Tips for Designing a Comfortable Hearth

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for Direct from the Designers™

When winter rolls in and you find yourself looking to get cozy inside, there’s no better place to settle down than by a fire. Whether you like to design for the holidays or just want to be prepared for the coldest months of the year, you should take some time to optimize the experience that your hearth has to offer you. A lot goes into crafting the perfect hearth, so here are some different areas to consider to help make yours extraordinary.

Heat & Glo Cerona Gas Fireplace

The Cerona Gas Fireplace from Heat & Glo® flaunts an old-fashioned, rustic design with modern operation and multiple finishing options to suit different interiors.

A Fitting Fireplace

If you’re in the market for a new fireplace, you’ll find plenty of options whether you're shopping for an existing home or for new house plans that feature one or more fireplaces. Old-fashioned wood-burning types are still around, but using gas as fuel is increasingly popular and plug-in electric models make it easy to create a hearth where there wasn’t one before. And while we automatically imagine fireplaces as rustic installments, they are available in every style right up to the most contemporary. It is possible to give every home a matching hearth nowadays, so explore the possibilities.

It might be that your home or house plan doesn’t include a spot for a fireplace at all, but that still doesn’t preclude you from having one! Make a hearth with a wood- or gas-burning stove wherever you can safely install it. Electric models are amazingly flexible—they can be wall mounted or even totally portable with all sorts of housings. And they give you the chance to change flame color and brightness as well as adjust how much heat they give off, making them perfect for year-round use. There’s a lot out there to work with!

Eldorado Stone Stacked Stone

A crisp and modern atmosphere is achieved in this great room with Stacked Stone from Eldorado Stone. The light color works with the expansive window design around it to maintain a natural and neutral vibe.

A Suitable Surround

Unless you opt for a stove-style appliance, any kind of fireplace you choose can be augmented with a surround. Some people prefer to use pilasters and a crosshead to build a formal mantel, which is great when you like to decorate around the fire, but many others like to use stone instead, which can be employed to impart any number of personalities to the space thanks to the wide variety of shapes and colors available. Ask yourself if elegance or rustic appeal is your goal; the relative simplicity of a mantel makes it a sophisticated choice, while any type of stone is more rustic, although to varying degrees. You can also forgo the pilasters entirely and let the mantel shelf float above the fireplace, and in this case, it’s easy to use in conjunction with a stone wall so you get a good old-fashioned look and the ability to dress it up!

Lamps Plus Augusta 42" Wide Rustic Bronze Chandelier

The Augusta 42” Wide Rustic Bronze Chandelier from Lamps Plus® is designed to mimic the look of a traditional candle-lit fixture, so it helps produce a particularly homey atmosphere.

Supplemental Lighting

The fireplace gives off an inviting glow, and your other lighting decisions can build on that or detract from it. What you want to do will vary based on taste and the structure of the room—it’s easy to install mood lighting somewhere tucked away from the action, but a bright, spacious great room with large windows is better suited to light design that works with its characteristics.

Lighting around a hearth can be tackled in three main ways: sconces above or around the mantel, a hanging fixture over a coffee table, and lamps. What you should choose depends on your ultimate goal. A chandelier is good in a big shared space that you might fill with guests, while sconces help keep focus on the fire in more intimate settings. Think about lamps and their placement if you intend to get tasks done. In any case, a dimmer switch can help you transform the hearth as needed through the day and year so you can always enjoy the best it has to offer. Bali DiamondCell Blackout Cellular Shades

Bali DiamondCell Blackout Cellular Shades from perform double duty—not only do they block natural light to darken the interior, but they also provide insulation to keep you feeling cozy.

Window Treatments with Purpose

Most of the time, blinds and curtains are installed for the sole reason of limiting how much natural light enters a room. This is an important function, but you might find yourself wanting more during the colder months. Opt for heavier drapes and cellular blinds to provide better insulation and reduce those pesky winter drafts around the windows. These will help keep the hearth toasty and especially inviting when you come in from outside, and of course they’ll increase household efficiency to save on money that you use to heat your home, too! Window treatments probably aren’t at the forefront of your thoughts when you think about your hearth or when shopping for house blueprints, but the right ones can make a huge difference in how you’re able to enjoy your space.

Crate and Barrel 10' LED Birch Garland

Dress up the mantel or another point of interest with a 10’ LED Birch Garland from Crate and Barrel, which combines the look of nature with modern illumination for a whimsical accent piece that is perfect for the holidays.

Pretty and Practical Decorations

The busiest season for the hearth is winter, when people from all over the world celebrate some of their most significant family holidays, so it’s no wonder that gathering around a fire stirs up nostalgic feelings. Iconic images that come to mind typically include furnishings that pay tribute to the season, but you can also focus on functionality to simply optimize the space for your own comfort. Either way, people who are naturally drawn to the hearth will have something extra to appreciate.

Consider adding touches that bring the beautiful aspects of the great outdoors inside for you to enjoy at your leisure. Wreaths hang beautifully above a fireplace, or you can drape a garland over the mantel. Pine cones, acorns, cranberries, and branches of holly, birch, and broadleaf stems with fall colors can be picked up outside or at a craft store in their preserved and faux forms, and they look great when placed into centerpiece bowls and vases. A number of holidays share similar colors that look good together—gold, silver, and white are fairly universal, and they work well with red and green as well as blue—so it’s not difficult to find natural elements that pair well with any traditional pieces you might want to display at the same time.

Finally, the hearth is meant to be a cozy place to unwind. Try to keep anything that would help you kick back and relax close at hand. Throws in a range of colors and patterns provide a festive touch on your furniture, and they automatically transition to practical blankets when you need them. And while it might not be as crucial, a candy bowl is a great addition, too. Think about what else you might like to have around—anything from a stack of books you want to read to something to help store, organize, and display greeting cards could be the finishing touch that makes the perfect atmosphere for you to enjoy.

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