Even If Unused, Fireplace Still Commands the Focus

Sometimes I visit a client's home and discover that the furniture has been placed in such a manner as to completely ignore the fireplace. In olden days, the fireplace was the hub of the room for utilitarian purposes, such as the source for warmth, light and food.

But times have changed. But not when it comes to decorating, because the fireplace, whether it is used or not, is still one of the most dominant architectural features in a room, therefore it is important to include it in your decorating plans. It deserves special attention if for no other reason than that is typically is the focal point.

The first point to remember, is that when decorating a fireplace, there are two distinct areas you must typically address: 1) the mantel and 2) the space above the mantel.

Before you begin, study the other furnishings in the room, the overall style, the color palette. The style in the room may have a direct bearing on what accessories you choose. Your accessories should coordinate with the style and colors of the room.

While it is rather traditional to put a large work of art above the mantel, one must pay attention to scale. Hang your art or mirror, whatever the case may be, or consider just propping it against the wall (but not if you have earthquakes). If you have a soaring two-story ceiling in a great room, for instance, the challenge comes from trying to decorate a space above the mantel that might be 15 feet high.

Large Screen TV

It used to be that large, giant screen TVs were too expensive for the average homeowner to have, but not any more. So make way for new ideas on where and how to place them. One place just might be above the mantel. But if you go this route, try to make it appear to be "built in" or at the least blend with the style of the room. Large screen TVs can and will draw a lot of attention to themselves, like a mirror, so plan well for the best results.

Consider a Wall Grouping

While you can find large artwork, it can be very pricey to get the size you need, not to mention hard to find something in the right format, size, style, composition and color. So you might consider a grouping for this area instead.

A grouping of smaller images works nicely for this case. To bring more unity into the grouping, pick something that remains a constant: same color, same frame and mat, same theme. I'm a big proponent on groupings and grouping "likes kinds together". For training on this subject, consider getting my book on wall grouping design called, Where There's a Wall - There's a Way. It will teach you just about everything you ever wanted to know about designing breathtaking wall groupings and placing them around your home effectively.

Create groupings with: textiles, tapestries, quilts, a collection of small mirrors, small artwork, old windows or shutters, pretty plates and platters, a collection of knives and swords, a collection of decorative fans, a collection of clocks. It doesn't matter if they are old or new, they will add texture, interest and color to your room.

Take Time to Plan Ahead

Wall groupings can be tricky and precise, so take time to design how you're going to display the various elements. Devise a plan.

Lay out each piece on the floor in front of the fireplace that is approximately the same size, format and shape as the area above the mantel. Place the larger elements toward the bottom to visually support the higher elements. Experiment. Look for balance.

Once you're satisfied, make a sketch, noting placement, the space between items and so forth. Or place all of the items in their place on a large piece of paper or taped newspaper. Draw around each item, making sure it is level with the other items. Use the paper as a template.

Choose the appropriate hangers depending on the weight of each item. Remember that some hooks have a drop down feature and are not suitable for items that are to be hung with saw-tooth hangers. Don't place the entire grouping too far above the mantel. You want it to be viewed as part of a larger grouping that includes not only the mantel and accessories on the mantel, but the hearth of the fireplace and any plants or utilitarian fireplace sets.

Don't let the mantel accessories compete for attention with the grouping. Let them be supportive, but not fight for attention.

Good choices for the mantel include candles, candlesticks, vases, greenery, figurines. Vary the size and scale of the objects you select, but keep the color palette in keeping with the grouping and the rest of the room.

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Barbara Jennings is a well known author and interior decorator in Southern California. She is also a published artist. She teaches rearrangement design and how to do it as a home based business. Visit her website at Decorate-Redecorate.Com. Used by permission.

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