Cozy up next to your fireplace

The warmth of a fire, the scent of wood smoke and the crackling of logs - what is more appealing on a wintry day?

The fireplace is truly an essential core of every home. We dress up the mantel with prized possessions and pose for family photos in front of them.

The decorative aspects of a fireplace's stunning mantel give a fireplace substance and style. No fireplace is complete without a few accessories and tools such as screens, grates, bellows, brooms and andirons.

Mitchell Spann, manager of Wilshire Fireplace Shop in Encinitas, said, "I really feel that andirons are not utilized nearly as much as they should be in dressing up a fireplace."

Andirons are made out of a variety of metals, and can range from cast brass or bronze for a very refined look, to wrought iron for more of a country feel. They can be very sleek for a modern look, to whimsical in appearance for that distinctive fireplace.

"We really try to emphasize that the fireplace screen should be the picture frame and the andirons the picture or focal point of the fireplace," Spann said. "Remember, you spent a lot of time and money to decorate a room, the fireplace deserves the same consideration.

A fireplace surround can be a great starting point for the overall interior design scheme in a room. There are a number of materials used for surrounds that create different looks. For example, cut stone has a refined yet rustic style, whereas red brick is a traditional favorite. A wood panelled surround is perfect for a library, den or office, and can be painted or stained. Granite and slate are often used in elegant, contemporary homes today. Natural stones, such as river rock, are well suited for country, rustic or casual interiors.

The mantel on a fireplace serves as both an architectural element and as a focal point. It can be elaborate with hand-carved details or very simple and sleek.

Mantels can create a statement. Add personality to your fireplace by displaying interesting pieces such as a pair of Chinese jars, antique matching candlesticks or a pair of lush topiaries in a symmetrical arrangement on your mantel. This kind of arranging reinforces a classic style.

Many top designers today are having fun mixing it up when decorating the mantel with asymmetrical or 3-D arrangements. When hanging art above a mantel, it is important to consider size. The width of the frame should be two-thirds the width of the mantel. If a picture is too small for the wall above the mantel, it will look insignificant.

Fireplaces are seen more often today not only in rooms where people gather, such as living and family rooms, but in dining rooms and master bedrooms.

And the new fabricated inserts with alternative fuels provide a quick, easy, no mess design. Some fireplaces today come with remote control switches that offer such decadence as turning on the fire as you slip into the bathtub. What could be more pampering?

Penelope's Style Tips

  • Paint the interior of your fireplace with black heat paint to enhance the glow of the fire.
  • Paint or stain your wood mantel to match or accent your fireplace.
  • Balance your accessories such as having a set of stunning fireplace tools at one end and a handsome wood holder at the other.
  • Scale hanging framed art over the mantel about two-thirds of the width of the mantel.
  • Hang a framed mirror above the mantel to reflect a fresh floral arrangement.
   
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