Give your fireplace a new glow

Last year, Diane and Jeffrey Miner revived an old flame: They updated the fireplace in their Sandy Springs home.

For help, the Miners turned to contractor Tom Nunn, who had overseen other indoor and outdoor projects at their home. The red brick on the traditional fireplace was removed and replaced with dark Emperador marble tiles. The hearth was extended and curved before being covered with a solid slab of Emperador marble. As a final touch, a new flat screen TV that Diane won at work was installed above the new mantel.

“Originally, I only wanted a new mantel,” said Diane. “But the new fireplace gave the room an entirely new look.”

Though we no longer count on fireplaces to provide heat and light in our homes, fireplaces remain a focal point in a room for a gathering or arranging the furniture. And if you plan to remodel, a fireplace is a design opportunity.

“There are many ways to update a fireplace,“ said John Crouch, a spokesman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), a trade group. “But one of the easiest is with paint or by adding a new mantel.”

If you want to give a fresh look to your old fireplace, consider these tips and trends from Regency Fireplace Products of Canada and the Virginia-based HPBA.


Keep it. If you live in an older home, the fireplace may have its original brick or brick and wood surround. If it fits with the house or apartment, you may want to keep it.

Customize it. If you don’t like the fireplace or want a fresh look, choose a custom surround in concrete or natural stone, such as marble and travertine. Other popular choices include fieldstone (or budget-friendly faux fieldstone), stone slabs, mosaic tiles or a metal, liked stainless steel or brushed bronze.

Fueling the fire

Fireplace fuel sources include wood, natural gas, pellets and denatured alcohol, which is used in contemporary fireplaces. Today, 69 percent of fireplaces sold are gas-fueled.

Design trends

- Clean face units that feature a large glass viewing area within a clean frame.

- Sleek, modern fireplaces. The linear or wide-screen fireplace is especially popular in media rooms that feature flat screen TVs.

- Colored glass crystals or river stones used in the fire bed. The crystals produce a shimmering reflective quality, like jewelry. The stones add a natural element to the space.

- Fireplaces that run from floor to ceiling turn the entire wall into a design element. Without a mantel, the firebox floats inside the stone (or other material), like artwork.

- Eliminating a protruding hearth can free up floor space.

- Homeowners who prefer a classic log set are requesting more authentic details, such as burning embers and realistic-looking logs. Before you buy, visit a showroom to see the variety of live-burning units, said Rachel Romaniuk, a spokeswoman at Regency.

Simple updates

If your fireplace is non-functioning or decorative, consider these simple fireplace updates from

Paint. Try a coat or two of white or charcoal gray paint. Or go for a fun or bold color to make a statement. Brick often looks better painted is a slightly glossy finish, which highlights its detail better than a matte one and makes it easier to clean. A white fireplace works with any color walls. Also consider painting the inside of the fireplace with black, fire-proof paint to cover old brick.

Screen it. A screen serves as a piece of art and covers the black hole of an empty fireplace. Choose a spark screen that can match the style of your room or add something unexpected. Or get creative. Use a sculptural or decorative screen, piece of art or a mirror. A simple fix? Camouflage the opening with a table.

Get the glow. Arrange candle pillars in varying heights in the firebox. Candles create a feeling of warmth.

Log on. Place birch logs with their white bark in a uniform and symmetrical stack.

Accessorize. Fill the empty spot with a large vase or plant.


Fireplaces. Traditional fireplaces consist of the firebox, where the fire burns. It also includes the chimney or flue, which takes the gases and smoke up and out of the room.

Hearth. The hearth is the floor of a fireplace, usually extending into a room and paved with brick, stone or cement.

Inserts. A fireplace insert installs into an existing fireplace, masonry or factory-built. Inserts burn wood, natural gas, pellets or run on electricity.

Mantel. Made of stone or wood, a mantel is a shelf over a fireplace often used for family photos or decorative objects. Many modern fireplaces are mantel-less.

Stoves. Freestanding stoves are a versatile and fuel-efficient hearth product. They can be made from cast iron, steel or stone and come in a wide selection of sizes and styles.

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