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Friday, December 24, 2010

Fireplace Decorating that is Hot! HoT! HOT!!

<-----Fireplace before Redesign

Fireplace after Redesign ------->

As I sit here writing this it is pouring outside. The sky is brooding, cold and dark. Nestled in front of a blazing fire, in a snuggly chiar with a hot cup of cocoa, I am warm and toasty. My feet are propped up on a raised flagstone hearth of a fireplace that my Dad, Ted Chancellor, built years ago at his "Beach House."

Fireplaces set the scene for good times. This one is special to me. It hold an abundance of memories-- of family gatherings, of quiet times with good books and fireside chats with old friends. There was even one winter weekend when my Mom and her grown daughters spent time together in front of a warm fire reading "The Auctioneer" aloud-- as we each knitted sweaters.

The fireplace is, or surely should be the focal point of the room that houses it!
One of Cozy Chic's most popular decorating services is the "Redesign Appointment -- where we reposition the furniture and accessories famlies already own to transform their space with style." As we do this, we find that the fireplace area of the home usually needs some help to become the attention-worthy focal point it was meant to be. How easy it is for a couple of framed family photos placed on the mantel, to become a collection too crowded to be enjoyed. This happens because those cute kids keep getting older, events keep happening, photos keep getting taken -- and what better place to display them than the unused flat surface of the mantel! Before long, it is "hard to see the forest for this trees!" This is where we apply one of our tried and true decorating principles-- "Less is Best!"

In Redesign, we use solid decorating principles to achieve a coordinated look that flows together well. When considering the area of the fireplace we look at all of the parts--the hearth, the mantel, the firebox and the wall above--as a single unit. Then we view it as a part of the whole room to create a harmonious, beautiful "big Picture."

Decorating Principles

1. BalancE

In decorating, "Balance" refers to equal distribution of "visual weight." An object may be "featherweight" but if it is large, tall, bulky or just looks like it would be heavy, it carries "visual weight." The "visual weight" of accesssories needs to be taken into account as they are placed in the home. To achieve a comfortable look, "heavy" objects can be offset by balancing them with other "heavy" objects or with multiple smaller ones. You don't want, for instance, all of the heavy looking items to be placed on just one side of the mantel or the hearth or the wall.

In this "after the redesign" photo, the "visual weight" of the vase and flowers on the right of the mantel is balanced by the candlesticks to the left of the fireplace.


While variety is the spice of life, in order to achieve a comfortable "go-together look" or "flow," objects that are displayed together need to have a common denominator. The unifying factor could be a decorating theme, a repetitive color, or a common material. Stand back and look at the fireplace, the mantel and the hearth all as one piece--then think about how you can not only bring unity to the fireplace setting, but also unite that setting with the rest of the room. Color is one of the easiest unifying factors. Our "after" shot carries a punch of orange in the orbs on the mantel, the candles on the hearth and the flowers in the pictures.

3. Scale

Scale refers to proportion. A large fireplace with a massive hearth and mantel would best be coordinated by using a large piece of art on the wall and placing some items with girth on the hearth and mantel. Likewise, the items above a small mantel should be smaller and in proportion to it. A rule of thumb is that the decorating items placed on the wall above the mantel should cover the space approximately 2/3 of its length.

4. Peaks and Valleys
Another way to add interest to the fireplace is to choose decorating accessories with varying heights. In decorating rooms we look for height in windows, screens, trees and the larger items of furniture. The opposing low points come from the seating and the smaller accessories. We are careful not to place all the high items on one side of the room because, not only does it interfere with good balance, but the peaks and valleys created by a variety of heights is more interesting. This is also true that a variety of heights enhances the collection of items, and is more entertaining to the yes.

5. Less__ ____! (is best!)

Mantels often become the resting point for collections, knick knacks, momentos and other objects. Because the flat surfaces in most living/family rooms are relatively limited, mantels tend to gather more than their fair share of "stuff." It bears repeating that "less is best." Art objects can be best appreciated if there are not too many of them clamoring for attention. It is better to rotate the art (and photos) into and out of the display, giving each its turn for attention. If you have an interesting, unusual or ornate fireplace and mantel, you may want to simply use the architectural design and detail as the "art"-- letting it stand alone without additional adornment.

6. ()dd nu^^ber$ (1-3-5)

There is an old stand-by rule of decorating...that odd numbers have the most appeal. Remembering that "One" is an odd number--sometimes the best "arrangement" for over the mantel is one striking piece of art.

A fireplace stacked with wood and a basket stuffed with pinecones on the hearth make a heart-warming winter display--but what about springtime and summer? How about bringing the freshness of the season inside by placing a basket of ferns in the empty fireplace.

As I enjoy the beauty and color in the dancing flames, the crackle of the burning logs, the smell of the oak and the warmth of the cocoa-- I am reminded that it's all about atmosphere! Cold winter nights give us a good excuse to slow down, snuggle up and enjoy!

(This is a condensed version of an article which will be featured in the January 15 2011 issue of the Vacaville Magazine. There you will find additional decorating guidelines specifically for fireplace areas)

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