely open which means you’d lose $.60 of every heating dollar you put into the house. Therefore, when you want to turn it on, you have to open the damper. So most people just turn it on when they are opening the damper and find the remote unnecessary.

Should I buy a remote ready with vent-free gas logs?

Yes. We suggest that you get a thermostatically controlled remote so that you can keep the room at a comfortable temperature and so you can turn the unit on and off. The longest lasting valve and remote are the units that vary the height of the flame.

Conversion Questions

Can I convert my vent-free natural gas product to another fuel?

No. By national code, you cannot convert any vent-free product.

Can I convert my vented propane gas logs to natural, or vice versa?

Yes. You can convert natural to propane and propane to natural, but in most cases, you need to buy a new valve. Your manufacturer can provide conversion instructions.

Piping, Dampers & Flue Questions piping

How much can I close my damper with vented gas logs when in use?

You cannot close your damper at all with vented gas logs while they are burning.

How can I seal my damper with vent-free gas logs?

We would recommend that you close the damper as tight as you can and get a Lock-Top damper that seals at the top of the chimney

With a direct vent insert, do I need to reline the chimney?

No, you do not have to reline to wood burning specifications, but you must use the piping that is recommended by the manufacturer, which fits into the existing chimney.

What are the different kinds of burner pans for vent-free gas logs?

There is sheet metal, black pipe and stainless steel. The advantage of the sheet metal is that it is less expensive. Black pipe is heavier than sheet metal and costs a little more. The disadvantage of both is that they can rust through because they have very little rust protection. Stainless steel costs more, but will not corrode or burn through and it will last a lifetime.

How high above the roof should a chimney extend?

The minimum clearance for wood or b-vent is 3 feet above anything within 10 feet. For direct vent it is 18 inches above anything within 10 feet.

With direct vent or wood burning, what kind of piping do I use?

You must use manufacturer-approved piping.

Can different piping be used if I can’t find the original manufacturer’s?

No. If you use some else’s piping and it creates a problem in your house; i.e., a fire or smoke damage, no insurance company will cover you. You will also void the warranty and inspectors will not approve it.

If brick is cracked can I burn wood?

If the crack is bigger than the tip of a graphite pencil, we do not recommend that you burn wood.


What is the difference between an insert and gas logs?

An insert is usually a large metal box that fits into the opening of a wood-burning fireplace to increase its efficiency and enhance its look. Gas log sets are made to be hooked up to a gas line to simulate the look of wood logs.

What is an insert?

Inserts are designed to enhance the operation and appearance of an existing wood burning fireplace, whether masonry or factory-built. Categorized primarily by the fuel burned for operation (natural gas, propane, EPA certified wood, pellet and coal), a fireplace insert is installed into an existing wood burning fireplace. Fireplace inserts are made from cast iron or steel and have self-cleaning glass doors that allow the dancing flames of the fire to be viewed while the insulated doors remain closed, making the fire more efficient. Many manufacturers also augment the operation of fireplace inserts by offering state-of-the-art features such as fans and thermostatic controls (depending on the fuel).

What is the difference between an insert and a fireplace?

An insert is designed to be placed into an existing masonry or factory built fireplace.

A fireplace is either masonry (not zero clearance) or factory built (zero clearance) unit built for burning wood or gas.

What is zero clearance?

A zero clearance fireplace is a factory-built fireplace that is constructed so that it can be placed, safely, close to combustible material.

What is the difference between natural and propane gas?

Natural gas is a lighter gas and it takes twice as much of it to get the same BTU rating as propane gas. Liquid propane gas contains 2,500 BTU’s per cubic foot, natural gas contains 1000 BTU’s per cubic foot. In addition, natural gas comes into your home through a pipeline from a local supplier. Propane is stored in a tank.

What are the two kinds of gas logs?

The two kinds of logs are vented and vent-free. Within these two types, there are three kinds of materials used to create the logs: molded refractory cement, extruded ceramic clay and molded ceramic fibers. In addition to the logs, each log set generally includes a grate and a burner system.

Cement logs are best on vented units. Extruded logs are cheaper but look like spaghetti. Molded ceramic are more realistic and are best for vent-free.

Antique Fireplace

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.