With the holidays and winter weather approaching, you may be starting to eye your fireplace. While the warmth and crackle are perennial, a fireplace can take different forms and play a big part in the overall design of the room. Here, seven transitional-style living rooms offer different takes on this classic focal point.
1. Concrete and Wood
Designer: Cindy Eyl of Jefferson Street Designs
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Homeowners’ request. “There was a terrible peach-and-brown faux stacked stone on the fireplace that drew attention to it in a negative way,” designer Cindy Eyl says. “We wanted to keep the room fairly neutral but add a lot of interesting textures.”
Fireplace. A concrete fireplace chase with a wood mantel updated the room. “We originally wanted a piece of art over the fireplace, but when it was finished, we felt it looked better keeping that negative space and letting the fireplace shine,” Eyl says. “There are no accessories on the fireplace, but we did add a lot of art, plants and custom pillows to the rest of the room.”
Other special features. “Lots of texture,” Eyl says. She added it through linen Roman shades, a jute rug and a walnut console, among other things.
“Uh-oh” moment. “Adding concrete to this fireplace was not easy,” Eyl says. “Luckily, I had a trusted mason who was able to make it work. I wanted the fireplace to have texture and look like concrete, but at one point it looked too textured and busy. He worked with us to redo pieces to make it more subtle.”
Designer: Meredith Lamme and team at Tribe Design Group
Location: Austin, Texas
Room size: 520 square feet (48 square feet); 20 by 26 feet
Homeowners’ request. Update their home with contemporary pieces without straying too far from the traditional style of the home.
Fireplace. Natural bluff limestone surround and mantel. “This is the central family room, so they wanted a TV to hang above the fireplace,” designer Meredith Lamme says. “When a TV is hung above a fireplace, we don’t like to overwhelm it with accessories, so here we used a simple driftwood-and-succulent piece we had custom made for the project.”
Other special features. The walls are all painted in Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee. The drapes are custom made out of white linen with a dark blue trim. The ottoman and sisal rug are also custom.
Designer tip. “Originally the sofa was facing the fireplace, but we turned it to face the chairs,” Lamme says. “It really opened up the space and made it feel bigger.”
3. Painted Brick and Millwork
Designer: Brooke Cole
Location: Waxhaw, North Carolina
Room size: 325 square feet (30 square meters)
Homeowners’ request. A casual, chic, pet- and kid-friendly space in which to relax, drink coffee and unwind from the day.
Fireplace. The fireplace surround is a mix of brick and millwork. “When we updated the paint colors for the whole house, we painted the brick the same color as the millwork to reduce the visual busyness of the brick, which allowed for the artwork on the mantel to sing,” designer Brooke Cole says.
Other special features. Cole replaced warped cabinet doors with new doors featuring decorative hardware in the center. She also lined the back of the bookshelves in metallic cork wallpaper for visual interest. “We kept the accessories on the bookshelves colorful, chic and simple to act as a supporting role to the fabulous artwork on the mantel,” Cole says.
Designer tip. “Great lighting will always level up a space, so I think it is important to invest in the best lighting for your budget and make sure it is the right scale for a room,” Cole says. “Lighting doesn’t get the wear and tear from living with pets and children that rugs and furnishings do, so it is a great place to invest.”
Designer: Shannon Crain
Homeowners’ request. “Our client wanted something that would age well with little ones but still be a sophisticated space for them to entertain others,” designer Shannon Crain says.
Fireplace. Crain and her client wanted cleaner lines on a fireplace that had already been chosen by the builder, so her team created drawings that Segreto Finishes used to create a plaster mantel and hearth addition. “It’s now a piece of architectural artwork as the focus of the family room,” she says.
Other special features. Crain used samples provided by Segreto Finishes to create a custom paint color based on a mix of Farrow & Ball’s Shaded Light and several Benjamin Moore colors to match the walls to the hearth and mantel. The blue-gray armchairs and sofa are custom. The mirrors and chests flanking the fireplace are antiques. The artwork over the fireplace is a commissioned piece by Holly Addi.
5. Warm Brick Surround and Painted Mantel
Designer: Lauren Hockema of K&L Interiors
Room size: 190 square feet (18 square meters)
Homeowners’ request. A cozy formal living space for lounging and gathering with friends and family.
Fireplace. The warm brick surround and painted white mantel were existing, and the homeowners wanted to keep them as is and design the room around the fireplace. “The soft grays and creams in the decor play nicely against the brick color, and the mantel is minimally styled,” designer Lauren Hockema says. “This allows it to stand out and feel like an intentional part of the space.”
Other special features. “Although the room is mostly monochromatic, we incorporated a variety of textures, like [in the] velvet chairs, marble-topped coffee table and linen sofa, to make it dynamic and give it character,” Hockema says.
Designer tip. “Keeping the decor neutral against the red brick fireplace adds an element of contrast and makes the fireplace a focal point,” Hockema says. “The focal point is where the eye gravitates, and the softer neutral finishes recede to make the design feel balanced.”
Designers: Treffle LaFleche and Tony Filardo (architecture) and Erin Tracey and Nichole Bake (interior design); all four are with LDa Architecture & Interiors
Location: Weston, Massachusetts
Room size: 420 square feet (39 square meters); 20 by 21 feet
Homeowners’ request. “This room is part of a larger whole-house renovation and addition to an 1897 home in the Boston suburbs,” designer Erin Tracey says. “The owner wished to modernize all the home’s systems and achieve LEED certification, while blending traditional design elements and contemporary touches.”
Fireplace. “The fireplace design captures the blend of traditional and modern that the owner was looking for with its formal position and trim detailing, contrasted with a floating mantel made from reclaimed lumber, and a modern stone surround,” Tracey says. “The fireplace’s gas firebox was deliberately set down at floor level, atypical for gas, to mimic the look of a traditional wood-burning fireplace and hearth. The mantel styling is kept simple, with monochromatic art and a hint of nature.”
Other special features. “The materials palette in this room is meant to showcase the wooded setting and the age of the home,” Tracey says. “The pale white oak wood floors, creamy white paint and soft gray barn door are layered with black accents and reclaimed-lumber beams. These features and the more transitional furniture pieces and accessories create a quiet yet sophisticated feeling of comfort.”
Designer tip. “Black can be an intimidating color, feared for being too dark and dramatic,” Tracey says. “However, used as an accent, black adds balance and contrast to neutrals, creating a much more rich and nuanced color palette. Look for opportunities to add a few hints, maybe in furniture legs, lighting or accessories.”
“Uh-oh” moment. “During the final stages of construction, our paint contractor mistakenly painted the window rails and muntins white instead of the planned black,” Tracey says. “Liking the white, our client was hesitant to have them painted black and wanted to leave them as is with the ‘safer’ color. With some gentle but persistent coaxing, we were able to convince the client to move forward with the black, a key element of the overall design.”
Designer: Kate Van Sluyter of Kimball Modern Design + Interiors
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Room size: 299 square feet (28 square meters); 13 by 23 feet
Homeowners’ request. A warm and cozy space in which their family of five could watch movies and enjoy the fire. “The room is long and narrow, so we taped off different furniture layouts on the floor and measured clearances to make sure we maximized seating without pinching circulation space,” designer Kate Van Sluyter says.
Fireplace. The fireplace surround is concrete-look porcelain tile, and the mantel is steel. “To warm up the space, we added reclaimed barn wood to the walls above the built-ins,” Van Sluyter says. “The white floating shelves pop against the dark wood and are a place for the family to display items that are personal to them.”
Other special features. Graphic patterned rug on European white oak flooring. The wall paint is Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore.
Designer tip. “The way the warm and cool materials play off of each other adds interest and texture to the space,” Van Sluyter says. “The white of the cabinets and shelves contrasted with the dark wood adds dimension and creates an eye-catching focal wall.”
“Uh-oh” moment. “The original fireplace was very dated and off to the left, because the original furniture layout of the room was flipped,” Van Sluyter says. “When the fireplace was removed in the winter, it started snowing in the house, and the client wondered if they should have just left it and covered over it with new materials. Fortunately we were able to create an interesting design that gave them their modern fireplace, TV for movies and storage for games.”