The Key to Transforming Your House Into a Castle: The Ultimate Guide to Fireplace Decor
- Tips For Transforming Your Mantel into Livingroom Art
- What is a Fireplace Mantel?
- Fireplace Safety
- Restoring or Refurbishing Your Fireplace Mantel
- Hiring a Contractor Vs. Doing it Yourself
- Pros and Cons of Hiring a Contractor
- Pros and Cons of Doing it Yourself
- Styling the Mantel Shelf
- The Mantel Shelf Arrangement
- Holiday Decorations
- The Fireplace is the Heart of the Castle
Tips For Transforming Your Mantel into Livingroom Art
It's been said that the problem with today's society is that nobody drinks from the skulls of their enemies anymore. This is probably due to the fact that most people don't have a central fireplace to lounge around and hoist their ale brimming skull cups.
Back before there was television, people sat around in their living rooms and watched the fire greedily consume all the fuel that was thrown upon it. There were no cable bills, and no mention of the Kardashians, it was a glorious age.
These days people sit in climate conditioned rooms and stare at artificial screens rather than interact with each other. Many of the fireplaces of old have been sealed up, dismissed as a relic of another time.
That is a trend that must be reversed!
A fireplace is the kind of feature that adds tremendous value to any home. With the slip-shod construction of most modern furnaces, you'd be lucky to get one that lasts you five years before it fails, only to drop your house into an expensive deep freeze that bursts all your water pipes.
The plumbers and the furnace people are in league together. Their skulls adorn my mantel.
With a functional fireplace, you never have to worry about the decaying infrastructure of a diseased and dying society. All you need is wood to transform your house into a raging sauna. You control your destiny; you may use your strength to hew your existence from the formidable wilds.
Whether you are in the market for a house, or you are looking to improve your current residence, it is time to draw your attention to the potential glory of your fireplace mantel.
This article will help you unlock the raw beauty of the mantels of old, and perhaps you'll be inspired to toss that 65-inch television upon the grate and roar with laughter as it is consumed by flame.
Congratulations, you have expelled all images of the Kardashians from your house for good.
What is a Fireplace Mantel?
A fireplace mantel is the hood that extends over your fireplace to catch the smoke and direct it out of your house. The word mantel can refer to the whole hood, or can specifically reference the mantel shelf.
A raging fire has traditionally been a gathering place for the human animal, and there's a certain raw energy that is produced by staring for long hours into a fire.
If you live in a cold climate where the cost of your central heating is controlled by an evil corporate overlord, you are probably forced to endure the winter at a house temperature around fifty-seven degrees (or face bankruptcy).
A central fireplace, however, is capable of massive temperature outputs, and there's nothing better than curling up on a bearskin rug to bathe in the heat of burning wood.
All animals drift to the warmest place in their living environment. You even see cows or horses huddled together in fields in dips that protect them from the wind. Because of this tendency, the fireplace mantel will naturally draw your family to gather around it.
The attraction of the heat makes the mantelshelf the most revered space in your entire home. The shelf above the raging fire becomes something of an altar, and your ability to seize upon the natural prominence of that space will greatly contribute to your home enjoyment.
Modern homes hide their furnaces in the basement as if they are ashamed of them, but a living room fireplace literally allows you to stare into the raging inferno that brings heat into your home.
A fireplace is beautiful, but it also performs a vital function, and it is a serious piece of equipment. Treat your fireplace with the same respect that you treat your basement furnace and have it regularly examined by a professional.
Dangers that can be caused by a fireplace are:
- Popping embers
- Creosote buildup
- Smoke build-up
When wood burns, it sometimes pops, sending flaming embers a great distance from the fire itself. This is great when camping as nothing is funnier than when a friend catches an ember on his leg and goes sprinting and howling into the wilderness.
However, in your home, the embers are potentially launched onto your floor, walls, or furniture. In a best-case scenario, you are left with little scorch marks on your cushions. The worst-case scenario is something of a disaster.
If you have a beautiful polyurethane finished floor, a popping ember could potentially turn your house into a raging wall of fire. If that happens, try to grab your insurance policy and a bag of marshmallows on your way out because there's not a whole lot you can do.
Popping embers is the reason it's vitally important to have a screen in front of your fire. The screen blocks the embers and greatly reduces the chance of you and your whole family getting burned to death.
Sure, it's a minor inconvenience to move the screen when adding wood, but it's less inconvenient than skin grafts.
In addition to a screen, it's good to install a tiled, fire-resistant space in front of your fireplace. The space a few feet in front of your mantel is the area most subject to be scorched by embers.
Creosote is the mix of tar and ash that is left over when wood burns. As smoke goes up through your chimney, this stuff is allowed to collect over time. When a significant amount of creosote has built up in your chimney, you risk having a chimney fire.
Chimney fires can be catastrophic to your house and result in severe structural damage, or the complete loss of the home. If your fireplace is in regular use, have your chimney cleaned at least once a year.
If your chimney isn't venting properly, it can lead to excess smoke being expelled into your living room. It is not good for you to breathe this smoke, so make sure that the ventilation system for your chimney is properly installed and in good working order.
A raging fire consumes a lot of air, and if you have a fire in your fireplace, it might begin to pull the air from the rest of your house to feed itself. If that air is drawn in through the ventilation systems of your gas or oil burning furnace, you might be bringing Carbon Monoxide into the house.
For this reason, it's important to have Carbon Monoxide detectors throughout your house. Also, if you're restoring a fireplace that has not been in use for a while, make sure the inspector notes the compatibility of your fireplace and your existing, modern furnace.
Restoring or Refurbishing Your Fireplace Mantel
Now that we've established that you have a safe and functional fireplace, you may begin to consider ways to give your fireplace mantel a major facelift. As long as you don't interfere with any of the ventilation components of your fireplace, you can safely tile it.
There are a huge variety of tiles available with which you can restore your fireplace. Restoring a fireplace is a fairly large project, and you should make sure in advance that you pick a style that will fit your preference for the room's final decor.
Virtually any large home improvement store will have a huge selection of tiles to go and choose from to refurbish your fireplace mantel. In addition to tiles that are available in stock at the store, most places will have access to special order tiles.
The experts at the store will assist you in recommending the perfect styles that will help bring your fireplace mantel design to life. Here is a very brief overview of the tile types that are available:
- Stacked Stone
- Round Stone
- Colored Tile
A stacked stone look is very popular because it goes with virtually any room decor. The fireplace looks like it's made of flat stones that were stacked upon each other giving a unique and interesting appearance.
The various angles and random shapes and colors of a stacked stone fireplace is a very nice compliment to the dancing colors of a raging fire.
The round stone look may be achieved in a variety of ways. You might use artificial stones with a flat side, or tiles which are composed of small stones glued to a mesh backing. If you've got a limitless amount of time, you could simply go and collect river rocks.
Round stone achieves a rustic settler look.
The smooth edges of a round stone fireplace are absolutely beautiful and soothing to look at. Once again, a round stone fireplace becomes a kind of universal room component that matches virtually any decor.
Colored Flat Tile
For a bit more of a modern look, you might want to consider colored flat tile. The options for colored flat tile are limitless, and there are additional style choices you can make by putting in tile patterns.
Colored flat tiles allow you to create a more subtle, sleek fireplace that doesn't dominate the room in quite the same fashion as the stone tile options.
Nothing quite says elegance like marble, and there are a lot of ways to achieve a marble fireplace look. It can be done with tile, or with a custom designed fireplace facade that is built to order to accentuate your space.
Marble is beautiful to look at, but it will probably prove to be costlier than the other options mentioned.
Hiring a Contractor Vs. Doing it Yourself
Tiling a fireplace isn't rocket science, but it is one of those jobs that has the potential to be a major disaster if you don't know what you're doing. Remember that your fireplace is essentially the heart of your home, and if you make a mistake, it will be in the most glaringly obvious place.
The good news is that tiling is the type of job that you become an expert at after about a day's work. If you have never tiled before, you don't have to cross off the option.
Tiling involves working with quick set, and once you mix up your mud, the clock begins to tick. If you don't correctly place your tiles before the mix hardens, the only way to remove them is with a hammer and chisel.
By watching a few YouTube videos, you should be able to learn the process for tiling. However, it's recommended that you do a practice run on something other than your fireplace mantel before you begin your major project.
It's worth spending a hundred dollars to tile up the dog house or something and make your mistakes there, instead of jumping right into the main project and making mistakes that you'll have to look at every single day. But if you're confident, then, by all means, go for it.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Contractor
Sometimes hiring a contractor means you're basically adopting a stranger to come and live with you for a few months. Also, there's never any guarantee that the contractor will do good work, and you might be stuck with an expensive, slip-shod job.
However, if you get lucky, or you do the proper research and find the right individual, hiring a contractor can be a great way to get a beautiful, high-quality fireplace.
If you're the type of person who can't hang a picture without smashing all of your fingers and both of your thumbs with the hammer, don't quit your day job as a neurosurgeon, and go ahead and hire that contractor.
Pros and Cons of Doing it Yourself
There is a tremendous satisfaction to be gained from doing a home improvement project. The cost of skilled labor is so high that you can basically buy the materials four or five times for the cost of hiring a pro to do the job.
Doing a prep job is a great way to make the final decision as to whether you want to take on the fireplace facelift project. Go tile the entryway to the laundry room or something and see how that goes. If it seems easy and you gain confidence, do the fireplace. If not, dial up a contractor.
Styling the Mantel Shelf
Once the fireplace has been rejuvenated, you now have to consider the central piece: the mantel shelf. The mantel shelf will be the focal point of the fireplace room, so carefully consider the placement of items on the shelf and how they interact with whatever is hung on the chimney behind them.
Just as there were many options for the look of the fireplace mantel, there are many options for the look of the mantel shelf. These looks include
- Rustic Wood
- Stainless Steel
The rustic wood mantel is another universal mantel that fits well with any decor. The beautiful wood grains are a perfect compliment to stone fireplaces.
Rustic wood mantels come in all shapes, sizes, and thickness and create a great baseline for mantel place decoration.
A stainless steel mantel provides a great option for more of a modern look. Again, there are many thickness options which can help to create the overall effect you desire.
Before selecting your mantel, it is good to try a variety of options in a virtual design program. Sometimes a mantel that appears unattractive out of context in a catalog transforms into something absolutely stunning when you affix it to your fireplace.
The universal material of elegance, a marble mantel provides a splash of class to any fireplace. A marble mantel is the perfect finish to a marble fireplace, but it also looks fantastic on tile or stone.
There can be some complexities in affixing a marble mantel. Due to the cost of the item, installation of your marble mantel might better be left to a professional.
Affixing the Mantel Shelf
Some mantel shelves are easy and simply sit on legs that are placed on either side of the fireplace. With this model, the legs are affixed to the wall with stone adhesive, and then the mantel is set on top of them and also affixed.
A mantel shelf that sits on legs is very sturdy and can hold a tremendous amount of weight.
Floating mantel shelves are affixed to the walls by drilling holes with a masonry bit. Once the holes have been drilled you insert lag bolts which extend outward and will be inserted into holes drilled in the mantel shelf.
Take note that a floating mantel shelf is very strong, but it will not withstand the weight that can be supported by a mantel shelf that is resting on legs. You don't want a mantel shelf that comes clattering to the ground the second somebody leans on it, so don't overload it.
The Mantel Shelf Arrangement
After all of the other work you've done to rejuvenate your fireplace decor, the mantel shelf arrangement will be a piece of cake. This is an external feature, so you can arrange and rearrange the decorations with ease.
Keep in mind, however, that the mantel shelf sits above the fire and is, therefore, an area of extreme temperature fluctuation. You often see oil paintings hung over fireplace mantels, but the heat and dry air is not a good environment to ensure the life of an expensive painting.
Mirrors make for a classic and interesting backdrop. Or perhaps you can hang the practice tile pattern you did in preparation for the fireplace tiling project.
Plants are a nice option for a mantel shelf because they add a splash of appealing color to the overall scheme. However, the heat fluctuations might again prove to be detrimental to the life of the plants.
There's always the old favorite: hang your high powered firearms over the mantel.
Options for mantel shelf decorations include:
- Framed pictures
- Antique Clock
- Rusted antiques
Please, just don't put a television up there. You've done far too much work to make this awesome fireplace, and now you're going to ruin it by covering it up with an artificial box that only shows pictures of Kim Kardashian? Also, the heat just isn't good for a TV over time.
Symmetrical Vs. Non-Symmetrical Arrangements
When planning out your mantel space, keep in mind various geometric arrangements. It can be convenient to give yourself a guideline of an imaginary shape and then place your items to outline the form of that shape.
In Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing of the 'Vitruvian Man,' you can see that the image of the man is set in a square that has a backdrop of a circle. Allow yourself invisible guidelines such as squares, circles, triangles, or rectangles to guide the placement of your mantel shelf objects.
Some individuals prefer a perfectly symmetrical mantel shelf arrangement where every item that is placed on the left has a matching object on the right. A symmetrical arrangement is part of a classical style and is pleasing to the eye.
A nonsymmetrical arrangement plays with the concept of randomness, but might also be indicative of a less subtle pattern. For example, you might wish to experiment with an ascending type display with smaller objects gradually increasing in size from left to right.
There are literally infinite choices for your mantel shelf display. Consider the overall look of your room along with the fireplace, and don't be afraid to change up the arrangements.
As the leisure time gathering point of your house, the mantel is a great place for making festive declarations to celebrate various upcoming holidays. There's a reason we have the Christmas tradition of hanging stockings from the fireplace mantel.
Stringing lights for Christmas around the mantel is a fantastic way to add to your holiday cheer. You might wish to do a rabbit theme for easter, or a harvest arrangement to celebrate autumn.
It can be very rewarding to make artistic changes to your mantel shelf decor to help you set your mind to upcoming tasks and events. Rather than leaving a simple mark on a calendar to designate an imminent trip, why not create an artistic reminder out of found items on your fireplace mantel?
Your fireplace is the center of your home, and you have permission to change it to reflect your current mood or the mood of the season around you. Engaging with your fireplace mantel is a great form of personal expression, and it can help you relax and prepare your mind for the challenges ahead.
The Fireplace is the Heart of the Castle
Sitting around and watching a fire with friends and family activates a primordial circuit in our mind that is both relaxing and rewarding. Modern life is filled with absurd stress and manic frenzy, but pouring yourself and watching a fire crackle banishes all that artificial stress to oblivion.
It has become fashionable to abandon the hearth in favor of other pursuits, but none of the replacements provide nearly the comfort and satisfaction of a well-considered fireplace decor.
If you have an old fireplace in your home that you only use to drop off your wallet and keys on the way to bed, I suggest you pause and take a few moments to consider how you might better utilize that space.
It could be that your fireplace is the key to nourishing a deeply rooted hunger that's been growing inside you without your knowledge. Don't think of it as a fireplace mantel, think of it as the trophy case for all the conquests of your life.