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How to Style a Living Room Around a Fireplace

Having a fireplace in the living room can be such a blessing, but it can also mean figuring out how to style the space around it. Whether its functional or not, built in stone or a stand alone cast iron, there is a way to arrange your room for optimal comfort and style. 

Fireplaces are popular for creating that homey ambiance. Aside from giving warmth, it draws people close to it, often becoming the most memorable part of the house. Whatever your interior style is, whether it’s minimalistic, country, or modern living, a fireplace is an instant accent piece. It’s a functional and decorative fixture with a lot of design possibilities. If your fireplace is in the middle of your living room, you have the benefit of symmetry. It can be easy to decorate since the look is balanced. At the same time, it can also be challenging to design a furniture layout around a massive centerpiece. How should you decorate a living room with a fireplace in the middle? Since the fireplace is in the middle, it becomes the instant focal point in the living room. To make it stand out, frame your fireplace by complementing or contrasting the wall color and by adding decorative elements around it. Fit your furniture around your fireplace depending on your lifestyle. Position couches, tables, or rugs around the fireplace with enough space to walk around them.

A fireplace can act as an anchor in the middle of the room, tying everything together, if done right. It can feel a little frustrating if you don’t know what to do with it, as it’s a permanent fixture, and can’t be easily removed. There are also so many different kinds of fireplaces, which all require their own approach. At the same time, however, there are some guiding principles that will help you no matter whether its a 1930’s tiled fireplace or a scandinavian style one. So, I will outline some of the core principles for styling around a fireplace, and then get into the specifics of how to style each and every one in particular. 

5 Principles for Styling Around a Fireplace

1. Balance

While some may say symmetry is essential, I think a better word and concept for it is balance. Instead of trying to arrange things in perfect symmetry around the fireplace, aim for a sense of balance in all things. For example, there could be two paintings on either side, which have the same frame but different artwork in them. There are many ways to play around with difference and variation while still achieving a sense of balance, which is what symmetry is all about, except this way you also get to enjoy a more interesting and complex palette. There are so many ways to frame a fireplace, with shelving, art, books, plants, or anything else you choose! With all of the principles listed below, balance is always a guiding factor. With colours, scale, textures, and even orientation, you want to strike the right balance. Going too aggressively in one direction can pigeon hole a room and make it feel overwhelming. If you want a space where you can host people comfortably, and go from sophisticated party to chill hang out with your family, then striking balance is the way to go. So how does one achieve good design balance in a room? Creating a balanced and harmonious space depends on three things: furniture and décor placement, use of color and texture, and the scale and proportion of furnishings and décor. Yet, in the end, balance in a room is as much about emotion as it is about good design. Good design balance gives off feelings of stability and wellness. More specifically, balance is a part of the design that invokes a feeling of wellness in a room. Nothing feels weird, lopsided or unstable.

2. Scale 

Scale is an important component to keep in mind when designing a room around a fireplace. Now, this all depends on the size of the fireplace as to how you will decorate around it. A room where all the furnishings or décor are the same height will lack interest. When you place your furniture into your room, put tall pieces next to short pieces. If your sofa has a low back, add a piece of furniture that is tall like an armoire or bookshelf. The same rule works with small décor. With small décor, use the ratio of 3:1. For example, three vases of varying heights grouped together and balanced by a single larger décor object on the opposite side of the mantel or shelf make a striking design. Imagine a seesaw in your room. If one side gets weighed down with heavy furnishings or décor, your room will feel off balance. Add something on the other side to put the eye over and around the room. For example, if one wall has a tall bookshelf and tons of wall décor, make sure you balance that wall with something tall or bold on the opposite side of the room. If you have a heavy sofa against one wall, pair the wall opposite the sofa with another foundational piece of furniture.​ So, with a fireplace that is large and bulky, you will need some pieces to counter balance its weight, while adding in pieces that are more delicate or airy to not make the entire space feel heavy and bulky. On the other hand, if you have a small fireplace, you need make sure you don’t dwarf it with large furniture around it, but also add in some solid pieces to 

3. Colour 

In an otherwise neutral-toned room, the blue velvet accent chair adds an incredible pop of color to the room. The fabric softens the appearance of the space and is the perfect fireside companion. It’s amazing how one pop of color can really elevate the room’s aesthetic. One sign of an amateur decorator is a room where everything matches perfectly … too perfectly. Don’t go for perfection but strive for ambiance. For example, balance a bold color with a large pattern that blends but doesn’t match exactly, or balance a bright warm color with a textured cool color. Or choose colors that are the same hue but vary in intensity and scatter them evenly around your room. Homes look professionally designed when new elements are mixed with old, smooth contrasts with rough, polished is balanced with nubby. Don’t make one side of the room color heavy or only use one color for the whole room. Choose two to three main colors for your room palette, and then be sure to spread these colors throughout your space. This will carry the eye throughout the room and keep things interesting.

4. Texture 

Texture is a major element with fireplaces, because they can be such textural focal points in the room depending on what they’re made of. With a stone fireplace, you want to balance the rustic and rough texture of the stones with some other features in the room that are more polished. However, there are certain aesthetics where you can play up the roughness more, like in  a cottage, while in others you want to accentuate it but also polish it up. The oriental rug is the perfect element that balances the hard rigidity of the stone fireplace. The result is a seamless marriage of classic and cozy. With a victorian fireplace, adding a glass waterfall table is a great way to feature the beautiful details, as you can see right through the coffee table to the hearth, while also contrasting the ornate antique textures with a sleek modern texture. 

5. Orientation

Getting the orientation around a fireplace right is key to it feeling like an integrated part of the room. In a living room, you generally want to create an open space where the seating circles around a central table or ottoman, to optimize conversation and connection. So, situating the seating in a sort of circle or semi circle around the fireplace can be a great way to go. On the other hand, an accent chair positioned next to the fireplace makes for an inviting and cozy nook. Whether you sit in the chair to read or simply enjoy the warm fire, this will quickly become a favorite spot in the room. Position the couch across from a mounted TV for entertainment purposes. Add in a throw blanket and pillows for supplemental decor and coziness. Don’t set up an obstacle path with your furnishings and don’t cram a room too full of small decorative objects. A room needs “breathing space.” (FYI: The most common mistake amateurs make is to add in too much small décor.) Orientation towards the fireplace will make it feel like an important part of the space, so no matter what you do, make sure to position seating in a way that opens onto the hearth. The one thing you don’t want to do, for example, is position a chair with its back to the fireplace directly in front of it. 


8 Types of Fireplace and How to Decorate Around Them

1. Scandinavian 

A standalone wood-burning stove not only heats up your room, but it gives off a vintage vibe that can make you feel like you’re on a weekend getaway all year long. Don’t have a lot of room for a fireplace? The minimal design of the Scandinavian fireplace is perfect for small spaces that need a bit of warmth and ambiance. Though you don’t get a mantel to decorate, you can add colorful artwork around the stove to highlight it. White walls, a floor to ceiling stack of chopped wood, and a leather sofa are welcoming touches that will complete the look, but there are so many other elegant ways to style it that incorporate different aesthetics. The black of the fireplace can act as a great anchor in the room, and you can use light colours or deep but vibrant ones to counter balance it. Generally, styling this type of fireplace with MidCentury Modern furniture creates a beautiful pulled together feeling. You can feel free to play with elements like sheepskins, Persian rugs, and modern sofas, as they will create an eclectic but polished look together with the fireplace. 

2. Stone 

Stone fireplaces can enhance any home’s style. If you appreciate the old-world character of cobblestone, there’s no need to keep it outside and underfoot. A stone fireplace, while classic and timeless, can be easily elevated to revive your home. From high-gloss modern to traditional rustic, there’s a perfect option for all aesthetics.Using the stones to frame your fireplace draws the eye to the texture when matched against soft, beachy decor.One of the greatest challenges with stone fireplaces is finding decor that feels authentic while also standing out against the natural stone. You want a look that radiates comfort and coziness without coming off too cluttered or detracting from the beautiful masonry of your fireplace. So, I have some stone fireplace ideas to help you achieve a gorgeous look that suits your style and needs. Your decor doesn’t have to feel tacky or out of place. One way you can highlight this nature-inspired look is by adding some plants to your mantel. Plants look beautiful against the stone for several reasons. They add color, invite a softer texture to your design, and blend perfectly with the stonework. Plants like ivy, succulents, and small ferns look stunning atop a stone fireplace mantel. Experiment with different types of greenery or opt for flowers to add more color to the design. Some stone fireplaces don’t come with a mantel. If this is the case for your home, you may feel that decorating is next to impossible. The good news is that you don’t have to let this hinder your design. Instead, consider hanging or installing a wood shelf above the fireplace opening to add more texture, color, and functionality to the space. Wood shelves look rich and authentic, working naturally with the stones. So, hang a wood shelf to help you uplevel your fireplace design.

3. Brick 

A brick fireplace is a classic, and perhaps one of the easiest to design around. Glass vases are another gentle addition to your fireplace mantel decor. Add glass vases filled with flowers or other plants to include more nature-inspired elements in your design. Alternatively, you could fill vases with stones, add a candle, or leave them empty, depending on the look you’re aiming for. Alternatively, or in addition, mirrors are an excellent addition to any fireplace mantel design. Add a round mirror or a mirror with an arched top to create more shape and dimension in the overall look of your fireplace. Mirrors add sophistication and elegance to your design by adding a fragile touch to your stone fireplace’s natural tough exterior. Additionally, mirrors can help open up your space and invite more light and life to your mantel.

4. Victorian 

I love a Victorian fireplace, they have so much character and really ground the room in the history of the space. That being said, if you prefer a modern living room, then working with a Victorian fireplace you will have to elevate it with some paint perhaps, and pair it with some more sleek lines and modern materials. Think glass, steel, and leather. On the other hand, if you love everything vintage then lean into the aesthetic! Paintings and picture frames can add a vintage touch to your decor while introducing more color to the overall design. Stone fireplaces tend to be dark, grey, or made up of muted tones. This lack of color can feel drab in some spaces, so livening up the look is essential. Use a couple of picture frames or paintings to adorn your mantel or hang a large piece above the fireplace if the space allows.

5. Floating Glass 

A floating glass fireplace is a definitely a statement piece, and a way to create separation between two rooms while maintaining a flow and an openness. When a fireplace is freestanding in the middle of a room, it creates a natural barrier between two sides. On one side of the fireplace, position the TV above the mantle to create an entertainment side. On the opposite side of the fireplace, position a collection of furniture to create a conversation side. There are less ways to accentuate it directly, as adding a mantle is often impossible and would feel off. Instead, think about either keeping it minimal and just bringing in some warmer more earthy textures to balance it out, or if you really love the hyper modern aesthetic then continue the clean lines throughout the space, while maybe just adding some textures like leather that will warm it up a bit. Consider using large but refined pieces of furniture to keep the room cozy. 

6. Tile 

There are so many different kinds of tile, and they can make such a beautiful fireplace decoration. If you have a tiled fireplace, consider leaving the tiles to shine on their own, and styling around the fireplace. Placing sconces framing it on either side can be a great way to use that natural reflective quality of the tiles, and create a bright and shiny finish in the room. If there is a mantle already, consider styling it with items like candlesticks and a beautiful ceramic vase with fresh flowers. Tile itself can also be a great way to refresh an old fireplace, if you have one that is maybe a 60’s creation that is well past its time in the sun. It’s relatively easy to apply and can be inexpensive, while creating the appearance of a complete remodel. 

7. TerraCotta

This is such a unique and beautiful type of fireplace, and while it is less common in most areas, it has been trending lately. The smooth curving lines of  a terra cotta fireplace go so well with light wood, soft textures, and natural materials. The overall effect is a den that is cozy, light, airy and relaxing. It will make you feel like you’re at a meditation retreat. However, if you want to play it up but go for something a little deeper and more varied, it can be paired with a patterned rug, dark brown leather, and plants to ground it. The living room below keeps it simple but adds mixed features like model boats and hand painted lamps to add texture and pattern to the otherwise white fireplace and walls. 

8. Seamless Insert Electric 

Many modern homes have electric fireplaces that are just inserted seamlessly into the wall, so there is no large fireplace jutting out into the room. This can be so lovely for keeping the aesthetic really clean, but can also change the decorating tactic vastly. It can be less of a focal point in the room if you want, because especially when its off it becomes so inconspicuous in the room. So, you can decorate your room instead around a coffee table, and keep the fireplace as less of a central point. However, you can also play it up, adding a mantle to the wall above it, and decorating it with beloved objects. It can be framed by an eclectic array of paintings, bringing the modern aesthetic back to a more textural homey quality. 

Fireplaces are so much fun, and such a beautiful and useful piece to have in your home. There are many different kinds, and different ways to decorate them depending on your own aesthetic preferences. However, these guiding principals should be a great way for you to approach decorating around your fireplace. As long as you are able to achieve balance of scale, colour, texture and orientation, you will be able to create a space that both integrates the fireplace and plays off of its aesthetics to create interest and vibrancy.