Design Chick  

Hot fireplace design ideas

With local temps finally starting to warm up, it may seem like a strange time to write a piece on fireplace design, but great ideas and inspiration don't discriminate with the seasons.

My clients are building, no matter the time of year, and a common design feature in almost every new home it seems is a killer fireplace feature wall. Thinking of building, or revamping what you've got?

Read on for a few top-notch eye-catching ideas...

The Linear Looker

Sleek, modern, and simple... a linear fireplace is a feature on its own, regardless of the materials you choose to clad it with.

If you have a large wall, you plan to build this into, you may need to consider framing out a linear structure to help elongate the scale of the unit. Think offset mantel, or a series of floating shelves, otherwise you may end up with a puny looking (but savvy, nonetheless) feature wall.

The Metal Maven

Forget tile. Why not think sheet metal, custom cut into cubist panels or offset bands to finish off a facade in need of something stunning and unique. Talk to a metal fabricator, someone who can measure on site and install afterwards... you likely don't want to tackle a finicky project like this on your own.

The Stone Stunner

Perfect for more rustic retreats, or homes needing a heavy dose of organic texture, cladding your fireplace surround floor to ceiling in rough cut stone or natural slate is always a stunning finish.

Do away with a mantel and decoration above your fireplace, and follow the stone up the wall... an uncluttered approach is best for a bold statement.

The Peek-A-Boo

Kill two birds with one stone by installing a see-through unit, giving both a living and dining room, or kitchen and family area the benefits of ambient warmth and shimmer.

For closed in spaces, the visual from one space through to the next by way of fireplace will help to expand your spaces and make them more interconnected.

And then there are three-sided fireplaces; cap off an end wall or divide a wide open space with one of these beauties and create a super chic atmosphere in the process.

The Fortress

When you think of concrete, you may not immediately envision a fireplace wall. However, using the minimalist material in horizontal bands on a large feature wall may be just what the modern doctor ordered for your contemporary spaces.

The Library Lover

What's cozier than a chair to curl up in, when nestled in beside a roaring fire, flanked by a collection of your favorite books, trinkets, and keepsakes?

For spaces needing a softer, less contemporary feel, a fireplace built into a nook or wall with shelving stacked and styled with literary bits and pieces truly helps to create a warm and inviting area to settle down in during long winter nights or lazy Sunday afternoons.

Decorating don'ts

Decorating don’ts – are you guilty?

Want to create the perfect designer look in your home?

There are certain key rules and guidelines to follow in interior design; some basic fundamentals that focus on creating balance, proportion, and overall flow in each of your spaces. The trick to a great room is being mindful of these decorating don'ts:


Spaces need continuity and harmony regarding the materials, finishes, and colours you use, but the worst thing you can do is to have everything match. When floors, cabinets, counters, walls, and furniture match too closely, everything starts to melt into a soupy, boring mess.

Every space needs some ebb and flow. You can achieve this by using materials with tones in the same colour family but varying on the dark and light side of the scale. Contrast is an absolute necessity for dynamic, breathable, and interesting spaces, so don't be afraid to mix in materials that offer up some variety.

Small Accessories

It's better to have a few great pieces of art and decor that are larger in scale, then to have too many smaller items cluttering up your walls and shelves.

I see rooms all the time that are either drowning in small, ineffective decor (it takes more of this to fill up a space), or larger rooms that seem empty and sparse because average sized accessories just don't fill interiors with high ceilings, and open concept design.

Think oversize, and seek out items such as artwork, frames, mirrors, vases, bowls, baskets, and trinkets in a larger scale.

Art Hung Too High

My rule is this: art should be hung roughly 8"-12" from the backs of your sofas or chairs. Anything higher and you run the risk of a disconnect between furniture at floor level, and art too close to the ceiling line.

Dark Colours

I love rich and dark colours, but even the earthiest of spaces need pops of contrast. Rooms decorated in the same level of colour fall flat and seem heavy. Adding brighter, lighter accents in creams, silvers, linens, and oatmeals will help to keep your rooms breathing.

Furniture Large and Small

Having furniture that fits your rooms is essential: larger furniture swallows up smaller spaces, while smaller furniture looks tiny and out of place in bigger areas — and a mix of both in average-sized rooms just looks messy. 

The key is to size your furniture to your spaces; taller ceilings and larger rooms usually need oversized pieces, just as compact spaces need to focus more on apartment-scale items.

Light Fixtures

I've been in stunningly decorated homes, only to look up and see basic, under-sized light fixtures that spoil the mood. Anything under 14" in diameter for flush mount fixtures in average sized rooms is too small, as is anything under approximately 26" in diameter for fixtures over dining tables.


A little bit of trend goes a long way: don't get hung up on the here and now, stick to classic and timeless accessories and furniture as your main staples, then add a few items in a trendy colour or pattern.

You won't be hard pressed to change it up down the road when the next fad comes along.

Creating the perfect mantel

I tend to default to a more organic and less stuffy approach when styling shelves and fireplace mantels.

I find that the looser, more casual approach gives my spaces a more relaxed and cozy feel. By not lining everything up perfectly, and worrying so much about equal-spacing your items, you too can style your mantels to perfection.


I begin by sorting out the items I'd like to display, picking out the taller, larger, items first and place them at the back of my mantel.

If you only have one tall item, that's just fine too. In most cases, less is more when it comes to larger decor pieces (too many big items can look overwhelming). Embrace some asymmetry here; placing these anchor items off-centre sets things up for a more interesting finished look.


Next comes your medium height pieces. If you have one large picture or photograph that you've placed slightly off centre, layer in a medium height piece or object just in front of, and slightly to the left or right of your main piece.

They can overlap slightly. Having them completely not touching doesn't always look right, so overlaying them a bit will help create more of a cohesive vignette.


Next comes your smaller items: these can be candles, vases, picture frames, stacked books, a clock or two, a shallow bowl. Really, anything that has meaning and holds interest with you will do.

I like to have a grouping made of large, medium, and then small items placed relatively close together on a mantle, and then off set everything with a single (or maybe a pair of) medium sized item on the opposite end.


Creating the perfect flow of items on your mantle isn’t rocket science; it just involves a little bit of balance. If you decide to rest your pieces predominately to the left side of your mantle, be sure to offset that group with something heading toward the right.

You don't want your mantel to be left or right side-heavy, so adding that extra piece for counter balance is important.


Some of the most successful mantels I've styled included a wide variety of objects and genres. There isn't a rule that states you must have everything matching for it to look tasteful.

Maybe you have a family heirloom, a photograph, some hand painted pieces you’ve picked up on one of your travels. You can get creative with the items you choose to put out.


If you go all out and mix your items, use this little trick I employ to help create cohesion with differing objects. Pieces that share similar shapes, lines, colour, form, texture, and medium will visually meld together easier than those that remain completely unrelated to one another.

Pull together a combination of round objects, or tall and skinny, or even one all done in sleek glass and mirror. The relationships between your items will visually strengthen by grouping pieces that share some of these elements.


Psychology of colour

If you've ever stood in front of a paint chip display and felt more than a tad overwhelmed, this article is for you.

There is an entire science behind colour, from the way they're created down to how they affect our temperaments and appetites. Putting aside the truly technical data, I've broken down some common colours and their associations to help get the vibe in your own spaces just right.


Bright, luminous, sunny, cheerful. Soft yellows can seem expansive and open, which magnifies the feeling of spaciousness.

Powerful, pure yellows can seem acidic and irritating in large amounts, but imaginative and energizing in smaller amounts. A French-country kitchen sounds welcoming and warm, but yellows with too much intensity can also be anxiety inducing.

Be careful if you're planning on using it in a nursery or child's room.


Atmospheric, calm, and spacious; pale, cool blue tends to recede and, therefore, often makes spaces feel larger, especially when used on high ceilings.

Perfect for spaces that need a little inspiration and creativity, using pale blue can give you just the right amount of ingenuity and tranquility at the same time. Spa-like bathrooms, airy office spaces, and soothing bedrooms are ideal areas this colour can be put to work in.


Restful, relaxing, and quiet, green is a favourite for many reasons. Deep greens can be sombre by themselves, but become fresh and full of life when contrasted against warmer colours.

Paler greens are fresh and lively, and always look fantastic when paired with natural elements in a space like rich hardwood floors, or kitchen cabinetry.


Arousing, exciting, and stimulating, red is also considered to be strong and masculine. It advances relative to other colours, making it appear closer.

Large rooms might benefit from an accent wall in a deep hue to help make them seem cozier and less cavernous. Red is also associated with passion and vigour, making it perfect for dining areas or fitness rooms wanting to pack a little added punch.


Exciting, stimulating, and intense, the liveliness of orange has an almost whimsical quality that is less serious and more playful than red. One of my favourite accents to use for small touches of impact, orange is great on its own in monochromatic spaces of whites and creams.

But for any of you out there trying to maintain a keen diet, keep this in mind: orange is an appetite stimulant. McDonald's, A&W, and many other restaurant chains have cleverly used this colour for decades — so stick to small decor items or accents found in multi-tonal artwork to help keep your cravings at bay.

Grey and Brown

Conservative, quiet, calm: when mixed with subtle browns, greys can combine a warm richness with a sense of quiet dignity. Pale and light greys are contemporary and stoic, and look great when matched up with contrasting bright and vibrant shades.

Brown is grounding, stable, and promotes a sense of security; it's associated with the earth and natural materials, so it often conveys a sense of longevity and familiarity.


Rich, regal, and mystical, purple has both a calm yet mysterious psychological association. Deeper purples and violets have a powerful yet introspective association, making them perfect in spaces lacking drama and needing a pick-me-up.

Pale lavender and mauve are soft, sensual, and are interpreted as appearing quieter.

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About the Author

A graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Crispin Butterfield launched Urban Theory Interior Design in 2003 and has since been featured in Canada’s Style At Home magazine, Covet, Canadian Retailer, and the National Post.

She’s a master in designing residential and commercial soul-hugging spaces clients relish showing up to, socializing in, and especially love coming home to.

She and her team work with clients from conceptualization to completion, providing full scale service with authenticity, innovation, and lots of personality.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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